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Legal stuff

This is not a legal document; see the COPYING file in the distribution for that.

In this page we explain what the legal stuff means (as we understand it).

The code and other content (e.g. scripts, documentation) in Kaldi is released under the Apache license, version 2.0. The Apache license is a popular "BSD-like" license. This means you can use Kaldi for free and redistribute it, even for commercial purposes, although you can't take off the license headers (and under some circumstances you may have to distribute a license document). Apache is not a ``viral'' license like the GPL, which forces you to release your modifications to the source code. Also note that this project has no connection to the Apache Foundation, other than that we use the same license terms.

From a legal and copyright point of view, none of the participants in the Kaldi project have a special status. It is a community project, which means decisions are not made by any one person, and there is no "legal owner" of the Kaldi project. In a sense this doesn't matter, because the whole project is "forkable": that is, if you don't agree with the way the project is being run, you can copy the code and create your own Kaldi community, giving it a different name if you wish. If you want you can even claim that you are the true carriers of the Kaldi torch, and that the original authors have somehow deviated from the true path. The name itself is not copyrighted by us.

Some fraction of open source projects operate through "copyright assignment". That means that when you give your code to the project you assign your ownership of the copyright to a third party, who then releases it to the world. Kaldi is not set up that way. If you, Joe Schmo, want to add something to Kaldi, the files you contribute are licensed under the Apache terms directly from you to the user of Kaldi. The files that you write will have an Apache header on them that says something like:

  // Copyright 2012  Joe M. Schmo
  // 
// See ../../COPYING for clarification regarding multiple authors
//
  // Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
  // etc. 

However, if Joe Schmo works for Acme Corporation and releases code as part of his work, then (depending what country Joe lives in) the header would probably look something like this:

  // Copyright 2012  Acme Corporation
  // 
// See ../../COPYING for clarification regarding multiple authors
//
  // Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
  // etc. 

This would be the case under some circumstances even if he did it in his spare time. For example: the terms of Joe's employment with Acme Corporation might dictate that anything he does while working for them is owned by them from a copyright point of view ("work for hire"), and Acme Corporation might have agreed that he can contribute to the project, but that he should put their name as the owner of the copyright.

If Joe Schmo jointly worked with Jane Doe on this, but did so while he was working with Acme Corporation, then the header would look something like this:

  // Copyright 2012  Acme Corporation  Jane Doe
  // 
// See ../../COPYING for clarification regarding multiple authors
//
  // Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
  // etc. 

In this case Acme Corporation and Jane Doe (and we're assuming that they agreed to this), jointly own the copyright on the code that they wrote. The order of names has no legal meaning. Joint ownership means that if either party chooses (and they don't have to both agree), they can release the code themselves under a different license. However, for Apache-licensed projects, there is typically no point in doing this, since Apache already allows for commercial use.

There are other cases that work like this: Joe Schmo (working for Acme Corporation) creates a file, and releases it under Apache. Later Jane Doe finds a bug and fixes it, or adds new functionality to that file. Jane Doe can't claim "joint ownership" of the copyright on the code, not without getting an agreement from Acme Corporation. This is obvious from common sense, because that would allow her to re-release the entire project under a different and possibly incompatible license, simply by making a trivial change to each file. The way this is normally handled is, Jane Doe should add a new Apache header at the top of the file, above the one mentioning Acme Corporation, and she should say something to the effect that the work is derived from the original file from Acme Corporation, and the whole modified file is being released under Apache. We haven't done it this way, because the project is very collaborative, and if we did it like this we would have extremely long copyright headers. Instead we use the convention that if Jane makes a change, she simply adds her name to the list of authors in the copyright header. We are treating this as a kind of shorthand for the whole multiple-header thing (this is explained in the COPYING file). The way you can disambiguate between joint copyright ownership and derivative work, is to go back in the version history in subversion, and see what the original release contained. We guess that most people won't care about this distinction, which is why we have not bothered to disambiguate it. For shell and perl scripts and other non-C++ content (e.g. README files, Makefiles) we have not always been very careful to ensure the Apache header is there. Our intention is that everything is being released under Apache.

Note that the use of Kaldi does not protect you against patent claims by any third parties. It doesn't even protect you from patent lawsuits by contributors to Kaldi code, as long as the part they are suing you about was not contributed by them. Patent law is completely separate from copyright law.

Also, some of the example scripts download tools from the Web that may have a different license from Kaldi itself. You may want to check the licenses on those tools as they aren't always the same as Kaldi (although we try to use only tools that have similarly unrestrictive licenses).