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I use a project that are licensed under GNU General Public License version 2 or later

The code owner has abandoned the project and announced they leave it public as FOSS on github. The company with copyright is gone out of business (bankrupt).

My question is now that i have updated a lot of the code to a newer version so it will work for a new version of the cms system is created for. Right now the original project does not work anymore.

  1. Can i just take over the copyright, when the codeowner is "gone". (I guess not)

  2. Otherwise, as i read the license. Can i re-distribute the project without changing the copyright line in the files? I would do it as a paid download business model.

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    Selling GPL-derived software is allowed, but please see the related Q&As about that topic, e.g. opensource.stackexchange.com/questions/7490/…
    – Brandin
    Nov 13, 2023 at 11:07
  • Since you've modified the code so extensively, make sure you read section 2 of the GPLv2. Nov 13, 2023 at 21:45
  • @DavidGrayson i can find a refference to section 2 about releasing modified code base, but only one line. Do you have a link? There are not many new files in the project, mostly modified files.
    – Mas
    Nov 14, 2023 at 10:54

1 Answer 1

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Can i just take over the copyright, when the codeowner is "gone". (I guess not)

The copyright owner is not gone; someone will have bought the assets of the company, which includes the copyright to the project, as part of the winding up procedure. Jurisdictions have rules for what happens to any assets not purchased - in the UK, they are deemed bona vacantia and are owned by the Crown.

Otherwise, as i read the license. Can i re-distribute the project without changing the copyright line in the files? I would do it as a paid download business model.

Yes. But remember the GPL rights transfer downstream to any recipients of the project, meaning that:

  • You must provide them with the full source to the project on request (if you are distributing binaries only)
  • They will be able to redistribute both the source and binaries without your permission.
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  • Thank you for the reply. When i will distrubute it, then the entire sourcecode is in the install package for the cms system.
    – Mas
    Nov 14, 2023 at 10:56
  • just to clarify. My thought was to make it that users pay a annual fee to be able to download new versions of the project. That is allowed right? Or can anyone ask for a free copy?
    – Mas
    Nov 15, 2023 at 10:06
  • You can charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy should you wish. However, as the first person to pay the fee can then redistribute the project to anyone, this isn't a viable business model. With all due respect, what you are trying to do here is strongly against the spirit of open source software. Nov 15, 2023 at 10:15
  • Allright. I dont wanna do that. But i guess that how it was. I just made a subscription at a company for 1 year access to site templates and plugins for my CMS that are also GNU. That is pretty common with not only my CMS but also Wordpress plugins. Maybe i misunderstand something.
    – Mas
    Nov 15, 2023 at 10:45
  • @Mas "Subscriptions" for WordPress plugins are at best a grey area; WordPress thinks they should be GPL and therefore freely distributable but their opinion is not legally binding. See also Can support of GPL software legally be done in such a way as to practically force you to abandon your GPL rights? Nov 15, 2023 at 12:20

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