Contributor License Agreement

A Contributor License Agreement (CLA) defines the terms under which intellectual property has been contributed to a company/project, typically software under an open source license.

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.[1][2]


CLAs can be used to enable vendors to easily pursue legal resolution in the case of copyright disputes,[3] or to relicense products to which contributions have been received from third parties.[4]

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.[5]


Companies and projects that use CLAs include:


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."[31][32]

Canonical started Project Harmony " assist organisations which use contribution agreements by providing standardised variable templates with clear and concise explanations...."[33]

As of August 2011, Canonical is requesting contributions be licensed under a Harmony Contribution Licence Agreement, rather than the copyright being assigned to Canonical.[34] 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."[8]

Projects requiring contributors to sign this agreement include:[31]


KDE uses Free Software Foundation Europe's Fiduciary Licence Agreement[35] which states in section 3.3:

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.[36]

However, it is optional and every contributor is allowed not to assign their copyright to KDE e.V.

See also


  1. "Standardized contributor agreements - the next level". ifrOSS. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  2. "Catharina Maracke - LinuxCon Europe + CloudOpen Europe". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  3. licensing page
  4. Contributing FAQ
  5. "Contributor Licence Agreements". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  6. "Contribution License Agreement". .NET Retrieved 2015-01-11.
  7. "Licenses". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  8. 1 2 "Canonical Contributor license agreement". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  9. "Community Contributions — Chef Docs". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  10. "Individual Contributor License Grant". CyanogenMod.
  11. "diaspora/diaspora · GitHub". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  12. "Legal Aspects". Qt Project. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  14. "Contributor License Agreements | Django". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  15. "CLA". The Dojo Foundation. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  16. "SeLion : Individual Contributor License Agreement (CLA)". Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  17. "LIST OF SUBSIDIARIES AS OF DECEMBER 31, 2014". Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  18. "Eclipse Foundation Contributor License Agreement". 2013-06-17. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  19. "Contributing to Facebook Projects". Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  20. "CONTRIBUTORS - The Go Programming Language". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  21. "Google Individual Contributor License Agreement, v1.1". Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  22. "InfluxDB Contributor License Agreement". Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  23. "Contribute". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  24. jQuery Foundation - "jQuery Foundation Contributor License Agreement | Contribute to jQuery". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  25. "Contributing to the PSF". Python Software Foundation.
  26. "Contributing to Meteor". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  27. "Contributing to Microsoft Visual Studio Code". Microsoft. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  28. "Contributor Agreement". OpenMediaVault. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  29. "OpenStack Contributors License Agreement". OpenStack. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  30. "Puppet Labs Contributor License Agreement". Retrieved 2015-01-16.
  31. 1 2 "Canonical's contributor agreement". Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  32. Canonical Ltd (December 2010). "Contributor Agreement V2.5" (PDF). Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  33. Amanda Brock (2010-06-24). "Project Harmony looks to improve contribution agreements".
  34. "Canonical's contributor agreement". 2011-08-10.
  35. "FSFE welcomes KDE's adoption of the Fiduciary Licence Agreement (FLA)". 2008-08-22.
  36. "Fiduciary Licence Agreement (Version 1.2)" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-12-31.
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