Contributor Agreement FAQ

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1. Q: I want to contribute to the IKS project. Do I need to sign anything to get started?

A: Yes. You must sign the IKS Contributor Agreement (IKS-CA) and then fax, mail or scan and email a signed copy to us using the postal address, email address or fax number listed in the IKS-CA.

A copy of the current version of the IKS-CA can be found at

2. Q: How do I file my completed contributor agreement? Can I do it by email?

A: See the answer to question 1 above.

3. Q: When do I need to fill out a contributor agreement?

A: Before the first time that you contribute source code or other materials like documentation, design specs, bug fixes, or graphics to the IKS project.

4. Q: What if I’m contributing on behalf of my company?

A: In that case, an officer of your company (usually a VP or higher title) must sign the IKS-CA on behalf of the company, indicating his or her title. The company can choose to list the specific individuals authorized to make contributions on the “Full Name” line, or may cover all employees with a blanket IKS-CA by not limiting contributors to an authorized list. If necessary, the company may provide a list of authorized contributors in an attachment. The executive signing the IKS-CA must be the first name on such an attached list, and this executive must sign the attachment as well.

5. Q: I’ve previously assigned copyright in my prospective contribution to the Free Software Foundation or some other organization under their contribution policy. So I no longer have the ability to assign a joint copyright to Salzburg Research. How can I contribute?

A: The Free Software Foundation will probably have granted you back an unlimited, sublicensable copyright license to your contribution, and other accepting organizations may also grant back such a license. This kind of grant-back copyright license may allow you in turn to grant to Salzburg Research all the rights needed under the IKS-CA. Please be sure that you have such a grant-back copyright license if you have previously assigned copyright, and wish to contribute the same code or material to a Salzburg Research-sponsored project.

6. Q: How do I terminate my IKS-CA?

A: You can stop your participation in a project at any time, but you cannot rescind your assignments or grants with respect to prior contributions. This protects the whole community, allowing Salzburg Research and downstream users of the code base to rely on it. Salzburg Research cannot terminate its responsibilities under the IKS-CA either.

Benefits of a Contributor Agreement

7. Q: Why do you have a Contributor Agreement?

A: The contributor agreement allows Salzburg Research to act as stewards of the IKS codebase and supporting materials, holding copyright on these resources on behalf of the IKS community.

This consolidated copyright allows for better legal defence of the project and provides the possibility of relicensing the whole code base if this is needed in the future.

Without a consolidated copyright, every single contributor may need to be contacted and unanimity reached in order to relicense a code base, or parts of the code must be reimplemented.

Most importantly from the contributors’ perspective, it allows the original donor of the code and other resources to maintain most of the rights to their contribution.

8. Q: What does the IKS-CA do?

A: By executing an IKS-CA, you:

  • share your copyrights with Salzburg Research (who stewards the IKS project)
  • license any patents relevant to your contributions to Salzburg Research
  • assert that your contributions are original works
  • assert that you are legally entitled to grant Salzburg Research these rights
  • assert that your contributions do not violate anyone else’s rights

By accepting an IKS-CA, Salzburg Research promises that your contributions will remain Free and open-source software or free culture (i.e. will be published and will remain available by Salzburg Research under a Free or open-source software or free culture license).

The IKS-CA is based on Sun’s Contributor Agreement, which has been drafted in such a way as to be legally enforceable in multiple jurisdictions.

9. Q: Are Contributor Agreements such as this one common?

A: Yes. Many other open-source communities and projects have contributor agreements, including the Free Software Foundation, the Apache Software Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation and many more.

The Contributor Agreement and your rights

10. Q: Do I lose any rights to my contribution under the IKS-CA?

A: Yes. While the IKS-CA only asks you to share your rights, this has the effect of removing your ability to exclusively license your copyright on your contributions.

Unlike some contribution agreements that require you to transfer copyrights to another organization, the IKS-CA does not take away your rights to your contributed intellectual property. When you agree to the IKS-CA, you grant Salzburg Research joint ownership in copyright, and a patent license for your contributions. You retain all rights, title, and interest in your contributions and may use them for any purpose you wish. Other than revoking the rights granted to Salzburg Research, you still have the freedom to do whatever you want with your code.

