Asset Sharing

Title: Asset Sharing
DRACC: 0006
Category: Regulatory
Scope: Global
Authors: Leenaars, M.A.G.J.; Šuklje, M.
Date: January 2017
Copyright: The Commons Conservancy

This doc­u­ment is part of the DRACC se­ries, see DRACC “In­tro­duc­tion to ­DRACC Se­ries” for an ex­pla­na­tion. You can re­use it un­der a “Cre­ative ­Com­mons At­tri­bu­tion 4.0 In­ter­na­tion­al” li­cense.

[The Com­mons Con­ser­van­cy] aims to have pro­vi­sions in all its com­mon pro­ce­dures ­to al­low for shared eth­i­cal stew­ard­ship of in­tan­gi­ble as­sets — such as ­copy­right, trade mark­s, patents, databas­es, in­te­grat­ed cir­cuit lay­out de­sign and the like — across Pro­grammes as well as with out­side par­ties. A sim­ple ­case where a well-de­fined no­tion of shared eth­i­cal stew­ard­ship is es­sen­tial, is when a set of Pro­grammes joint­ly in­her­it in­tan­gi­ble as­set­s, agree­ments and ­com­mit­ments from a mu­tu­al an­ces­tor in a Shared As­set Fork­ing pro­ce­dure (see ­DRACC “Pro­gramme Fork­ing”). Pro­grammes with a par­tial­ly shared code­base MAY want to con­tin­ue to share all their con­tri­bu­tions to provide cross-fer­til­i­sa­tion and re­use across ef­fort­s.

There are oth­er sce­nar­ios in which shared eth­i­cal stew­ard­ship of as­sets is not the start­ing point, but can be ben­e­fi­cial none­the­less. Each Pro­gramme with­in [The Com­mons Con­ser­van­cy] is in­de­pen­dent­ly gov­erned and serves its own pur­pos­es, yet as the scope and ac­tiv­i­ties of in­di­vid­u­al Pro­grammes de­vel­op over ­time it may well be the case that there are sig­nif­i­cant over­lap­ping in­ter­est­s, ac­tiv­i­ties and even com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers among cer­tain Pro­grammes. The same could hap­pen be­tween Pro­grammes and oth­er projects out­side of [The Com­mon­s ­Con­ser­van­cy] (i.e. ex­ter­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion).

Giv­en enough over­lap and mu­tu­al com­pat­i­bil­i­ty, some form of col­lab­o­ra­tion or even a (par­tial) con­sol­i­da­tion of ef­forts might be a nat­u­ral course of ac­tion. How­ev­er, be­fore such a sce­nario can hap­pen there can be prac­ti­cal ob­struc­tion­s that need to be cleared away. One awk­ward ob­struc­tion could be in­com­pat­i­bil­i­ty of the soft­ware li­cens­es used by the dif­fer­ent par­ties. Such a legal in­com­pat­i­bil­i­ty can be very dif­fi­cult to re­solve, in par­tic­u­lar when right­s have not been prop­er­ly as­signed.

When all rel­e­vant rights and as­sets are in fact held by the par­ties in­volved, prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions may ac­tu­al­ly be pos­si­ble. This doc­u­ment is not meant to ex­haus­tive­ly pre­scribe or even at­tempt to de­scribe the in­fin­i­ty of pos­si­ble ar­range­ments that could ex­ist among Pro­grammes, and be­tween Pro­grammes and ex­ter­nal project­s. It does de­scribe how Pro­grammes and third par­ties MAY vol­un­tar­i­ly Share in­tan­gi­ble as­set­s, and tries to clar­i­fy the pos­si­ble role and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the Board of [The Com­mons Con­ser­van­cy] and the Pro­grammes in such a case.

