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ONF Launches Streamlined Contributor License Agreement Management

Mar 10, 2020
Ain Indermitte
Ain Indermitte About the author

ONF has grown significantly since our early days. We now host over 20 projects and related communities as interest and demand in our work has increased. To support this growth and continue to drive innovation and community participation, we are constantly exploring ways in which to improve its developer tools and collaboration infrastructure.

ONF is excited to announce that it is moving to an automated system for Contributor License Agreement (CLA) management. This will make it easier for developers to create and manage Individual and Institutional (Corporate) CLAs.

What is a CLA and why does ONF use it? Let me explain.

  • A CLA is a legal document in which a contributor states that they are entitled to contribute the code/documentation/translation to the project and are willing to have it used in distributions and derivative works. Should there be any kind of legal issue in the future regarding the origins and ownership of any particular piece of code, the project will have the necessary forms on file from the contributor(s) saying they were permitted to make this contribution.
  • The CLA also ensures that once a contributor has provided a contribution, they cannot try to withdraw permission for its use at a later date. People and companies can therefore use that software, confident that they will not be asked to stop using pieces of the code at a later date.
  • Whenever a non-ONF contributor wants to submit a contribution to an ONF open source project, they must first sign a CLA. This allows the contributor to retain their ownership in the code submitted while granting ONF the necessary legal rights to use and re-license that contribution. The CLA only needs to be signed once and it covers all unrestricted Apache 2.0 ONF projects. 

There are two types of CLAs - Individual and Institutional (Corporate). Most source code contributions made to ONF projects are made on behalf of developers working for corporations that hold copyright to those contributions. A developer must know their company’s process to authorize making open source contributions. The ONF CLA Manager will ask if the developer has the authority to sign a CLA. If they do, they should sign the Individual CLA. However, if they do not, the ONF CLA Manager suggests a sample email they should send to the person who has this authority (typically a director or higher, or a company lawyer). The authorized person should then sign the Institutional CLA and add all developers’ emails and/or GitHub user identities to the Institutional CLA.  

ONF will start enforcing CLAs on April 1st, 2020. If you are a developer contributing open source components to any ONF project, you should log into the ONF CLA Manager, sign a CLA, and add the email and/or GitHub user identities you use to contribute source code. Starting April 1st, developers will not be able to make contributions through GitHub or Gerrit unless they have a valid CLA in place. 

Please refer to ONF CLA Information wiki page for more information. If you still have questions, please contact us at help@onfstaging1.opennetworking.org.


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Ain IndermitteHead of Developer Relations
Ain's extensive career in the developer relations, program management, mobile software, enterprise SaaS, and telecommunications disciplines spans Nokia, Microsoft, MobileIron, and ServiceNow. He has worked in Estonia, Finland, California, and Texas, and has traveled considerably around the globe for business. Ain is currently serving as Head of Developer Relations at the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), focusing on community leadership, developer tools, training, and member engagement - with the goal of transforming the telecommunications industry through the adoption of software defined networking and open source software. Ain is married with five children and a dog. During his free time, he likes to hike or bike to beautiful places and fly his drones.