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From Robert Burrell Donkin <>
Subject Re: IP Clearance - transferral or licensing of copyright ownership?
Date Thu, 22 Sep 2011 10:20:14 GMT
Hi Sander

I'm glad you asked these questions here: asking well researched
questions is the best way to improve our process and documentation

but just for the record, the legal-discuss list[1] is the right place
for projects to ask almost all questions about copyright (being
public, it's not appropriate for some sensitive issues)

On Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 10:27 AM, Sander van der Waal
<> wrote:
> I'm trying to get my head around the IP clearance process and
> specifically about what happens to the copyright ownership during that
> process. Although IP clearance gets discussed once in a while on this
> list I couldn't find a clear answer in the archives on this specific
> point.

In general Apache prefers to license with no change copyright ownership.

> When a project with a pre-existing code base joins the incubator, does
> the copyright of that code base get transferred to the ASF or will it be
> licensed to the ASF?

Almost always through a license

> Reading through the IP clearance guide [1], it mentions the Software
> Grant Agreement (SGA) and going to the text [2] it states that it is a
> License Agreement to grant a license to the ASF. Also the CCLA [3] and
> the ICLA [4] are license agreements. I interpret that to mean that the
> copyright ownership remains with the licensor and only a license is
> granted.

That is my understanding

IMHO an explicit explanation of these point would improve the
documentation. It'd be great if someone contributed an improved
version :-)

> On the other hand, the ASF general FAQ states that the copyright of ASF
> projects is owned by the ASF, more specifically "The members own the
> code" [5].

It is the collective copyright that is owned by Apache

Projects are composed by a selection process undertaken by the PMC
from a variety of contributions. Each contributor owns the copyright
in their patch but the creative act of composition entitles Apache to
claim collective copyright for the final work. This collective
copyright claim is noted in the NOTICE. The header for each document
should acknowledge that Apache has licensed (from the original
contributions) the rights required to offer the document to the public
under the Apache License, Version 2 but almost always will not contain
a copyright claim.

If the documentation is missing this explanation then it'd be great if
someone contributed an improved version :-)

> Also the IP Clearance template [6] has a check that says
> "Check and make sure that the papers that transfer rights to the ASF
> been received." But it seems that the SGA and *CLAs are just license
> agreements and don't include a transferral of rights? I must be missing
> something obvious here but I'm not sure what.

Copyright licenses grants the licensee rights otherwise restricted by
copyright law. "Transfer" might be taken to mean "exclusive" so
"assign" would be a better choice.

But this could be phrased more more clearly and explained explicitly.
It'd be great if someone contributed an improved version :-)

> Going through a few NOTICE files of projects doesn't really make it
> clearer, because some only specify the ASF as copyright owner and others
> specify in general terms that it "includes software [originally]
> developed at X".

The standard NOTICE should include note both the collective copyright
and that Apache developed the software

> I know copyright ownership might not be a big deal to many here, but we
> are dealing with many open source projects where the project lead has
> a very strong sense of ownership over the code. Besides educating them
> about the issues I want to make sure I get the facts right.

Thanks for taking the time to frame good questions :-)

The documentation here in the Incubator is developed by the community
for the community. The best podlings change the Incubator more than
the Incubation process changes them. Karma is earned here at Apache
through contribution.

The documentation needs improvement in this area. I'd be glad to
review patches and work with anyone would could find some cycles to
contribute. Anyone want to start by diving in with suggestions?



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