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Eclipse Foundation Legal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The following FAQ answers questions about "legal stuff" at the Eclipse Foundation. Questions answered in this FAQ cover such topics as:

  • licensing of materials made available by the Eclipse Foundation
  • contributions submitted to the Eclipse Foundation
  • working as a committer on Eclipse projects
  • cryptography in software made available by the Eclipse Foundation

If you intend to use, modify, and/or redistribute materials made available by the Eclipse Foundation, you may find this FAQ useful.

Prior to 2004, the Eclipse community used the Common Public License as the open source license for the vast majority of the open source software distributed by With the creation of the independent Eclipse Foundation in 2004, the community began the migration to the Eclipse Public License, which is now the predominant license used at Eclipse. All projects at Eclipse now use the Eclipse Public License.

Unless otherwise specified, any reference in this FAQ to the CPL refers to the Common Public License Version 1.0 and any reference to the EPL refers to the Eclipse Public License Version 2.0. This FAQ does not answer legal questions such as "what is a derivative work?" or "what is a separate module?" For answers to those and other general legal questions, you should consult your lawyer. This FAQ does not answer specific questions about the CPL or EPL. For CPL-specific questions, you should read the CPL Frequently Asked Questions document that was written by IBM and is hosted at IBM’s developerWorks site. For EPL-specific questions, you should read the EPL Frequently Asked Questions.

This FAQ is provided for informational purposes only. It is not part of, nor does it modify, amend, or supplement the terms of the CPL, the EPL, or any other legal agreement. If there is any conflict between this FAQ and a legal agreement discussed herein, the terms of the discussed legal agreement shall govern. This FAQ should not be regarded as legal advice. If you need legal advice, you must contact your own lawyer.

If you have a question that you would like to see answered in this FAQ, please send e-mail to the Eclipse Management Organization.

This FAQ was last updated on October 1, 2010.

Table of Contents

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Use and Redistribution of Content

  1. What is the Eclipse Foundation Software User Agreement?

    The Eclipse Foundation Software User Agreement is an umbrella agreement that covers the use and distribution of materials made available by Eclipse.

    The Eclipse Foundation Software User Agreement itself does not provide any usage or redistribution rights but instead references the EPL and other notices defined in the Eclipse Foundation Software User Agreement as Abouts, Feature Licenses, and Feature Update Licenses. It is these files that grant you rights to the related content.

  2. Why are there other notices referenced in the Eclipse Foundation Software User Agreement?

    The Eclipse Foundation Software User Agreement defines Abouts, Feature Licenses, and Feature Update Licenses. Some or all of these notices may be present in content made available by the Eclipse Foundation. This framework of other notices is used for a number of reasons:

    • Content made available by the Eclipse Foundation is constantly changing as that is the nature of open source development. These other notices allow licenses and other legal information to be changed as the content changes, without having to constantly revise the Software User Agreement. Think of them as plug-ins to the Software User Agreement.
    • Sometimes content obtained from Eclipse Foundation may contain portions that are made available under other licenses. These other notices may be used to specifically address the licensing (and other issues) related to portions of content.
    • Although Eclipse Foundation cannot and does not attempt to control how other people structure their licenses and other legal notices, they may choose to use the same conventions if their content is based on software obtained from Eclipse Foundation. Since much of the software made available by the Eclipse Foundation is designed to be extendible or to extend software such as Eclipse Platform, legal notices from multiple sources may be able to co-exist in a consistent manner.
    • Although the Eclipse Foundation makes software available as downloads, you can usually obtain all or some of the software by accessing the Eclipse Foundation source code repository. These other notices are used to ensure that licenses and other important information are available no matter how the software is obtained.

  3. What is the Eclipse Public License?

    The Eclipse Public License (EPL) is an open source license based largely on the Common Public License written by IBM and approved by the Open Source Initiative. The CPL was used to license almost all of the content made available by prior to the creation of the Eclipse Foundation in 2004, and for a transition period thereafter. The Eclipse Foundation has now transitioned to the EPL.

    This FAQ does not discuss either the CPL or the EPL themselves although it may discuss’s use of the CPL and the EPL. IBM has written a CPL FAQ that is hosted at their developerWorks site. For further information about the EPL see the EPL Frequently Asked Questions.

  4. Why is the Eclipse Public License used to license most of the content made available by the Eclipse Foundation?

    The terms and conditions of the EPL were found to be most appropriate for the Eclipse Foundation. Software made available by the Eclipse Foundation is used by developers who want to freely plug into and extend or alter the content. The EPL goes to great lengths to support and encourage the collaborative open source development of the content, while maximizing the ability to use and/or integrate the content with software licensed under other licenses, including many commercial licenses. Since the Eclipse Foundation seeks to encourage developers of both open source and proprietary development tools to embrace the content, this flexibility is critical.

