4

Say I am the owner of an open source project, and I want to publish my code under the GPL license.

I expect myself to be the main contributors, but I want to stay open to others' contribution. At the same time, I wish I can have full control of the project, such as changing the license of the project in the future in case if I change my mind.

I know the typical way is to use a Contributor license agreement to transfer copyright to me, but I don't like this approach since this is a bit tedious and discouraging. I know the feeling, personally I gave up contributing to some open source projects because it requires signing stuff.

So this is the approach in my head, maybe I can publish my code under GPL, while accepting other contributions under MIT license. Is this possible? How can I make this clear to the contributors?

2
  • 1
    Requiring that contributions be submitted under another license sounds like a CLA in all but name. May 19 at 7:41
  • 1
    @user3840170 actually, it's a CLA in everything including name, since it's an agreement made by contributors about what licence their work is contributed under.
    – MadHatter
    May 19 at 11:08
8

To take the question in reverse order:

maybe I can publish my code under GPL, while accepting other contributions under MIT license. Is this possible?

Yes, the FSF are clear that contributions to GPL codebases can be under more-permissive licences than GPL.

How can I make this clear to the contributors?

This is where it all falls down, it seems to me, because you say you're trying to avoid a CLA. However, as has been said here, CLAs are particularly useful for permissively-licensed projects in clarifying from minute one the terms under which contributions are made, since the project licence doesn't require any particular terms. You want contributions to your copyleft-licencsed codebase to be made under permissive licences (so that you can later distribute them under less-permissive terms if you choose), which means you need a CLA in place so that contributors make clear the terms under which they're contributing.

Basically, as you're trying to do something out of the ordinary, you more than most need to be very clear with everyone, and have them be very clear in turn, about what's going on.

2
  • Thank you for the information. It seems like including a CLA is beneficial anyway. I just did a quick google search and found something related to MIT CLA. As a person who know nothing about law, this looks easier than, say google CLA. Do you think that MIT CLA is good enough?
    – Adrian Lai
    May 19 at 10:07
  • Well, IANAL/IANYL either, but that MIT CLA looks pretty sane and comprehensible to me.
    – MadHatter
    May 19 at 11:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.