Say I have a work released under a FOSS license, can I revoke this FOSS license and release the work under some proprietary license?

If yes, what happens to copies of work already under circulation under FOSS license? Can those be used to make and distribute further copies?

  • 3
    For the first question, very closely related: Are licenses irrevocable by default? For the second question (and the first, really), assuming have a licensing situation that allows revoking, I guess it comes down to whether you can make a blanket statement like "I revoke all license grants previously issued under [licence X]" or if you must contact each licensee individually (in which case, each downstream recipient could continue using and distributing it until you told them not to).
    – apsillers
    Oct 3, 2016 at 12:21
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    Attention Dupe voters! I have a public service announcement. Does the following really answer this question? A non-exclusive copyright license (such as most FOSS licenses) can be revoked at any time only if there was no consideration involved. I think not.
    – Zizouz212
    Oct 3, 2016 at 23:19

1 Answer 1


If it was indeed possible to revoke a FOSS license at will nobody in their right mind would dare to rely on open source for their business. So while some licenses, such as the Apache License version 2.0, explicitly state that the licenses granted are perpetual I'd say it's reasonably safe to assume that this applies even where not stated for any situation where the author simply changes their mind about the license.

What you can do if you change your mind about the licensing of your work is to release any future updates under a different (proprietary or FOSS) license. However, already released versions can still be used in any waý the license under which they were released permits.

  • Found this answer when googling this issue. An open source project creator, who decided to cease work on the original open source project and instead work on a proprietary product derived from it stated to me that "<project> had been deliberately revoked, as my intellectual property, I'm at liberty to do that.". However, he may have been referring to a name he trademarked instead of the code base. It was MIT. Do you know if the MIT License works the same way, where the license to use the source code is effectively perpetual even though the license doesn't use the word "perpetual"?
    – Matt Welke
    Jan 4, 2022 at 20:55

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