Q: Why has TPF adopted a CLA process?
A: We all know that code needs to be documented with a certain amount of care and accuracy. Good documentation benefits both programmers and users. The legal relationships between contributors, users, and TPF need to be documented for similar reasons: long-term project stability, meeting the needs of open source users for adequate and effective legal documentation, and reducing the risk of disruptive legal disputes and intellectual property claims.
Also, in the years since the first release of Perl software, open source as a means for distributing and developing technology has grown and changed. There are many more people and organizations involved, as users and as contributors. The success of the open source model has exposed leading open source programs and organizations to potential threats from organizations opposed to the increasing influence of this way of making and distributing code.
The global open source community is recognizing that using intellectual property and licensing tools to protect and preserve the openness of open source is essential. Licenses and other legal tools, like copyrights and trademarks, which were used to build closed proprietary technologies, are now being re-purposed to keep open source code freely available.
Q: Do companies who want to contribute material created by their employees need to use a special CLA form?
A: No. However, in addition to signing the CLA on its own behalf, a contributing company (or other organization) should have each contributing employee sign a CLA, in case an employee's contribution turns out to be owned by the contributing employee, rather than the employer. This could occur if, under local laws, or due to problems with the company's internal intellectual property policies, some elements of the contribution are owned by the employee. Laws on employer ownership of employees' work product vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Q: As an employee, do I need to have my employer sign a CLA for my contribution?
A: No. However, if your employer does own intellectual property rights in your work, having your employer sign a CLA is a good way to confirm that you and your employer share a common understanding of your contribution. Under the CLA, the contributor represents that if his or her employer has intellectual property rights in the contribution, the contributor has cleared those rights either by having the employer sign a CLA, or getting permission, or a waiver of the employer's rights, in order to make the contribution.
Q: Do I have to list any, or all, of my prior contributions? That could be impossible.
A: You are not required to list any of your prior contributions. However, as part of the TPF process for documenting contribution licenses, we may ask you to list key prior contributions. You are also free to specify them on the schedule on your own, if you would like to do so.
Q: Why are patents treated separately from other intellectual property?
A: Patents are treated separately because the legal rules for patents are significantly different from the rules for other kinds of intellectual property. One goal of the patent clause is to reduce the likelihood of patent infringement claims by terminating the license to use TPF code of anyone who asserts that TPF code infringes a patent.