[legal-discuss] Copyright statements in source

Richard Fontana rfontana at redhat.com
Thu Jan 23 15:25:15 UTC 2014

On Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 12:38:10PM +0000, Mark McLoughlin wrote:

> However, I'm still struggling to understand the benefit of the ASF being
> granted a special license. Why can't it be licensed the code under the
> Apache License?

This is an interesting question and in fact the former long-time
counsel for the ASF used to say from time to time (while he was still
in that role) that the Apache License could well serve as the CLA for
ASF or other Apache License projects. The fact that so-called
'drive-by patches' and, as I understand it, many more substantial ones
are often handled in this way by ASF projects also demonstrates this.

The current legal director of the ASF (who irrelevantly happens also
to be a Red Hat employee) has said without elaboration that the
benefit is 'belt and suspenders'. One could point to a few subtle
differences between the Apache CLA and Apache License 2.0 to make an
argument that some benefit exists, but I've argued that those
particular sorts of benefits are unlikely to have practical

> Or is the benefit of this situation that the vast bulk of code is
> licensed outbound from a single licensor? Is that a benefit in terms of
> a perception, or some "single throat to choke" legal benefit? or?

For an Apache License-outbound community project with diverse
participants I personally do not see any benefit to this. The 'single
throat to choke' (or in this context 'single organization to deal
with') can matter -- the OpenStack Foundation fills this role -- but
not for reasons having to do with licensing of the code.

> Am I right in saying you're being the dog with the proverbial bone on
> this because clarifying this could help to undermine the need for our
> CLA regime?

Not really, because frankly my influence on this is limited. What I'm
saying might have some educational value to people reading this (I do
feel I have a special responsibility to the Red Hat developers reading
this to explain this issue). Or that could be wishful thinking. As you
know, the bylaws of the OpenStack Foundation unwisely baked the CLA
regime into the difficult-to-amend IP policy, unprecedented AFAIK for
any open source project-oriented foundation. Red Hat criticized this
as an obvious flaw that would cause problems in the future,[1] but as
I recall no one outside of Red Hat even saw an issue there. I think
you'd need a major crisis or a massive shift in existing sentiment
(particularly among lawyers involved in the OpenStack Foundation) to
see a change to the CLA regime. That's unlikely. What is likely is
more situations like Kevin Fox or the person you spoke with in Hong

 - RF

[1]A few tweaks were made to the IP Policy as a result of these
criticisms, but the basic flaw remains.

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