It is im­por­tant to stress that a con­trib­u­tor al­ways re­tains the right to with­draw fu­ture con­tri­bu­tions from be­ing Shared, just as any re­cip­i­ent of as­sets has the right to not use or even ac­cept con­tri­bu­tions that fall out­side of the scope set by the Pro­gramme. Sim­i­lar­ly, an in­di­vid­u­al con­trib­u­tor of as­sets has ev­ery right to as­sign to mul­ti­ple Pro­grammes the right to ben­e­fit from their con­tri­bu­tions — even with­out any for­mal agree­ment be­tween the­se Pro­grammes (see DRACC “As­sign­ing Right­s”). Of course lack of ad­e­quate tool­ing ­can make this dif­fi­cult, and ad hoc as­sign­ments with­out any co­or­di­na­tion can lead to con­fu­sion and very rarely scale well.

As­set Shar­ing is de­fined as broad­en­ing the eth­i­cal stew­ard­ship of speci­fic in­tan­gi­ble as­sets as­so­ci­at­ed with (a set of) Pro­gram­me(s) — such as copy­right, ­trade mark­s, patents, databas­es, in­te­grat­ed cir­cuit lay­out de­sign and the like — to in­clude ad­di­tion­al eth­i­cal co-stew­ard­s. The Pro­gram­me(s) who is/are the eth­i­cal (co-)stew­ards of as­sets in ques­tion, choose which — if any — stew­ard­ship re­stric­tions are placed on the new­ly ap­point­ed eth­i­cal co-stew­ard­s. The new­ly ap­point­ed eth­i­cal co-stew­ards could be oth­er Pro­grammes with­in [The ­Com­mons Con­ser­van­cy] and their de­scen­dants, and in ex­cep­tion­al cas­es even ex­ter­nal not-­for-prof­it en­ti­ties.

As­set Shar­ing MAY be re­cip­ro­cal — Pro­grammes MAY Share as­sets with each oth­er, should they de­cide to —, but this is not a re­quire­men­t; a Pro­gramme MAY al­so sim­ply choose to Share as­sets with an­oth­er Pro­gram­me, while that sec­ond Pro­gramme it­self might not have any­thing to of­fer (or want to of­fer) in re­turn.

Such an ar­range­ment makes use of the fact that it is the priv­iledge of the ex­ist­ing eth­i­cal stew­ards of as­sets to make changes to both the eth­i­cal stew­ard­ship and to the con­di­tions un­der which those as­sets can be used. Pro­grammes MAY on­ly opt to make use of this pre­rog­a­tive when their own statutes and reg­u­la­tions al­low for such a course of ac­tion. Any ar­range­ment SHALL on­ly be con­sid­ered valid if it re­spects the re­stric­tions and con­di­tions for­mu­lat­ed with­in the statutes and reg­u­la­tions of the Pro­grammes in­volved, and, if ap­pli­ca­ble, the equiv­a­lent in­ter­nal rules of ex­ter­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion­s.

As­set Shar­ing can have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact, and there­fore MUST hap­pen through a for­mal­ly ap­proved, archiv­able agree­ment be­tween all of the Pro­grammes which al­ready hold and/or are to hold (co-)stew­ard­ship the as­set­s, as well as the Board of [The Com­mons Con­ser­van­cy].

The Shar­ing Agree­ment MUST de­scribe at least:

  1. the as­sets — such as copy­­right, trade mark­s, patents, databas­es, in­te­­grat­ed cir­cuit lay­out de­sign and the like — that are to be Shared (which MAY in­­­clude pro­vi­­sions for on­­go­ing and po­ten­­tial fu­­ture ­­con­tri­bu­­tion­s, as spec­i­­fied be­low);

  2. all Copy­­right As­sign­­ment Agree­­ments, Con­trib­u­­tor Li­­cense Agree­­ments, Cer­ti­fi­­cates of Ori­­gin and oth­­er proofs of the rights to the as­set­s in­­volved, in­­­clud­ing an over­view of any ex­ist­ing Shar­ing Agree­­ments rel­e­­van­t ­­to this Shar­ing Agree­­men­t.

