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From Stephen Connolly <stephen.alan.conno...@gmail.com>
Subject Commit messages, copyright and the ASL
Date Mon, 19 Oct 2015 13:34:12 GMT
So an interesting question came up in some debate about squashing
commits with GIT.

Back in the day of PATCH files and Source Code Management systems such
as SVN or CVS, external contributors would give you a single DIFF of
changes that could be applied to the source code.

Typically a committer (who has an ICLA) would then apply the PATCH and
commit the resulting change in a single commit with a message such as

"[FIXES XYZ] Short Description of XYZ

Some description of how the fix works that may have been provided by
Joe or inferred by the committer

Originally submitted by Joe Bloggs as a patch to JIRA-XYZ

Changes from original patch:
  * Reformatted Foo.manchu() method to match code style
  * Updated Foo.bar(...) method to reflect new parameters"

Nothing wrong with the above. The contributor provided a single set of
changes, the code they are contributing is clearly intended for
submission to the Foundation and we have intent that the code be
licensed under the Apache License.

Now with Git things get a little different.

A contributor could still provide a single PATCH file... or they could
supply a chain of commits (perhaps even as a pull request in GitHub)

Who owns the commit messages? Well the code contribution itself is
always copyright the original author as far as the foundation is
concerned... since we only care about the end product of code being
covered by our license...

So it would seem reasonable to me to assume that, as the code is still
copyright of the original author, so too are the commit messages of
the original author.

The question now becomes:

Can we modify the original author's commit messages?

If the original author gives us the PATCH file, well we can just treat
that as normal from before...

What about if the request was generated by git request-pull?

Now they have specifically pointed us at the series of commits... Same
could be said to apply if they give us a pull request on GitHub.

Are we ok to squash those commits into a single commit when merging to master?

I think we are ok to take the result of that changeset and back-port
portions or all of it to maintenance branches... and the way GitHub
merges pull requests (by retaining the full commit history) would seem
to be fine...

But has anyone thought about those commit messages if we do squash the
commits? The Apache License doesn't seem to cover commit messages
(because at the time you could technically only provide commit
messages if you were a committer)

Anywho, this whole thing probably doesn't really matter... but I'd be
interested if anyone else has thought about this topic

-Stephen

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