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This page is for organizing thoughts on licensing, contributor restrictions, agreements etc for Jasig product documentation.

Proposed Approach

What we are proposing is to require all contributors to the documentation of a Jasig project to complete an Individual Contributor License Agreement (ICLA), just like we require for all contributors to the source code of Jasig projects.

From an intellectual property standpoint, open source project documentation is really no different than software source code. To have a successful open source project it is important to have both quality source code and quality documentation. As part of the Jasig projects, we want to make sure we can redistribute documentation in all the same ways that we redistribute our software, and also redistribute in ways that are unique to documentation. Some of these possible redistributions include:

  • Allow the documentation to be downloaded and posted for use on other websites
  • Bundle the documentation into binary software distributions as built-in help, as a PDF manual, or other forms
  • Print the documentation as a physical book that can be sold at low cost

In order to do these things, it is important for Jasig to have appropriate redistribution rights to the documentation. This is accomplished in the same way as it is done with source code: via an Individual Contributor License Agreement.

This is consistent with the practices of other communities, including the Apache Foundation. The Apache Licensing webpage specifically mentions documentation as something that should be covered by a Contributor License Agreement, and the Apache License itself makes specific mention of documentation.

Other Possible Models

Wikipedia:

Another possible model for documentation that has been mentioned is Wikipedia. The way they handle licensing is that at the bottom of every single editing page they have the following statement:

Content that violates any copyrights will be deleted. Encyclopedic content must be verifiable. You irrevocably agree to release your contributions under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 License and the GFDL. You agree that a hyperlink or URL is sufficient attribution under the Creative Commons license. See the Terms of Use for details.

The use of two different licenses is a recent change for Wikipedia. Prior to May 2009, only the GFDL license was invoked upon contributions. In order to pull off the relicensing, Wikimedia had the FSF add a new clause to the GFDL (creating version 1.3) to make relicensing possible in their specific case. Read Section 11 of the current license – that section is even timeboxed to when the Wikipedia change happened and has already expired. Gross.

Anyway, moving on to how this could apply to Jasig:

Using the GFDL would be inconsistent with Jasig licensing in that it is a copyleft license. Most of the Creative Commons options are also copyleft. Specifically, anything that involves Share Alike (SA), Non-Commercial (NC), or No Derivative Works (ND) is considered a copyleft license and not appropriate for inclusion in an Apache licensed project. Review the Third-Party Licenses page for information on licenses that are considered compatible or incompatible with the Apache License.

Creative Commons

The only Creative Commons options that are compatible with Apache licensed projects are the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-A) license, the Creative Commons Copyright-Only Dedication, and the Creative Commons CC0 (CC0) license. We could start accepting contributions to things other than source code under one of these options. The Copyright-Only Dedication license is deprecated in favor of the CC0 license, so we would looking at either the CC-A license or the CC0 license.

CC-A has a downside for Jasig in the attribution requirement. We are certainly generally supporting of people getting credit for their work, but having to credit every single contributor, even if they only corrected a sentence or two, is a bit onerous. CC0 solves this problem by effectively releasing all rights to the material. This could be viewed as giving Jasig everything it needs.

One other important consideration: One of the reasons for moving to CLAs for source code contributions is to let Jasig deal cleanly with any future needs to relicense projects. Take a look at FAQ #5, #6, and #7 in the Jasig Licensing Policy for more information on why we adopted CLAs and how relicensing is an important consideration. The ugly GFDL hack that Wikimedia had to use is another example of how relicensing can be a major problem. By simply taking contributions under the terms of some specific license, we may run into relicensing issues in the future. Use of the CC0 license is probably the only option here that wouldn't create possible issues in the future.

It would be an excellent idea for Jasig to use the CC0 license (or something like it) for anything that is posted into places like Confluence or JIRA. We would need to get an appropriate disclaimer to appear on all pages where text can be entered or attachments can be uploaded. That would allow us to reuse text, images, source code patches, etc. that may be entered into these systems my anyone without concern for intellectual property issues.

One example of a popular public site that now uses CC0 for user content is Digg. Specifically Section 6 of their Terms Of Use. They just announced this change in May 2009.

The footer of their site simply contains the following:

© Digg Inc. 2010 — Content created and posted by Digg users is dedicated to the public domain | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy

Some combination of an appropriate Terms Of Use, Privacy Policy, and a Waiver Statement on submission pages on all the places that users can submit content into Jasig (Drupal, Confluence, JIRA, others?) might be enough to give us everything we need.

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