    In case still on­­go­ing and fu­­ture con­tri­bu­­tions are to be added con­t­in­u­ous­­ly ­­to the as­sets be­ing Shared or in case of re­­cip­ro­­cal Shar­ing, it is there­­fore rec­om­­mend­ed to al­­so ad­­dress the fol­low­ing as­pects in the Shar­ing A­­gree­­men­t:

  3. any con­di­tion­s, pa­ram­e­ters and ex­cep­tions (such as lim­i­ta­tions on fu­ture

    pro­lif­er­a­­tion with­­in [The Com­­mons Con­ser­­van­­cy], bind­ing de­­ci­­sion pro­ce­­dures a­­mong the eth­i­­cal co-stew­ard­s) to which the use of the as­sets are to be bound;

  4. the com­po­si­­tion of eth­i­­cal co-stew­ard­­ship in the old and in the new si­t­u­a­­tion (in­­clud­ing dis­­tri­bu­­tion of vot­ing rights in fu­­ture shared de­­ci­­sion­s, where rel­e­­van­t);

  5. the mech­a­nis­m(s) with which the new eth­i­­cal co-stew­ards SHALL be no­ti­­fied of new Shared con­tri­bu­­tions with­­in the orig­i­­nat­ing Pro­­gram­me(s);

  6. the chan­nel(s) through which an­­nounce­­ments SHALL be made about re­vo­­ca­­tion s­­tate­­ments of in­­di­vid­u­al con­trib­u­­tors, oth­­er Pro­­grammes and third par­ties;

  7. a pos­si­ble clear­ing pro­ce­­dure to use so that the new eth­i­­cal co-stew­ards can estab­lish whether or not spe­­cif­ic con­tri­bu­­tions are in­­deed Shared;

  8. a ter­mi­­na­­tion pro­ce­­dure to be able to stop Shar­ing of fu­­ture con­tri­bu­­tion. Pro­­grammes that ter­mi­­nate a Shar­ing Agree­­ment SHOULD al­low for a fair pe­ri­od of ad­­vance no­tice.

There lies a se­ri­ous re­spon­si­bil­i­ty with the Pro­grammes in­volved, to Share in a way that re­spects the in­ten­tions of those who orig­i­nal­ly con­trib­uted the as­set­s. Once Shared, the sit­u­a­tion can­not be re­scind­ed with­out agree­ment and ­co­op­er­a­tion of all au­thors/rights hold­er­s, and even then it might not be ­pos­si­ble to recre­ate the ex­act same le­gal sta­tus quo as be­fore.

A Shar­ing Agree­ment with ex­ter­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion(s) SHALL al­ways be sub­ject to a Pub­lic Con­sul­ta­tion (see DRACC “Pub­lic Con­sul­ta­tion”). In oth­er cas­es the Shar­ing Agree­ment be­tween Pro­grammes MAY be sub­ject to a Pub­lic Con­sul­ta­tion, de­pend­ing on the statutes and reg­u­la­tions of the Pro­grammes in­volved. If a Pub­lic Con­sul­ta­tion takes place, the Board of [The Com­mons Con­ser­van­cy] has to ­take its out­comes in­to con­sid­er­a­tion when de­cid­ing whether to ap­prove the Shar­ing Agree­ment or not.

Dif­fer­ences of opin­ion about the need and con­di­tions of col­lab­o­ra­tion can oc­cur, es­pe­cial­ly in cas­es where there is a his­tor­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion among the ­ef­forts or some in­di­vid­u­als in­volved. Some con­trib­u­tors MAY choose not to ­fol­low the Pro­gramme they con­trib­ute to any­more, when it seeks col­lab­o­ra­tion with oth­er Pro­grammes; to lim­it their con­tri­bu­tion to just that one Pro­gram­me; or they MAY even have a change of heart lat­er on. It is up to the in­di­vid­u­al ­con­trib­u­tor to draw their own con­clu­sion­s, and make use of their right to re­vis­it the agree­ment they en­tered in­to with the Pro­gram­me(s). That way they ­MAY de­ny the Shar­ing of their fu­ture con­tri­bu­tions be­yond the Pro­gram­me(s) they had cho­sen to con­trib­ute to ini­tial­ly — re­gard­less of the Pro­gram­me’s stat­ed in­ten­tion to col­lab­o­rate and Share with oth­er­s.

