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IP rights on my Hudson contributions

May 6th, 2011

There seems to be some confusion/mis-information about the IP claim I made in my previous post, so let me clarify why I think they are valid. There are two parts to it.

First, about contributions I made during the early days of the project, when it was still my hobby project. It is generally true that corporations want to own as much IP as possible that employees create (and justifiably so, since that’s what we get paid for), and Sun was no exception. However, there’s California labor code section 2870, which says employees get to retain rights under certain conditions. The question here is whether something like Hudson was “actual or demonstrably anticipated research or development of the employer.” If it’s interpreted broadly, I suppose one could say any tools can be “anticipated development for Sun.” But if the emphasis is on “demonstrably”, maybe I get to keep the rights. I honestly don’t know. (For fairness, there’s also considerable portions of code that I created that are undoubtedly owned by Sun and hence now by Oracle — I never said I own everything.)

Second, there are contributions I made after I left Oracle, before we moved on to Jenkins. I think it’s pretty clear that that portion doesn’t belong to Oracle.

If I guess Oracle’s position correctly, based on a comment from Ted in my blog, I believe their approach is that the copyright owner doesn’t really matter, as the whole thing is licensed under the MIT license. It is true that the MIT license is very non-restrictive, and one can combine it with just about any other licenses without making whole thing incompatible.

The MIT license says the following, so I’m still not sure how it can be re-licensed to any other license, but it certainly can be put side by side with code under EPL, so maybe that’s what they intend to do. Again, I just don’t know:

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal
in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

I hope that clarifies what I mean.

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