I appreciate the response. While I agree that there is no assignment currently present in the CLA or SGA, the preamble makes me think it once did have one. Searching deeper I do find that the ASF _requires_ you to list the Apache Foundation as the copyright holder: http://apache.org/legal/src-headers.html#notice
As for for the legal role of the NOTICE file, I think there may be more complexity than that. Here, for example, we find Lawrence Rosen and Roy Fielding (among others) discussing what must go in NOTICE instead of in LICENSE: https://issues.apache.org/jira/browse/LEGAL-62
I know they have not required assignment for at least the past 6 years (when google signed the agreement). I don't know about back past that. However, don't confuse this with whether people have assigned copyright for things to the ASF. There certainly are cases where this has occurred. Google has assigned copyright in some large software contributions to the ASF, for example.
NOTICE files have special meaning in the Apache license. I misread (I was on my phone) and thought you were talking about copyright notice previously. Even Larry thinks that copyright notice is mostly worthless. However, you can't removes notices that currently exist unless you are the copyright owner, so they have rules for moving them to NOTICE files.
Again, you should not confuse organizational requirements and policies with what the law requires or recognizes.
Internal to Google, I have set requirements about the form of copyright notice/etc, for example. This isn't just because of legal requirements, but because it stops useless developer arguments and time wasting. Sanity and consistency are important in this kind of thing, and without rules folks have a penchant for starting mailing list arguments about it every few months.
Besides that, it also helps deal with the outside world. By having strict, sane, and consistent policies, dealing with corporate and other contributors becomes a lot easier.
They want to add 600 new copyright lines to your file, you point them to the policy that says no.
Agree on all, and thanks for the continued insight. While it's clearly institutional policy rather than law, I'm a little concerned that the ASF appears to claim copyright ownership of all of their projects' code, but doesn't actually have this ownership. My worry would be that as a result they wouldn't have legal standing to enforce license restrictions. I've written a question to the Apache project list that I'm part of asking for clarification about our specific case.
No problem, happy to help how I can.
There are legal theories under which they could sue, just not copyright infringement in the US.
Standing is one of the few very well settled areas of copyright law in the US (IE at least 8 circuits worth of federal appeals courts have all held the same thing about who has standing to sue for infringement)