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Can an open source project turn closed?


timbeckham

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Suppose the holder of the copyright to an open source project, which was being developed under the GPL decided that he/she wanted to take all the contributions and work of his/her team and change the copyright to a proprietary one? Would that be legal under the GPL?

 

I realize that all code made public would be free and open, since others could reissue that code under a new GPL'd copyright, but I am addressing code that had not yet been made public. Like, for instance, if the development had been proceeding for a long time in private, without releases.

 

Does anyone have any ideas on this matter?

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Like, for instance, if the development had been proceeding for a long time in private, without releases. 

 

Wow, that sounds awfully familiar.

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NOTE: As of Oct 2006, I'm not as active in this forum as I used to be, but I still work with osC quite a bit.

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Suppose the holder of the copyright to an open source project, which was being developed under the GPL decided that he/she wanted to take all the contributions and work of his/her team and change the copyright to a proprietary one? Would that be legal under the GPL?

 

All work that was never released under GPL can be licenced as they want. GPL software can have the licencing changed by the copyright owner as well at anytime. This changed licening would not be controllable/enfocable to pevously released GPL though....

 

I realize that all code made public would be free and open, since others could reissue that code under a new GPL'd copyright, but I am addressing code that had not yet been made public. Like, for instance, if the development had been proceeding for a long time in private, without releases.
They can do as they like, nothing stating that software can not have dual licening either. The copyrght wner can do as they like with any/all of the code they release, and just because it was released as GPL, does not mean it must remain GPL forever....

 

 

My thoughts on this....

 

cheers,

Peter M.

Peter McGrath

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See my Profile (click here) for more information and to contact me for professional osCommerce support that includes SEO development, custom development and security implementation

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They can do as they like, nothing stating that software can not have dual licening either.? The copyrght wner can do as they like with any/all of the code they release, and just because it was released as GPL, does not mean it must remain GPL forever....

 

Yes. But: (as you wrote) Once released under GPL, the released code must stay GPL and can?t turn to closed source.

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I agree, all code that has been released as GPL remains GPL, but this same code can have the licencing changed at anytime, so that all released is still GPL, and remains as such, but all new releases could be licenced differently, even if it is the same code or not, this is the copyright holders perogative, the GOL would then remain in force on all code released as GPL, and all code not released as GPL would be licenced as the copyright holder wants, even if the code is the exact same... ;)

 

cheers,

Peter M.

Peter McGrath

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See my Profile (click here) for more information and to contact me for professional osCommerce support that includes SEO development, custom development and security implementation

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this is the copyright holders perogative

And this is the central issue. The GPL is only binding on people who are not the owner of the copyright. Any owner of a copyright can reverse direction and do whatever he/she wants, anytime.

 

The GPL's capacity to keep a development team motivated rests solely on the integrity of the copyright owner and his/her perceived intent to honor the efforts of others by not using their work for his/her own private enrichment.

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The effort of others, can not be used as is if released as GPL to enrich the owner of the GPL. All code released as GPL remains GPL.

 

Other efforsts like debugging, testing, etc are not included and could be used to "enrich" the owners code, but all original work is always copyrighted, from images, to text, to code etc. so the efforts of others must be taken into account in the licencing...

 

cheers,

Peter M.

Peter McGrath

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See my Profile (click here) for more information and to contact me for professional osCommerce support that includes SEO development, custom development and security implementation

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The effort of others, can not be used as is if released as GPL to enrich the owner of the GPL.  All code released as GPL remains GPL. 

 

Other efforsts like debugging, testing, etc are not included and could be used to "enrich" the owners code, but all original work is always copyrighted, from images, to text, to code etc. so the efforts of others must be taken into account in the licencing...

Yes, but I am referring to unreleased code.

 

If unreleased code is released by the copyright owner, even if it is together with previously released GPL code, as a closed application - that is, not open source - that is legal. Of course, there is little point to this if there are only incremental changes to the code between releases.

 

The only time where this makes sense to the owner of the copyright is when the unreleased code is so important or represents so much accumulated work, that it motivates users to purchase the closed version, rather than relying on the previously released, GPL versions.

 

In other words, releasing often and not keeping development a secret is the only way that an owner of a GPL'd application can assure his/her development team that their work will be honored and released, as promised, under the GPL or other open source license.

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I agree, and that is something people take into consideration when working on GPL based solutions. But the shift from a GPL to a non GPL will always mean a reduction in the user base as well others will pick up the GPL development to continue it's development, if there is a demand for it...

 

cheers,

Peter M.

Peter McGrath

-----------------------------

See my Profile (click here) for more information and to contact me for professional osCommerce support that includes SEO development, custom development and security implementation

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One proviso to what I wrote above:

 

If there is any code included in a proprietary release of previously GPL'd code that has its origin in a different GPL application and which was controlled by a different copyright owner, then the new code must be GPL also.

 

So, if I am correct, if all code in a GPL development is "cleansed" of code originating from other teams, then the owner of the GPL'd application has the right to go proprietary at will. After all, he/she owns the copyright; and under any court I know of, they have the exclusive right to do with their copyrighted material whatever they wish, as long as they are not dragging other GPL'd code along with it.

 

A GPL developer who goes proprietary can only be challenged in court by someone who has a GPL copyright on code which is being infringed.

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I agree, and that is something people take into consideration when working on GPL based solutions.  But the shift from a GPL to a non GPL will always mean a reduction in the user base as well others will pick up the GPL development to continue it's development, if there is a demand for it...

Which supports my point that the only situation in which a shift from GPL to non-GPL makes sense is when a bulk of unreleased code is so important or so large, it makes it worthwhile for users to pay for the new code.

 

As a corollary to that point, the inverse is also probably true, in my opinion. That is, the only time it makes obvious sense for an owner to not release code is when he/she is planning to go proprietary. There may be individual exceptions to this conclusion, but in the absence of convincing evidence to support the exception, it is wise for anyone considering being part of a development team to insist that current code be released to the community on a frequent and regular basis.

 

No one wants to be used. Honorable owners will not.

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