4

Assume I have a repository with MIT licensed code where I have written the vast majority of the code but several others have made small improvements through pull requests over the years (including adding the MIT license itself, a decade ago!). Am I allowed to transfer it to another maintainer or could I be somehow liable for transferring their IP? (I know this is highly unlikely, but I’m asking if there are any grounds for it) Can they ask for their contributions to be removed if they don’t like the new owner? Basically, what are their rights in this case? And what happens if the new owner turns out to be adversarial and removes the MIT license?

Thanks!

1 Answer 1

6

Am I allowed to transfer it to another maintainer or could I be somehow liable for transferring their IP?

The important thing to remember here is that "ownership" of a repository is purely an administrative thing; transferring a repository does not of itself mean any transfer of IP occurs. You will continue to own the rights to any code you wrote and any other contributors will continue to own the rights to any code they wrote. The new maintainer will be exercising their rights under the MIT license "to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so"

Can they ask for their contributions to be removed if they don’t like the new owner?

No; it is generally accepted that a grant of rights under an open source license is irrevocable.

Basically, what are their rights in this case?

Not much. Once you license your content under an open source license, you are largely giving up all control of it in the future other than the restrictions in the license itself.

And what happens if the new owner turns out to be adversarial and removes the MIT license?

Then they would be committing a copyright violation, as the only right they have to use the software is under the MIT license, which requires that the license is distributed with the software.

1
  • +1. Yet the question of the last quote - I think - intends to ask something slightly different than asked: "can he close-source the repository" or "use another license for their modifications". There the answer is: "yes, he can. But everyone else can continue to use code published until then under the MIT license". So the recommendation should be: keep your own public copy of the MIT-licensed repository. Feb 14, 2023 at 6:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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