The question is in the title.

Additional question for the case if I do have to ask the contributors for approval:

As the owner of my project, what can I do in advance to get the exclusive rights to change the license without asking all of the contributors for approval in case when I would want to change the license in the future?

1 Answer 1


The only entity that can change the license of a work is the copyright holder. Hence, you would need to be the copyright holder of the entire work in order to change its license. This can be accomplished by getting any contributors to explicitly assign the copyright in their contributions to you.

However... unless you have a lot of standing in the community, the chance of most contributors doing that is pretty much zero - once copyright has been assigned to you, there's nothing stopping you from taking the code, closing it off and stopping any distribution of any future modifications you make. What value are you offering that means that I or anyone else contributing to your project take that risk?

  • 2
    As we discuss elsewhere, a Contributor Licensing Agreement (CLA) can also permit relicensing (in particular, it can permit certain kinds of (eg, copyleft-friendly) relicensing without allowing others) and is less onerous than a full Copyright Assignment. But your larger point stands, so +1 from me.
    – MadHatter
    Jan 5, 2018 at 8:06
  • 1
    Thanks. It's becoming clear to me that I don't fully understand CLAs, so I'll do some reading. Jan 5, 2018 at 8:46

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