The Eclipse IP Process

The Eclipse Foundation performs a great deal of work to ensure that the intellectual property embodied in our Project(s) has been well managed. We have full-time professional staff who works diligently to ensure that the code which ships from Eclipse can be included in proprietary Projects. The Eclipse Intellectual Property Policy provides the framework, and ultimately the Due Diligence Process provides the guide for our community.

Origin of Code

Code originates from three sources at Eclipse:

  1. Eclipse Committers
  2. Community Contributions (typically in the form of bug fixes)
  3. Content developed and maintained somewhere other than Eclipse (other open source projects)

Each is handled differently, with the greatest complexities from a due diligence standpoint arising in relation to content developed somewhere other than Eclipse.

We have legal agreements in place with our Committers and an acknowledgement from their employers regarding their ability to contribute to Eclipse Projects. As trusted members of our community, Committers have write access to our repositories, and further due diligence of the code is not completed by the Foundation.

We have Contribution License Agreements in place for all community contributors. It’s worth noting that the Eclipse Foundation CLA is quite a bit different from those in use in other organizations in that it simply says that the contributor agrees that their contributions will be provided under the license(s) for the project they are contributing to. The Eclipse Foundation does not acquire any ownership in the contribution, nor does it receive a broad license to the contribution which is the equivalent to ownership, as is the case in other organizations.

find cla

Where to find the Contribution License Agreement

All significant community code contributions are reviewed by our staff. The measure of significant was historically 250 lines of code but has recently been raised to 1000 lines of code based on our satisfaction with historic contributions below this level.

The review of code originating from other open source communities is carefully reviewed at source level. It presents the added challenge that nesting is commonplace, with many open source projects including other open source projects, often many layers deep. In these cases, each open source project is segregated and looked at individually at the source level, at all layers of nesting. What may appear to be a single project may result in the review of 20 or more open source projects.

Licensing and Provenance

The code itself is reviewed with the help of tooling, issues related to licensing or the origin of the code identified, and in many cases, rectified before the code is distributed at Eclipse. Potential licensing issues vary, and may include such things as license incompatibilities, licenses with terms that are not considered commercially “friendly”, and licenses where the license provisions are inconsistent with the manner in which the Eclipse Project wishes to use the code.

The code review will also examine the provenance of the code, and by that we mean “who wrote the code and how they agreed to the license”. Projects may manage the provenance of their code in a variety of ways. Some open source projects address it through their Terms of Use, others have a formal Contributor License Agreement in place, and others may individually confirm with their authors their ability to contribute the code under the project’s license. Open source projects with no management in this regard are not accepted for distribution at Eclipse.

The review will also examine whether there has been a historic change in the license and if so, whether it was done with the permission of all of the original copyright holders. In our experience this is not always the case and remedial action may be required to use the code under the license the code is currently offered under.

These practices support a vibrant commercial ecosystem surrounding Eclipse, one which we expect will continue to thrive in the years to come.

About the Authors

janet campbell

Janet Campbell
Eclipse Foundation

Director, Intellectual Property Management, Secretary and Legal Counsel