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Much of the FUD that SCO's been throwing around recently comes down to: "how can Linus prove that he is legally entitled to use all the patches that have been contributed to Linux"? What if someone were to ask you the same question about your CPAN modules? Well this week, it happened to me.

I got an email from IBM that began:

We are very interested in using your open source package, XML-Simple, as part of an IBM software solution. Can you help us understand who actually wrote the original XML-Simple code and whether any contributions were accepted thereafter?

The list of questions that followed included:

  • Could you indicate how it is that you have all the rights to distribute the code under the Perl 5 Artistic license?
  • Do you have a process of checking that contributors have the rights to contribute their contributions and that they provide those same rights to you?
  • If contributors are employed, how do you confirm that their employer has permitted the contribution?
  • Who did you work for when you wrote the code?
  • Did your employer disclaim any right to the code or otherwise approve of the contribution?
  • Is any of this stuff recorded?

Don't get me wrong, I can understand IBM's caution and I certainly don't mind being asked. As I see it, the 'worst case' scenario is that if they don't like the answers I provided then they simply won't use the code.

I'm interested to know what type of measures folks around here take to address IP ownership issues when they accept or provide patches. I've contributed patches to a number of CPAN modules and some other open source projects and no one has ever asked me for a declaration on IP ownership or a disclaimer from my employer. I guess the underlying assumptions are that you wouldn't contribute code if you didn't have the right to do it and if you weren't happy about it being distributed under the licensing terms of the main package. But then we all know what they say about assumptions...

In reply to What if it were you instead of Linus? by grantm

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