  5. What other licenses (besides the Eclipse Public License) may be used by the Eclipse Foundation?

    Content redistributed by the Eclipse Foundation either unmodified or as a derivative work may be made available under such licenses as the Apache Software License 1.1, and the IBM Public License 1.0. The complete list of other licenses varies with each project and the specific content and is subject to change.

  6. Why does the Eclipse Foundation redistribute some content under licenses other than the Eclipse Public License?

    Sometimes the Project Management Committee ("PMC") for an Eclipse Foundation project may make a decision to include some content from another open source project. If that content cannot be contributed to an Eclipse Foundation project under the Terms of Use and the content is not already licensed under the CPL and/or EPL, the PMC may decide to use and redistribute the content under the terms and conditions of another license which would usually be the license that the content was received under. The Eclipse Foundation will only use non-CPL and/or non-EPL licensed content if the other license is an open source license approved by the Open Source Initiative and it permits commercial products to be built on the software without requiring any form of royalty or other payment.

    In some cases the Eclipse Foundation redistributes unmodified non-CPL and non-EPL content and in other cases it redistributes derivative works of non-CPL and non-EPL content. Unmodified non-CPL and non-EPL content is included as a convenience to allow Eclipse Foundation software to be used without first having to locate, obtain, and integrate additional software.

  7. When I start Eclipse I see copyright notices from IBM and/or other companies. How can it be open source software if it is copyright IBM?

    You might want to do some background reading on copyright law or consult a lawyer. "Open source" doesn’t mean that the code does not have a copyright holder. All code has an author and that person is the copyright holder or owner unless the copyright is assigned to another party. In the case of the Eclipse Project, the initial code base was contributed by IBM. Over time, Eclipse Foundation projects have become populated with code provided by many different contributors and as result, different portions of the code have different copyright holders. Licenses such as the CPL and EPL grant you a copyright license (subject to certain terms and conditions) and that is how you receive copyright rights to use, modify, redistribute, etc. the content. Although you may receive copyright rights through the CPL, EPL, or another license, it still doesn’t change who the copyright holders are for various portions of the content.

  8. Which version of the Eclipse Public License does the Eclipse Foundation use?

    The current version is Version 2.0.

  9. What is the Eclipse Foundation Update Manager Agreement?

    The Eclipse Foundation Update Manager Agreement was written to ensure that parties making software available on an Internet site for subsequent download and installation by the Eclipse Update Manager, are fully aware of the technical process used by the Update Manager and that they grant all legal rights necessary to facilitate the process.

  10. Does the Eclipse Foundation have a patent policy?

    Under the EPL, each Contributor grants rights to create derivative works and for worldwide, royalty-free software redistribution in accordance with the EPL terms, including a royalty-free license to use Contributor’s patents as embodied in its contributions. Section 7 of the EPL includes the following:

    If Recipient institutes patent litigation against any entity (including a cross-claim or counterclaim in a lawsuit) alleging that the Program itself (excluding combinations of the Program with other software or hardware) infringes such Recipient’s patent(s), then such Recipient’s rights granted under Section 2(b) shall terminate as of the date such litigation is filed.

  11. The legal notices contained in the downloads make reference to or the Eclipse Foundation as the distributor of the content. Do I have to change these notices if I simply redistribute the content without modification?

    If you do not make any modifications to the content covered by any legal notices then you may leave the legal notices intact. Two cases where this commonly occurs is when Eclipse Foundation content is redistributed on a mirror site or on a CD distributed with a publication or at a tradeshow where Eclipse technology is being promoted.

  12. May I please have a quote or see a pricelist for Eclipse software?

    Eclipse is free and open source software that is distributed royalty-free under the terms of the Eclipse Software User Agreement. If you are going to distribute Eclipse code, you should read our Guidelines and our EPL FAQ. They both contain a great deal of useful information.

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Contributions and Participation

  1. What agreement covers contributions I submit to an Eclipse Foundation project?

    The Terms of Use covers your usage of the Eclipse Foundation web site and associated facilities and that is the legal mechanism through which contributions are accepted. The Eclipse Foundation web site includes a number of associated facilities through which you may upload, submit, or otherwise make available content. These facilities include the CVS repository, Bugzilla bug reporting system, mailing lists and newsgroups. If you try to contribute something to an Eclipse Foundation project committer through another mechanism (e.g. private e-mail) and you intend to contribute it to the Eclipse Foundation, you will probably be asked to either send it through a newsgroup, mailing list or bug report, or to confirm in some other way that you are submitting it under the Terms of Use.

