Should ICLAs be Required of Every Committer?

In Apereo/Sakai there is discussion of whether or not we need to doggedly require Individual Contributor License Agreements (ICLAs) from every person who sends in a simple github PR. It is generally agreed that if someone will be making significant contributions we need an ICLA – but many (myself included) feel that an ICLA is not necessary for a simple submitted patch. The issue is that this leaves a grey area and soe folks stay a bit conservative on this.

Andrew Petro did some research on this and here are his notes. I keep them here for my own reference.

Here is the thread where we discussed this: https://groups.google.com/a/apereo.org/forum/#!topic/licensing-discuss/c1puG3RKZcA

Since this post, CLAs have come up a few times on Apache legal-discuss@, including in July when I brought up Apereo’s desire for a canonical position.

In February 2017, “it is considered good practice to collect individual CLAs even if the contributors are not committers. Strictly speaking this is unnecessary”. That is, Committers and Projects via their PMCs may require CLAs of Contributors rather than just only of Committers, and it may be a good practice for them to do this under some circumstances, but Apache does not strictly require this. Also, this post again confirmed that while it is a good practice for Committers to secure Corporate Contributor License Agreements of their employers, this is a judgment call on the part of the Contributor.

In December 2016, “our IP provenance relies on both our license, our ICLA/CCLAs, and the fact that we have written policies that define who can be a committer and how PMCs can make releases. It’s usually good if a code author (or someone who could otherwise legally sign an ICLA in terms of granting us the right licensing rights to that code) actually submits the work to some Apache project before we put it in a release.” That is, it’s sufficient that an ICLA-signatory Committer actually merges the code into the canonical codebase.

In August 2016, “To avoid the risk associated with clever or large contributions, most PMCs request a formal ICLA to be filed.” Which is to say that some do not, and that therefore Apache does not require that projects do so; individual PMCs get to locally decide when to go beyond requiring ICLAs of Committers to require it of a Contributor in the context of a given Contribution.

In August 2016, on this very topic, “I don’t see that there’s a ‘canonical position’ that can exist.” and “Stating my understanding of the Apache policy – Apache requires ICLAs of its committers, uses ICLAs or a software license (https://www.apache.org/licenses/software-grant.txt) for exceptional contributions from contributors and generally relies on clause 5 of theApache License 2.0 for other contributions from contributors.”

There have been opportunities for someone to argue that ICLAs are required of all Contributors, and that position has not been argued on legal-discuss@.

I think it’s also looking likely that this is as canonical a position as one can get from Apache on this matter.

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