"A Contributor Licence Agreement (CLA) is strongly recommended when accepting third party contributions to an open development project, such as an open source software project. In order to redistribute contributions, it is necessary to ensure that the project has the necessary rights to do so. A Contributor Licence Agreement is a lightweight agreement, signed by the copyright holder, that grants the necessary rights for the contribution to be redistributed as part of the project." OSS Watch
A CLA is a legal document in which you state you are entitled to contribute the code/documentation/translation to the project you’re contributing to and that you are willing to have it used in distributions and derivative works. This means that should there be any kind of legal issue in the future as to the origins and ownership of any particular piece of code, then that project has the necessary forms on file from the contributor(s) saying they were permitted to make this contribution.
Moreover, the CLA also ensures that once you have provided a contribution, you cannot try to withdraw permission for its use at a later date. People and companies can therefore use that software, confident that they will not be asked to stop using pieces of the code at a later date.
A license grants "outbound" rights to the user of project.
A CLA enables a contributor to grant "inbound" rights to a project.
A CLA is inbound, when a License is outbound.
Ideally, inbound=outbound: the contributor give the same rights to the project that the project gives to the user. By default, if the contract does not define who will own the property, it is more likely than not that the person who wrote it will own it.
Two big families:
Can I reuse a contribution to an open-source project on another project? Well... it depends.. on the CLA
As of August 2011, Canonical is requesting contributions be licensed 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."
All contributors of ideas, code, or documentation to any Apache projects complete, sign, and submit (via fax or email) an Individual Contributor License Agreement (ICLA). The purpose of this agreement is to clearly define the terms under which intellectual property has been contributed to the Project and thereby allow us to defend the project should there be a legal dispute regarding the software at some future time. A signed ICLA is required to be on file before an individual is given commit rights to a project.
Apache CLA : see here
CLAs twist the empowering, community-oriented, enjoyable experience of FLOSS contribution into an annoying exercise in pointless bureaucracy, which (if handled properly) requires a business-like, grating haggle between necessarily adverse parties.
Most projects use the same time-honored and successful mechanism used throughout the 35 year history of the Free Software community: submissions using the normal means to contribute to the project — such as patches to the mailing list or pull and merge requests — indicate the contributors' assent for inclusion of that Contribution in the canonical version under the project's license.
No. A license to to make, use, sell, offer for sale, import and otherwise run, modify and propagate the contribution is enough to grant the recipients the essentials rights to use the contribution.
A public lab contributes to a project. It is paid by public fund.
Can it assign the copyright of his/her contribution to a third party?
Recognize the pro-bono contributions by leaving the author's copyright (but him/her granting a license to the project), to distinguish this contribution from paid-for contribution:
Suggestion to the echopen association: