Why Contributor License Agreements are Important for Legal Certainty

Posted by ownCloud GmbH – 24. August 2016

Let me start out by naming just a few of the important Open Source Projects that are using the Contributor License Agreements in order to assure legal certainty on a variety of levels:

Like the one ownCloud uses, those agreements usually all include:

  1. A statement that the contributed code is free from the rights of 3rd parties
  2. A grant of all rights under copyright law and potential patents to the project owner
  3. A definition of what a contribution means

In addition to a pledge, at ownCloud, all contributors receive the reassurance that their contribution will always be available under an Open Source License.

With this, we – and many others who use CLAs – are able to reach important goals for our customers, developers and partners:

  1. We assure that any code part of the covered work is free from rights of 3rd parties.
  2. We have the ability to dual-license such code, ommitting the copyleft effect of the AGPLv3 or any other GPL license we use and granting the right – under the ownCloud Commercial License – to keep any modifications to the ownCloud Core to yourself.
  3. ownCloud, as the project owner, is empowered to defend the Open Source License and any demands and judical proceedings are not required by the individual who has contributed, but by us as a company.

Of course, the Contributor License Agreement and therewith the ability to dual-license, but equally number two and three above, are the basis for the ownCloud business model – now and in the future. They assure our ability to invest in developers, marketers, services and sales people for the benefit of our customers, developers and partners.

For our users, this assures that ownCloud Server continues to be available as Open Source Software and that any type of license choices for modifications of ownCloud Core can be made possible.

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