If there is no ded­i­cat­ed li­ai­son chan­nel as­signed with­in a Pro­gramme or ex­ter­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion that en­gages in Shar­ing (on both end­s), its Gov­ern­ing ­Body is as­sumed to act as such.

A Pro­gramme en­ter­ing in­to a Shar­ing Agree­men­t, MUST ex­plic­it­ly in­form al­l ­par­ties of any rel­e­vant re­stric­tions in their statutes and reg­u­la­tions pri­or to any­one sign­ing the Shar­ing Agree­men­t. In case a vi­o­la­tion of such re­stric­tion­s ­comes to light, the le­gal and moral ba­sis for Shar­ing might not be ad­e­quate­ly jus­ti­fi­able and the Board of [The Com­mons Con­ser­van­cy] MAY re­scind the Shar­ing A­gree­ment of a Pro­gramme im­me­di­ate­ly up­on no­ti­fi­ca­tion. Pro­grammes are the there­fore en­cour­aged to re­view the statutes and reg­u­la­tions of the Pro­grammes they en­ter in­to a Shar­ing Agree­ment with.

Shar­ing of fu­ture con­tri­bu­tions can be done in each of four ways: Op­t-in, Op­t-out, Soft Merge and Hard Merge.

  • Op­t-in” means (in this con­tex­t) that a new con­trib­u­tor as­sign­ing as­sets to one of the Pro­grammes is sug­gest­ed to in­clude oth­er Pro­grammes in that as­sign­ment (see DRACC “As­sign­ing Right­s”). Un­less the con­trib­u­tor ex­plic­it­ly s­tates that they wish to con­trib­ute their as­sets to oth­er Pro­grammes (and which), their con­tri­bu­tion SHALL not be Shared with oth­er Pro­grammes.
  • Op­t-out” means (in this con­tex­t) that con­trib­u­tors are in­formed that their new­ly con­trib­uted as­sets will fall un­der one or more Shar­ing Agree­ments, un­less they ex­plic­it­ly in­di­cate oth­er­wise with­in a cer­tain pe­ri­od.
  • Soft Merge” is the sce­nario where the col­lec­tion of in­tan­gi­ble as­sets of Pro­grammes and po­ten­tial­ly oth­er par­ties are hence­forth con­sid­ered as one, but the Pro­grammes re­main tech­ni­cal­ly in­de­pen­dent and re­tain their own d­if­fer­ent vi­sion, fo­cus and strat­e­gy.
  • Hard Merge” is the sce­nario where mul­ti­ple Pro­grammes are con­sol­i­dat­ed in­to a sin­gle Pro­gramme or in­to a new or ex­ist­ing new host or­gan­sa­tion (see DRAC­C ”­Grad­u­a­tion”).

In case an­oth­er DRACC or doc­u­ment refers to this DRACC for the def­i­ni­tion of “Merge”, ei­ther the def­i­ni­tion of “Soft Merge” and “Hard Merge” ap­plies.

In case one of the in­volved Pro­grammes Grad­u­ates or has Grad­u­at­ed (see DRAC­C “­Grad­u­a­tion”) such a Shar­ing Agree­ment MAY be ex­tend­ed to the re­sult­ing new host or­gan­i­sa­tion. In such case each Pro­gramme SHALL in­form its cur­rent and ­fu­ture con­trib­u­tors ac­cord­ing­ly.

In case a Pro­gramme is no longer in­ter­est­ed in a cer­tain part of its as­set­s, it ­MAY trans­fer these as­sets to an­oth­er (set of) Pro­gram­me(s) to adopt them pro­vid­ed such is in line with its own statutes and reg­u­la­tion­s, as well as the over­all statutes and reg­u­la­tions of [The Com­mons Con­ser­van­cy] (see DRACC “As­set ­Trans­fer­ring”).