I have developed a library which is licensed under AGPL.

Before the library was licensed under MIT. I changed to AGPL because some commercial companies did use the library without commiting bugfixes to the main branch.

Now I would like to grant a "special license" to a single person which did help me developing the library. This person should be allowed to use the library (and any future versions) in a closed source project.

Is this possible? If yes, how do I grant less restricted licenses to others?

  • 2
    How was the license change from MIT to AGPL done? Was it a unanimous decision by all who contributed code/documentation to the project, or did you decide by your own, without consulting other contributors, to start distributing the library under the AGPL? Did you accept contributions from others after that license change and if so, under what license were those contributions made? Apr 26, 2021 at 9:12

2 Answers 2


You have taken code licensed under MIT, and with another person (let's call her Charlie) produced a derivative work which you normally distribute under AGPL. You wish to give Charlie the right to use this in a closed-source product.

Yes, you can do this. You cannot free Charlie (or yourself) from the obligations of the MIT licence, but that licence is no bar to Charlie's use of the code in a proprietary product. The simplest way is probably to give Charlie a copy of the entire work under the MIT licence (though you and Charlie between you can license your rights on any terms you like).

However, if you do this there is a risk that Charlie will redistribute the work under the MIT licence, thus producing a publicly-available copy of the work that doesn't come with the AGPL obligations that copies obtained from you generally do. This might be avoided if you were to give Charlie a copy under MIT (for the original rights) and some mutually-agreeable proprietary licence that permitted redistribution but only in binary form (for your rights). Such a licence, however, would be non-free, and thus off-topic for this site.

  • This won't work. As soon as anyone has a copy of the work licensed under the MIT license, then everyone who has the work has all the rights the MIT license grants. As the license says, "Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction..." Apr 26, 2021 at 16:59
  • @DavidSchwartz which "this" won't work, in your opinion?
    – MadHatter
    Apr 26, 2021 at 20:09
  • What you say is "a risk" that Charlie will do something is actually a certainty regardless of what Charlie does. If you offer a work to anyone under the MIT license, that license is automatically available to everyone who has a copy of the work because that's what the license says. You cannot offer the MIT license only to specific people because the license automatically applies to "any person obtaining a copy of this software". Alice granting a license to Charlie does not grant Charlie any control over who else gets the license since it's always Alice granting the license to her code. Apr 27, 2021 at 14:46

If you're the only developer,you can do. You have a dual license for your work.

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    I'm afraid I didn't understand you answer 100%. First, I am not the only developer but the initiator of the library. My aim is to to enable other persons to use the lib in a closed source project,
    – Abid
    Apr 26, 2021 at 7:55
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    If you are not the only contributor, you have no right to issue a license change for the work of others. That also holds true, if you are the maintainer. A license change needs consent by every party having a stake in the copyright, thus everyone who made a contribution. If those others made the contribution under AGPL, that's the only license allowed until you get consent from every other person for a license change back to MIT (or whatever) Apr 26, 2021 at 10:44
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    @Abid Also, you should have really asked all the contributors when you switched from MIT to AGPL. Because MIT license is generally compatible with (A)GPL, you can relicense it AGPL, but you should retain the original copyright notice from the MIT license (otherwise you don't have the right to switch the licenses).
    – ciamej
    Apr 26, 2021 at 22:01
  • In other words, if every contributor who contributed under MIT agreed to a license change, you could change the license to whatever you all agreed to. If not all contributors agreed, you can change to a compatible license under the condition you retain the MIT copyright notice beside the AGPL license.
    – ciamej
    Apr 26, 2021 at 22:06
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    Of course any license change (agreed by all contributors or not) does not revoke the rights of the people who downloaded your library prior to the license change in some specific version.
    – ciamej
    Apr 26, 2021 at 22:08

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