Contributor License Agreement
Creative Commons alumna Catharina Maracke released the next generation legal and technical project, Contributor Agreements which provides important contributions to international legal technical aspects of CLAs and lessons learned from previous CLA projects.
Contributor Licence Agreements (CLAs) can be used to enable vendors to easily pursue legal resolution in the case of copyright disputes, or to relicense products from which contributions have been received from third parties.
The purpose of a CLA is to ensure that the guardian of a project's outputs has the necessary ownership or grants of rights over all contributions to allow them to distribute under the chosen licence. In some cases this will mean that the contributor will assign the copyright in all contributions to the project owner; in other cases, they will grant an irrevocable licence to allow the project maintainer to use the contribution. CLAs also have roles in raising awareness of IPR issues within a project.
Companies/projects that use CLAs include:
- .NET Foundation
- Apache Software Foundation
- Canonical Ltd 
- Digia/Qt Project
- Dojo Toolkit
- Free Software Foundation
- JBoss Netty
- Puppet Labs
- Zend for Zend Framework (1.x series only)
The Canonical contributor agreement was a Contributor License Agreement required by Canonical Ltd for all contributions to many projects established by Canonical.
In it, the contributor assigned copyright to Canonical and at the same time Canonical gave the contributor "a world-wide, non-exclusive, royalty-free and perpetual right to use, copy, modify, communicate and make available to the public (including without limitation via the Internet) and distribute, in each case in an original or modified form, the Assigned Contributions as (they) wish."
Canonical started Project Harmony "...to assist organisations which use contribution agreements by providing standardised variable templates with clear and concise explanations..."
As of August 2011, Canonical is requesting contributions be licenced under a Harmony Contribution Licence Agreement, rather than the copyright being assigned to Canonical. With the Harmony CLA, "the contributor gives Canonical a licence to use their contributions. The contributor continues to own the copyright in the contribution, with full rights to re-use, re-distribute, and continue modifying the contributed code, allowing them to also share that contribution with other projects."
Projects requiring contributors to sign this agreement include:
- Mir display server
- Uncomplicated Firewall (ufw)
- Update Manager
- Ubuntu One
FSFE shall only exercise the granted rights and licences in accordance with the principles of Free Software as defined by the Free Software Foundations. FSFE guarantees to use the rights and licences transferred in strict accordance with the regulations imposed by Free Software licences, including, but not limited to, the GNU General Public Licence (GPL) or the GNU Lesser General Public Licence (LGPL) respectively. In the event FSFE violates the principles of Free Software, all granted rights and licences shall automatically return to the Beneficiary and the licences granted hereunder shall be terminated and expire.
However, it is optional and every contributor is allowed not to assign their copyright to KDE e.V.
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