Contributing changes to LVGL with 'portions copyright' notice


I have a question about contributing to LVGL.

We use LVGL on our custom-built FPGA platform. We needed to make a few small tweaks, which I’d like to contribute back to the main github.

However, our company insists on marking all files that have been modified by us (whatever the modification, even for small ones) with a copyright notice saying something like:

Modified on February 2021 by <Company> and/or its affiliates: <short change description>
Portions Copyright 2021 <Company>

Would this be OK to add this kind of notice to a PR that would go to LVGL?

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Hi @marcinh0001

Actually, I don’t think this is ok.

LVGL is MIT licensed. It’s ok to attribute the changes to your company, but I don’t think that your company can keep copyright on these portions once contributed to LVGL.

That’s because once it’s part of LVGL, it’s legal for anyone to take your portions and do whatever they want with them (as long as they keep the MIT license notice). Your company can’t claim it owns these parts and can’t prevent others from doing whatever they want with them.

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I will ping @kisvegabor to offer his input on this as he is the current copyright holder.

I am not a lawyer, but I’m not convinced that the presence of another entity’s copyright notice actually changes the licensing. For example, before the move to Apache, NuttX source code had multiple copyright holders on it, but each copyright always had the NuttX license underneath it.

Specifically, I would think that a statement that says “portions copyright XYZ” only grants XYZ copyright on their specific contributions, which makes sense, since they implicitly held it anyways.

Another note: all contributions to LVGL are expected to comply with the Developer Certificate of Origin, which states:

(d) I understand and agree that this project and the contribution
are public and that a record of the contribution (including all
personal information I submit with it, including my sign-off) is
maintained indefinitely and may be redistributed consistent with
this project or the open source license(s) involved.

So, even though I am no expert on this, I’m not convinced that adding this notice would be an issue.

I’m also no a lawyer but I also think it’s the case.

Modified on February 2021 by and/or its affiliates:
Portions Copyright 2021

looks like a sign-off in the commit or PR. It’s a common practice but it’s “just” and attribution showing that the commit was made by you or your company.

If the goal is to have a record about your company contributed into LVGL (because from an employee’s account it might not be clear that the person is related to the company) then I see no problem with adding messages like this in the end of you commit messages.

@embeddedt, @amirgon do you agree with this?

I think having it in the commit message is not an issue at all, but the original post suggests that the disclaimer needs to be in the file as well.

@marcinh0001 Please confirm if the disclaimer needs to be placed into the file(s) too or it’s enough to add into the commit message.

They want me to add it to the files, not to the commit messages.

I’ve been told this doesn’t change the licence at all: it will still be under MIT (“MIT is still implied”). Copyright and licence are not the same thing.

It’s just for stating the contribution from the company.

Note that you already have files in the repo (under ‘gpu’) that have company copyrights (NXP; although in this case the text of the MIT licence is also pasted into the files rather than ‘implied’ and the copyright applies to whole files, not ‘portions’).