In an effort to get to a definitive answer for I did some searching...

The ASF Licensing How To includes this helpful simple snippet:

# Location Within the Source Tree
LICENSE and NOTICE belong at the [top level of the source tree][1]. They may be named LICENSE.txt and NOTICE.txt, but the bare names are preferred.


If we wander over to that link:

# NOTICE file
0. Every Apache distribution should include a NOTICE file in the top directory, along with the standard LICENSE file.
1. The top of each NOTICE file should include the following text, suitably modified to reflect the product name and year(s) of distribution of the current and past versions of the product:
      Apache [PRODUCT_NAME]
      Copyright [yyyy] The Apache Software Foundation
      This product includes software developed at
      The Apache Software Foundation (
2. The remainder of the NOTICE file is to be used for required third-party notices.
3. The NOTICE file may also include copyright notices moved from source files submitted to the ASF.
4. See also Modifications to NOTICE

Now that is mostly OK.... but it does beg the following questions:

1. What exactly is "the top level of the source tree"? Is it the tree in SCM or is it the tree in the .zip or .tar.gz files that end up in the /dist directory. The text I have seen would seep to imply that the phrase refers to the top level of the source tree in an Apache distribution... which brings us to..

2. What exactly is "an Apache distribution"? To the best of my knowledge this is just the .zip or .tar.gz files that end up in the /dist directory. I know that other people have opinions that things like SCM also are Apache distributions, but it would seem to me that the two links I cited above would be *very clear* in stating that SCM is viewed as a distribution if it was the official view of the ASF (and perhaps it is... in which case please fix the website)

By way of some concrete examples, and because real world examples are much much better than abstract hypotheticals.

Consider the Apache Maven project. We are a top level project with many things that we release. We have Maven Core itself and we have many plugins and other shared components that have their own release lifecycles... we also have some components in our Subversion repository and others in GIT repositories.

Case 1

For technical reasons, i.e. given the way GIT works, it is easiest to put any group of things that get released as an atomic unit into a single GIT repository. Thus we have Maven Core (with the 12 modules that are used to build Maven Core) at;a=tree Now as it happens the top level of that group of 12 modules is the root of that GIT repository and we have LICENSE and NOTICE files there. As part of our release process we produce a source distribution of that tree and hence the LICENSE and NOTICE files will be at the root of the apache-maven-x.y.x-src.tar.gz and files that end up in the /dist directory. So in this case it does not matter whether an Apache distribution is only the apache-maven-x.y.x-src.tar.gz files or also includes the GIT repository. In this case we have the files at the root of both source trees.

Case 2

Now let us consider a different set of atomically released modules. Surefire consists of again 12 modules that all get released at the same time. The source tree in SCM is;a=tree as again that is a separate source repository from our other stuff. Our most recent source release of Surefire is and if we look at that file 

$ unzip -l ~/Downloads/ */LICENSE */NOTICE
Archive:  /Users/stephenc/Downloads/
  Length     Date   Time    Name
 --------    ----   ----    ----
      108  08-11-13 16:57   surefire-2.16/surefire-api/src/main/appended-resources/META-INF/NOTICE
    11358  08-11-13 16:57   surefire-2.16/LICENSE
      178  08-11-13 16:57   surefire-2.16/NOTICE
 --------                   -------
    11644                   3 files

So in that Apache distribution we have the LICENSE and NOTICE files. But *if* SCM is also an Apache distribution, then there is an issue as the corresponding tag;a=tree;hb=6ba4e42610237302a83e5246a61a974aa5a6d60d does not have the LICENSE and NOTICE files.

So there is a potential issue with Surefire *if* SCM is considered an Apache distribution... but since this is a set of things in GIT the resolution of the *potential* issue is trivial, we can just add the two files and be done.

The first two were intentionally picked to show the easy cases.

Case 3

The Maven Release plugin consists of two modules that get released at the same time. Source control is in Subversion: 

The current source bundle is, if we take a look at that file

$ unzip -l ~/Downloads/ */LICENSE */NOTICE
Archive:  /Users/stephenc/Downloads/
  Length     Date   Time    Name
 --------    ----   ----    ----
    11358  03-22-13 19:58   maven-release-2.4.1/LICENSE
      170  03-22-13 19:58   maven-release-2.4.1/NOTICE
 --------                   -------
    11528                   2 files

So again in that Apache distribution we have the LICENSE and NOTICE files... the tag: does not. Again *if* SCM is an Apache distribution then the solution is trivial, we'd just add and and presto-chango we are done.

Case 4

We have a lot of plugins and shared components that have their own release cadence, for example there are currently 42 things that we release in our "plugins" category. The source tree is hosted in Subversion because we don't want to have 42 GIT repositories, one for each plugin. Here is the root of the "plugins" category: the attentive among you will notice the files and

One plugin that we release is the Remote Resources plugin (picked because it has had a recent release) with the most recent release being

$ unzip -l ~/Downloads/ */LICENSE */NOTICE
Archive:  /Users/stephenc/Downloads/
  Length     Date   Time    Name
 --------    ----   ----    ----
    11358  08-14-13 08:25   maven-remote-resources-plugin-1.5/LICENSE
      193  08-14-13 08:25   maven-remote-resources-plugin-1.5/NOTICE
 --------                   -------
    11551                   2 files

And the corresponding tag is (notice that there is no NOTICE or LICENSE file in the directory)

It would be a pain, and seem incredibly stupid to me that we would have to add LICENSE and NOTICE files to the 100+ independent release roots that we have between our plugins, site skins, shared components, etc... plus the top of our tree could technically be considered or better yet could we call ourselves done with some and file in place?

My view

My understanding is that an Apache distribution has to be voted on by the PMC, otherwise it is not an Apache distribution. If anything in source control is an Apache distribution then running a CTR SCM policy for an Apache TLP would be impossible and RTC would require 3x+1 binding votes for every commit rendering the "convenience" of a commit bit on a TLP anything but.

So then I make the argument that only one of the following two postulates are true:

* There is no requirement for the PMC to vote on Apache distributions and we can just let committers throw out releases without having PMC vote threads.
* Source control is not an Apache distribution and hence we do not need to have LICENSE and NOTICE files in source control, it can be a nice convenience, but there is no *requirement*.

Can the foundation please resolve which of the above two statements is actually true (or maybe someone could check in a and a so that all TLPs using Subversion would be absolved of having to worry about what they have in their source trees)