11. Q: The IKS-CA requires that I agree not to assert my “moral rights.” What are moral rights?

A: Moral rights are additional rights of the creators of copyrighted works recognized in some jurisdictions, and intended to protect the relationship between an artist and his or her work. These rights remain in place even after ownership of the work is shared or transferred. Moral rights typically only apply to visual or artistic works, and not to utilitarian works such as software. They may prohibit the alteration or mutilation of a work, may protect the author’s right of attribution or anonymous publication, and in general govern the artistic integrity of a creative work. It would be unusual for moral rights to apply to an open-source contribution, but in the event they do and you live in a jurisdiction that recognizes moral rights, when you sign the IKS-CA you agree not to assert them with respect to your contributions.

12. Q: Salzburg Research gains the benefits of the aggregated code base of an entire project. I only retain the benefit of my own contribution. Isn’t that unfair?

A: The rights you have in the aggregated code base are not determined by the IKS-CA. Rather, they’re a function of the project’s license. The IKS project uses the [New BSD License][BSD] for it’s code, which is permits broad open and prioprietary use.

13. Q: What if Salzburg Research is acquired, or the rights to a particular code base are transferred? Do I have assurances that the party receiving these rights will continue to honor the IKS-CA?

A: The IKS-CA does not include any relicensing terms or obligations in the event of transfer of rights. But because contributors retain all their rights, there is no danger that contributions can be made exclusively proprietary. Contributors retain the ability to make sure their contributed material is always freely available.

14. Q: I’m hesitant to give Salzburg Research unlimited ability to initiate enforcement against infringers. As joint copyright holder, do I have a say whether Salzburg Research enforces the assigned copyright?

A: It depends on the circumstances. In order to protect the whole community, when you agree to the IKS-CA, Salzburg Research gains the right to enforce its copyrights in your contributions. However, copyright ownership is shared, and not transferred: the contributor retains the freedom to make additional arrangements for their contributions as they see fit.

15. Q: I’d like Salzburg Research to give me credit for my contributions. Can I expect this?

A: All IKS project participants receive credit for their contributions, as per the [IKS Community Policies][IKS-CP]

16. Q: I don’t want my contribution to end up only in a proprietary product. Does Salzburg Research promise to publish my contribution under an open-source license?

A: Yes, Salzburg Research will make certain that any contributions that are published under any license, are available under a Free Culture, Free Software or Open Source license as well.

17. Q: Can I be certain that if I contribute to the IKS project, I’ll retain the right to contribute to other projects under any license?

A: There is nothing in the IKS-CA that prohibits you from contributing the same works to other projects remember, you are only asked to share rights, not relinquish them. Contribution policies of other projects to which you might want to contribute may restrict your ability to contribute works you’ve contributed to a Salzburg Research project, or to participate in some roles if you have participated in a Salzburg Research project. Please consult their policies for more information.

Discussing the IKS-CA

18. Q: I or my company would like to negotiate some changes to the IKS-CA. How do I do this?

A: Salzburg Research has a policy prohibiting the negotiation of alternative IKS-CAs or amendments. This protects everyone equally, with the goal that no contributor gets special treatment to the detriment of other participants. If you have suggestions that will improve the agreement for all participants, sent mail to

19. Q: How can I comment to Salzburg Research about the IKS-CA?

A: We welcome community comments and feedback. Please send your thoughts and feedback to us at or start a discussion on the iks-community mailing list.

20. Q: I see there is a Creative Commons license on the document. Why is that?

A: Sun, the original author of the contributor agreement and FAQ, has graciously chosen to share their hard work with others. For this, we thank them.

Document Provenance and Licensing

This document is based on the Sun Microsystem’s Joint Contributor Agreement FAQ. At the time of policy drafting, the URL for this FAQ was:

This document is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License ( version 3.0 or any later version.