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I made a contribution to an MPL 2.0-licensed project a while ago. I am not the maintainer of this project, I don't own it and I'm not affiliated to it in any way (apart from this specific benevolent contribution I made in my spare time). I did not sign a CLA, I just made the PR to GitHub and that PR was merged and released a few days later.

Now, I realize that the contribution I made to this MPL 2.0 project months ago could be useful to other projects that I may or may not own, and which are under different licenses (GPL 3.0, public domain, proprietary, Apache 2.0, …). Am I allowed to take the contribution I made to the MPL 2.0 project and redistribute it somewhere else into public domain without the maintainers agreement and without the MPL 2.0 license notice? Obviously, I would only redistribute the code from my contribution and not the modifications others may have made to my code since then. Am I still the legal "owner" of the code I wrote back then although it was published in an MPL 2.0 codebase first?

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  • Does the contribution make sense by itself? Is it isolated to an independent file for example? If so, then you probably could. Jul 20 at 0:13
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    Unless you signed over all rights to your contribution, it is yours to do as you please. But as it was build into/tof a MPL covered project, it might be a derived work and thus covered by whatever strings that attaches.
    – vonbrand
    Jul 20 at 3:04
  • @curiousdannii Yes. It's an independent screen, put in a separate file. It does not import any library or any built-in from the original project. It clearly makes sense by itself (and this is why it could be useful to other projects). Jul 20 at 6:35
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    @user8808265 the answer depends on whether your contribution is on its own a derivative of the project you contributed it to. If it can stand on its own, you can do whatever you please with it. If it requires the project as foundation, it might be a derivative. Mind, that ideas are not copyrightable, only an implementation. Jul 20 at 8:34
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    If it is only your code without reference to the other parts of the code base, than it's yours. IANAL. Jul 20 at 10:07
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Am I still the legal "owner" of the code I wrote back then although it was published in an MPL 2.0 codebase first?

Yes. It is actually quite hard to lose your copyrights. You have to explicitly and knowingly sign them away and just contributing to a project is not enough to lose your rights.

If you are the sole copyright holder to some code, then there are no restrictions in changing the license of the code or offering it to different people/projects under different licenses.

However, if you are not the sole copyright holder, because your code depends on code written by others in such a way that it is considered a derived work, or because others have contributed to your code, then the license terms under which the work done by the others become relevant and in most cases those license terms do not allow you to unilaterally change the license.

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  • Thanks for the clear answer. This was insightful. Jul 20 at 11:41

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