CLA Copyright Grant 0.9 FAQ

CAUTION: The Copyright CLA is legally binding when you sign it. Read it carefully and consult your own attorney first, because it will affect your intellectual property. This FAQ does not replace or alter the meaning of the Copyright CLA itself. The FAQ is merely a brief explanation by the authors of the Copyright CLA to explain the rationale for some of its provisions.

1. What is the purpose of the Copyright CLA?

Unlike the Open Web Foundation Agreement ("OWFa"), which applies to functional specifications after they reach a final state and are published, the Copyright CLA applies to copyrighted works you contribute to the specification while the specification is being developed. The Copyright CLA provides a license to your intellectual property (specifically your copyrights) so that other contributors freely can include your contributions – and elaborate on them – in the community effort to develop the specification. It establishes terms and conditions for receiving and using written contributions to a functional specification.

2. Do I also have to sign an Open Web Foundation Agreement (OWFa)?

You will be asked to sign an OWFa for the “final” version of the specification, as the community preparing the specification itself defines that word. The OWFa grants both copyright and patent licenses and is more comprehensive than the Copyright CLA. (You may also be asked to sign an OWFa for later versions of the specification to indicate that you grant the same licenses for those versions.) Unlike traditional standards development organizations which have formal copyright and patent commitments for contributions and final specifications, the OWFa and the Copyright CLA indicate your voluntary support for the development and publication of a functional specification by its own active community.

3. Why does the Copyright CLA deal only with copyrights?

We are providing a modular framework that will allow specification development communities to choose the structure that best suits their needs. Ultimately, we expect that there will be several CLAs, including CLAs that include patent grants. The idea is that each of those CLAs will lead to the OWFa for the “final” specification. We started with the copyright-only CLA because copyrights for functional specifications are easier to deal with than patents. The copyright CLA will form the basis for a Patent and Copyright CLA in coming months. We expect that the copyright provisions in the Copyright CLA will be tested and refined enough by then so that we can focus entirely on issues related to patents. In the meantime, we know of many groups that wish to get started developing functional specifications for a wide variety of web-related technologies. The Copyright CLA is should be considered for use in projects where patents are not (yet) an issue or where the community itself has confidence in the good faith actions of its contributors with respect to patents. The Copyright CLA provides no patent assurance, however, that you can actually practice the specification in functional software.

4. How does the Copyright CLA affect functional specifications?

When you sign the Copyright CLA and then make a contribution, you are authorizing whatever copyrightable content in that contribution that you own or control to be copied, modified, and distributed as part of the specification. You expressly allow your fellow contributors to create derivative works and to enhance your contribution – to the full extent of your copyright interest in the contribution. This copyright grant is intended to be compatible with all open source and proprietary software licensing models.

5. What is the intention of the “No Other Rights” provision?

Do not assume that you are being given more intellectual property rights than are expressly granted by the Copyright CLA. Only a license to the copyright rights in the contribution is being granted here. The authors of the Copyright CLA were concerned that some might read the word “implement” in section 2.1 as an implied license to the contributor’s patents; section 3 is intended to foreclose that interpretation. This issue will be dealt with further in the Patent and Copyright CLA.

6. What is the intention of the “Antitrust Compliance” provision?

Antitrust law limits the ways that competitors (or potential competitors) can cooperate in joint activities, including the creation of functional specifications. The communities that will use the OWFa and the Copyright CLA, even though they are informal and sometimes ad hoc groups of interested companies and individuals, must nonetheless abide by antitrust law. They cannot use their cooperation as a means for discouraging fair competition or engaging in other conduct that violates antitrust law. Section 5 is a reminder that antitrust law applies.

7. What is the intention of the “Non-Circumvention” and "Representation and Warranty" provisions?

Successful open communities depend upon the honesty, integrity and good will of their contributors. The Open Web Foundation intends to foster that with explicit promises of cooperation, as in sections 6 and 7 of the Copyright CLA. An important aspect of building that trust is helping to ensure that contributors avoid contributing materials they don’t have the rights to. For example, individuals who sign the Copyright CLA may not contribute materials owned by their employers or other third parties without a license to do so, or without having that employer or other third party agree to the terms of the Copyright CLA.