Contribution Ownership - Trademarks, Copyrights... (not really BJS related)

What prevents a user from contributing copyright material? I know this is a odd question, but I was explaining github repositories to my buddy who is a very successful business man. When I came across the topic of people contributing their code then committing and merging it to a public repository he asked me right away how do we establish who owns what…(if anyone owns anything at all) and what is stopping someone from contributing something that is not open source then attempting legal recourse to the person(s) hosting it.

I bet this is all covered by some terms of use clause, but it was a very interesting question he posed and I did not have a good answer for him. So figured Id pose the question here and see if anyone has any knowledge on the topic seeing how this is a open source development project like I was describing to him.

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Discussion Copyright Infringement Detection - GitHub Community Forum

When I’ve worked on open source projects such as angular, I’ve had to sign a Contributor License Agreement (CLA) before getting any code merged.

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@Leon That’s what he was saying! His first thought was that someone would have to sign something which made sense, and that just validated that.

Cool at least I have something to contribute to this conversation now. Thanks yall.