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I have created a fork of a project that is releases under GPLv3 (As per LICENSE-file, GitHub and README).

However, contributions that are from the community are licensed under MIT.

Now since I want to continue this project as a standalone one, I want to understand how I need to treat the upstream source code in regard to the community-license in that repository.

Am I allowed to strip away the MIT license and treat the full project as GPLv3? To me it is unclear if that license applies to the whole source code, or only the part the original maintainer wrote and the community-contributions are still MIT.

To make matters worse, the upstream-project itself is just a fork of a different project, and that project was MIT originally.

I am fine with using either one, but I want to stick to one license and remove the uncertainty.


So to the final question:

What do I need to do to still adhere to the original licensee-requirements, and which license is the one I have to follow in my own project without breaking the license agreement?

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  • are the contributions a separate part from the main project or are they fully intermingled? Commented May 16, 2023 at 16:51
  • They are part of the code. Usually pull requests that get merged, small or big, with no discernable difference from the contributions made by the maintainer itself.
    – hinton
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 18:07

1 Answer 1

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Regardless of license and copyright information: that's two things.

You need to retain any copyright information and must not strip or remove that.

Regarding the license information, any MIT license is compatible with the GPLv3 (or other versions). So you may incorporate that code into a GPL codebase (but not vice versa). So in principle you may remove the license information and replace that with GPL one.

Yet it is good practice to keep the license information if no modifications are done and I would only do the replacement for the header of those files where modifications were or are done which then are under GPLv3. In the project's license file (which also is shipped with the binary) I'd only talk about the license for the overall project, thus GPLv3 (but retain and quote of course all copyright information).

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  • Note that MIT says you must keep the MIT license notices, and the GPL allows this requirement. Doesn't stop you treating the whole thing as GPL though. Commented May 16, 2023 at 16:51
  • Sorry if that was worded poorly. I would never strip metadata such as commits from the history, nor their authors while they are part of the project. So what i understand is that since i want to treat the whole project as GPLv3, i can just do that and "ignore" that there are parts that are MIT, in the sense that strictly speaking they have a different license? So if i only obey the terms of GPLv3 i am fine? (I will also keep a copy of MIT-License with the sourcecode, i just need to know my rights and responsibilities)
    – hinton
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 18:12
  • @hinton one of the things the MIT license says you can do is change it to a different license as long as you keep the MIT copyright notices Commented May 16, 2023 at 18:21
  • @Hinton imho you did not imply stripping meta data. But better safe than sorry, I thought I mentioned it specifically that copyright info is different to license info. Just obeying gplv3 is fine. Commented May 16, 2023 at 22:30

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