IP rights on my Hudson contributions

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.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Expanding, not contradicting…

    I think of 3 phases:
    1) KK at Sun, working on Hudson “after-hours/weekends”.
    2) KK at Sun/Oracle, paid to work on Hudson
    3) KK after he left Oracle, contributing code to the Hudson repo

    The IP during 2) is pretty clear – covered by the employee contract

    The IP during 1) can be argued – actually, this type of situation happened in enough cases that Sun (later) created a new process to clarify these cases – and my recollection is that when Kohsuke and I talked about the situation, we agreed what was important was the license, MIT [1].

    The IP during 3) seems clear on copyright and license (Kohsuke and MIT). The question is what are the implications of an MIT license insofar the ability for a non-copyright owner to change it to the copyleft EPL[2].


    Eduardo (KK’s last boss at Sun)

  2. Nicolas Lalevée says:

    I don’t think (yes, IANAL) any code can be relicensed without the approval of the copyright owner. Of course, it doesn’t mean you cannot add third party code to yours. Here is how we deal with it at the ASF:
    We distribute the whole thing, just saying in a NOTICE file that some part of the distribution is not ASL2.

  3. Hi Nicolas. That was my assumption too, but I’ve heard different opinions regarding MIT in particular.
    Beyond the legal question there is a separate question to Eclipse on whether they want to do it, even when if KK does not – although KK’s post above does not make that clear, I assume he is still pondering alternatives.

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