    This infrastructure is in place to ensure that development proceeds smoothly on Eclipse Foundation projects and that all necessary legal rights have been obtained and terms and conditions agreed to. For example, if someone posts to the newsgroup with a description or the code to fix a bug, the bug can be subsequently fixed without the project having to ask the author to assign copyright rights as well as agree to all the other terms and conditions in the relevant license that protect both the author and users.

  2. Will Eclipse projects accept contributions to content that were not provided under the Eclipse Public License?

    Usually the Abouts referenced in the Eclipse Foundation Software User Agreement contain information about contributions. The quick answer to this question is "it depends".

    Content made available by the Eclipse Foundation is sometimes accompanied by or includes content based on third-party content. This third-party content is often sourced from other open source projects such as those run by the Apache Software Foundation. Eclipse Foundation projects try to avoid branching from other open source projects wherever possible. However sometimes it just can’t be avoided especially if the change is critical and the other project’s next release date is too far out or they won’t accept the change for some reason. Subsequently, while changes to third-party content (either unmodified or derivative works of) might be accepted and incorporated into the Eclipse Foundation codebase, Eclipse Foundation committers may often forward these changes to other open source projects and/or may ask contributors of such changes to do the same.

  3. Do I have to place copyright notices in all my code?

    Copyright notices are not legally required but it is good practice to include them in any of your code contributions. See the default copyright and license notice template.

  4. What if I have legal questions about my contribution to the Eclipse Foundation?

    If the questions you have concern whether or not you can legally contribute the content to the Eclipse Foundation, you should consult a lawyer. If you are contributing content on behalf of the company you work for then you should probably be asking your company’s legal department. It is up to you to ensure that you can satisfy section 2 d) of the EPL that says:

    d) Each Contributor represents that to its knowledge it has sufficient copyright rights in its Contribution, if any, to grant the copyright license set forth in this Agreement.

    Many companies have their own processes for handling contributions to open source projects. For example some companies want to be sure that the code to be contributed could not be first patented by the company.

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Working as a Committer

  1. What are my obligations as a committer working on an Eclipse Foundation project?

    As a committer you have the ability to partially control the content distributed in the Eclipse Foundation source code repository and subsequently in downloads. Contributors may provide contributions to the Eclipse Foundation but such contributions do not exist in the repository or downloads unless they are released by a committer. Committers therefore have a responsibility to perform due diligence on any content they release.

  2. What is the due diligence that a committer must perform?

    The Due Diligence Guidelines for Eclipse Foundation Committers outline the guidelines for committers.

  3. What if I have legal questions when I am performing due diligence as a committer?

    You should contact the Project Management Committee (PMC) for your project.

  4. If I change employers, what happens to my committer status at Eclipse?

    Your committer status at Eclipse is not based on your employer. It is an individual recognition of your frequent and valuable contributions to one or more Eclipse projects. If you change employers, please contact the Eclipse Management Organization (EMO). There will be some paperwork that needs to be completed. For more details, please see the New Committer Process.

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  1. Does software made available by the Eclipse Foundation contain cryptography?

    In some cases software made available by the Eclipse Foundation may contain cryptography. For example, the Eclipse Platform contains cryptography and has been classified as Export Commodity Control Number (ECCN) 5D002.c.1 by the U.S. Government Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration. Eclipse Platform object code and source code are eligible for export from the United States of America under 15 CFR §742.15(b), and deemed not subject to Export Administration Regulations as publicly available encryption source code classified ECCN 5D002.

    Notice Files and About Files contain information about the specific algorithms, key sizes, and other important information that may be required to obtain additional export control classifications and approvals.

  2. Why is cryptography discussed in the Eclipse Foundation Software User Agreement?

    The Eclipse Foundation Software User Agreement reminds you that some countries have restrictions regarding the export, import, possession, and use, and/or re-export to another country, another person or for a particular use of encryption software, but it does not restrict you in any way nor require you to do anything special if you receive encryption software from the Eclipse Foundation. In other words, it is your responsibility to determine what laws and regulations apply to you and to act appropriately.

  3. Why is cryptography sometimes discussed in the Abouts or other notices?

    Details of encryption software discussed in Abouts are provided to assist you in obtaining relevant export control classification and approval if the laws of your country require that you do so for any reason. For example, if you know which plug-ins have encryption, you might choose to remove them or modify them so that your distribution doesn’t contain any cryptography.

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