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Say you created a website and it's open-source under MIT.

A month later, I changed it to GPL-3.0 License.

A month passed again, someone forked my project in GitHub and is making money off it via donations (buymeacoffee). He removed the license in his forked repo's README and just added a section where he credited my repo.

The website I made also uses libraries under the MIT license.

Also, a local news site featured him, where he claims "he started to build the website out of boredom and took him three weeks to build" without mention of the original author.

What would be an ethical solution?

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    I am not a lawyer. The OP has benefited from your work without fairly recognizing you. Do you want to develop software or spend your time chasing bad actors? Given that you posted your code under the MIT license previously, there is little that you can do legally (depends on the country). You could try to embarrass him but that often backfires. My advice, move on. Note: the local news site might be interested in interviewing you. Organize your facts, call the reporter and be strictly professional. However, not all publicity is good publicity in this area. Jun 13, 2021 at 5:12
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    If the OP's code is on GitHub, look into how to file a complaint. Stackexchange has a legal site that might be better for your question/problem. law.stackexchange.com Jun 13, 2021 at 5:35
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    As for the news story, note that the GPL license does not require mentioning the original author of a software project's components, say, when talking about his work for a news story. That's going to be true even if the software is 99% composed of your open source component. As already mentioned, though, he definitely must keep the license text intact in his software copy (as that's a GPL requirement) and must respect any other license requirements.
    – Brandin
    Sep 2, 2021 at 7:54
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    I’ve had this happen on my work as well. I wonder why so many people feel they are allowed to fork projects then just remove the original authors license. May 3, 2023 at 9:39
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    @wobsoriano I've rolled back your edits changing first-person to second-person throughout, because the answer is completely different if you're not the rightsholder in question, and invalidating an existing, highly-rated answer is frowned upon.
    – MadHatter
    May 4, 2023 at 11:51

1 Answer 1

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He removed the license in his forked repo's README and just added a section where he credited my repo.

This is a violation of the copyright license under which he forked your repository. By violating the license, this person is also violating your copyrights.

As this person is violating your copyrights, you have the right to seek remedy for those violations. The ethical way to seek remedy is to first ask this person nicely to restore the license that was present at the time they forked the repository.

If they don't respond to your request (or refuse to restore the license), then you can escalate and make a formal complaint with GitHub.


With regard to the news coverage, there is nothing to gain there for you. The news organization is not responsible for the claims made by the person they interview. And from the little information you gave, the claims appear to not be of such a nature that you can compel them to retract or amend the story.

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    Under US law, to the extent that the media coverage was online, it may also be subject to section 230 immunity. Regardless of medium, US law is extremely favorable to the news organization under this fact pattern. However, if you contact them and politely inform them of the dispute, they may be willing to update their story.
    – Kevin
    Sep 5, 2021 at 21:51

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