[TOS] Textbook authors: Copyright Assignment, please respond

Frank Hecker hecker at mozillafoundation.org
Wed Sep 23 15:47:07 UTC 2009

2009/9/22 Karsten Wade <kwade at redhat.com>:
> In that case, I am firmly on the side of doing a CLA for everyone.  I
> don't see any reason to object.  I know they can be a barrier to
> entry, but it's a minimal barrier for what is always going to be a
> relatively small-sized project.  What we can is important, including
> clarity on how to meld content.  As long as the CLA doesn't permit
> relicensing under a more restrictive license, there shouldn't be a
> reason to object signing it.

I presume your concern is the CLA second party (e.g., Mozilla if we
were to sign up for that) doing something like licensing under
CC-BY-NC-SA instead of CC-BY-SA? In that regard, most CLAs have a
fairly broad grant of rights, so we'd need explicit language in the
CLA (or a side agreement of some sort) to restrict the range of
possible licenses.

Here's a discussion of the sort of (corporate) CLA we were
contemplating using in the context of Mozilla code contributions (but
never did):


It includes a link to the draft CLA. Note that as written it doesn't
include a restriction on the type of license under which the Mozilla
Foundation might release the contributed material. It does explicitly
mention the MPL, GPL, and LGPL, but that was in connection with
granting of patent rights -- we wanted to make sure that contributors
explicitly consented to use of their patents in connection with
Mozilla software distributed under those licenses.

Restricting the range of potential license is IMO possible but a tad
tricky to get right. We could have an explicit list in CLA under which
licensing might be done, but would need agreement on what that list
should be. (For example, would we want to include the GFDL or other
non-CC licenses as options? Also, we might want to explicitly call out
the use of different licenses for code examples, e.g., MIT or BSD.)
Alternatively we could have general language about not using
"restrictive" licenses, but that would need to be defined in some
manner. Finally, we could just reach a rough consensus on the types of
licenses that would be used and have Mozilla Foundation make a public
statement confirming that consensus, without explicitly building it
into the CLA itself.

> What would be best is if we can do an online, click-through CLA.
> Fedora has done this for the last few years.  Is that possible?
> Because, yeah, print, sign, and FAX are more of a PITA. :)

We could look into electronic signing; we're doing something similar
with the new Mozilla Committer's Agreement. However that would likely
cause more delay vs. simply reusing something we already (mostly)
have. Note that in practice we don't fax stuff anymore; we just have
people sign and scan, and then we keep the PDFs.

Also, I suspect that many if not most of the likely contributors to
the book are under a work-for-hire arrangement where their employers
would be the party signing the CLA. That would cut down on the
paperwork as, e.g., there might be only one agreement needing to be
signed for anyone contributing from Red Hat.

In any case, I am willing to go back to Mozilla's lawyers and more
actively look into the possibility of Mozilla doing CLAs, if there's a
consensus here that people are willing and able to participate in a
CLA scheme, particularly one that covers the entire book.


Frank Hecker

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