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I have announced in devRant that I will start an [**]open source project and I give out the link. And the announcement itself at least has 50 views.

But after a few weeks, I still don't know what my contributors could help me with. So I haven't assigned any goal or job details. And, I still don't have any contributors, and there is still no fork of my project. At the moment, I want to turn it into closed source instead and continue its development privately. So, I turn the repo page into a private repo.

Technically, is this change effective? Like, do I have the right to do that? And, is this change legal?

And, To maintain my trustworthiness and make people feel good about me, do I need to update my original announcement again to say it is closed source

And, conventionally, if the first announcement make some peeple shows high interest and excitement to contribute, then how should we properly turn it into a closed source project without looking too bad and disappointing? Do I need to say sorry to those replying me they are interested to contribute?

Edit: [**] Open source here mean source available. The project is using Apache v2.0 license. Under the license, I believe it does not actually require me to make the source code available. I decided to make the source available just because I wanted to speed up the development process and to gain popularity / reputation faster

  • Have you licensed it under an open source license? Or do you mean "source available" (i.e., they could see the source code in the public repository) instead of "open source" (i.e., you have licensed the source code under an open source license)? – unor Jul 30 '17 at 18:02
  • The project is licensed under Apache v2.0 license. Under the license, I believe it does not actually require me to make the source code available. I decide to make the source available just because I want to speed up the development process and to gain popularity / reputation faster – Raymond Pang Aug 1 '17 at 15:11
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    If your project is licensed under Apache 2.0 and you have made the source code available, your project is open source, i.e., it complies with all points of the OSI's Open Source Definition. You need not shy away from your project's (current) state as "open source". (Unless you mean that you licensed the source code under a proprietary license and licensed the binary under Apache...?? That would be quite a bewildering state of affairs. Is that what you did? If so, how clearly did you make the difference between source vs. binary licensing in your documentation?) – apsillers Aug 1 '17 at 16:53
  • @aspillers both source and binary are under apache license. Btw, I thought "open source license = make source open". So for Apache license, I didn't know I could make the code hidden. This is counter intuitive. Since apache license let me hide the code anyway, I don't plan to license it proprietary – Raymond Pang Aug 1 '17 at 18:22
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    The Apache license allows recipients to build your source code and share a (possibly modified) binary without sharing the source code. (In contrast with a copyleft license like the GPL which requires that source always accompany binaries.) As the original copyright holder, you can distribute or not distribute whatever you please, licensed however you please, though the choice to distribute a fully Apache 2 licensed binary without source code is strange (though not illegal), since Apache 2 is typically a tool used to share source code, with binaries as an afterthought. – apsillers Aug 1 '17 at 18:23
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Like, do I have the right to do that? And, is this change legal?

I think that anyone who downloaded it with the then open source license is allowed to keep what they downloaded under that license (and can continue to redistribute it according to that license).

Assuming you retained your own copyright in your software (as well as publishing it with an open source license), I think you can also decide at any time to cease publishing your software as open source, and to release any subsequent changes of yours only as closed source (but you couldn't do that including open source contributions made by other people).

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    re: you last parenthetical: you may do a binary-only release even with contributions by other people, since Apache 2 is a permissive license. It's exactly what anyone is free to do with a non-copyleft FLOSS project: modify it and offer a binary without source code. – apsillers Aug 1 '17 at 19:14
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You are allowed to stop offering the source code at any time, though people who have received a copy of the source code already may choose to exercise their right to distribute the code under the terms of the Apache 2 license. The Apache 2 license is explicitly irrevocable so you cannot take away license grants already made to existing recipients.

I think it would be a bad tactical decision to stop offering the old source because:

  1. It's bad optics in general, especially if people expressed interest in contributing. Even if you don't intend to be unkind, it can feel (to them) like you're slamming a door in their face.

  2. If people already have the source code, someone probably will make a fork, or at least a public duplicate of the original, so you won't have achieved anything in terms of keeping the current source secret.

A marginally better strategy, in terms of project PR, is to keep old source code public and make new source code private, either:

  • marked out by a new version number ("Yes, legacy v0.9 has source code available, but v1.x is now closed-source."), or
  • via proprietary modules ("Yes, the base engine is open source, but new modules Foo and Bar are closed source, only available in my official distro.")

Regardless of what you do at this point (other than choosing to keep all your source code open), you might see a fully-open competitor to your closed-source version based on your old open code. This might not be a serious (or likely) problem, though, considering that contributor activity has been low or nonexistent in the past.

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