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For educational purposes I've open sourced my blog on GitHub (https://github.com/nehalist/nehalist.io), which is based on a fork of an MIT licensed repo (https://github.com/gatsbyjs/gatsby-starter-default).

I haven't changed the license until I released version 1.0. With this release I switched to a proprietary license.

Since I've open sourced my blog multiple people cloned or forked it and published pretty much exact copies of my blog - even with the exact same content (just replaced my name with theirs).

When I tried to contact them and politely explained that publishing exact copies of my work was not the intent of open sourcing it they just reply with "it was released under MIT back then".

At this point I'm confronted with a couple of issues:

  • everyone could just check out an earlier version of my blog (before 1.0 was released where the license was changed) and publish an exact copy of my blog.
  • I can't just make the repo private due to Travis.

I honestly didn't think of the possibility that people would simply "steal" my entire site and simply replace my name with theirs (some of them even use the same random facts on the about page).

Anyone got an idea what I can do in this case? Thanks.

  • What do you mean by the same content? Do you mean they copied the verbatim text of all the blog entries you wrote? Did you distribute those along with the blog software? – Brandin Jul 16 at 9:15
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    Just because the version number is below 1.0 does not mean it was not released. If it was available for public download on GitHub, that counts as a release. – Brandin Jul 16 at 9:16
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    When you say they're replacing your name, are they still complying with the MIT license by attributing it to you in the small print or something? – curiousdannii Jul 16 at 13:15
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    Don't be so sure that changing the license will do anything. It is my experiance that spam bots crawl blogs and automatically copy paste entire posts. I doubt those bots care what license the content is under. – Qwertie Jul 17 at 4:44
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    As a separate issue (comment, not answer) you can tell Google to penalize such copiers, so they won't appear in search results. Use their spam report tool. – TRiG Jul 17 at 11:46
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You can do nothing. Releasing software has nothing to do with version numbering; it is a matter of conveying it (which includes "making it available") to others, and making the licence terms under which it's conveyed clear. Once you have conveyed code under a licence, people may use it under that licence until the terms of that licence say they cannot. In the case of free software licences, most contain no termination provisions, and even those that do (such as the GPL) do not allow for termination based on compliant re-use.

Moreover, no free licence is going to let you do what you want. The four freedoms include the freedom to use the software for any purpose, and the freedom to redistribute verbatim copies. By releasing under the MIT (or any other free) licence, you told people they had the right to do those two things, so it is unsurprising that when you "explained that publishing exact copies of my work was not the intent of open sourcing it" people were unsympathetic to your interpretation.

I suppose it is possible to write some kind of licence that only allows for re-distribution after sufficient modification. But I think you will run into terrible problems describing how much modification is sufficient, since you've indicated that a trivial one ("just replaced my name with theirs") is not, in your opinion, enough. In any case, such a licence would be non-free, and so off-topic here.

Do also bear in mind that GitHub's terms of service include (s. D5) giving other users the right to clone your repo, so by developing on GitHub the one thing you are still permitting other people to do is make verbatim copies of your work, your own licence notwithstanding (and it looks like someone has already done so).

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    OP mentions that these people "replaced my name with theirs" - which if true is a blatant MIT license violation (and would violate pretty much every open source license in the book, except the super-permissive crayon licenses like the WTF license). – Kevin Jul 16 at 15:39
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    Only if they change the name on the copyright notice in the license file, @Kevin. Any other appearance of the OP's name is fair game as far as the MIT license (or most other OS licenses) is concerned. Other forms of falsely claiming copyright ownership might be actionable in various jurisdictions, but not as license violations. – John Bollinger Jul 16 at 18:16
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    As an aside, forking blogging software to make a blog, rather than keeping your blog content and enhancements to the underlying software separate, seems like a really, really bad idea. Not only is it what led to this licensing issue; it also makes it hard for you to follow security updates from upstream. – R.. Jul 16 at 19:16
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As explained in the answer by @MadHatter, there is nothing you can do against existing forks of your repository.

To prevent future forks of your repository from getting the MIT-licensed content, you can rewrite the history of your repository, so that the commit with the license change becomes one of the very first commits (before you added serious content). When you do this, you must also remove all existing tags from the repository, so that there is no way (short of knowing the actual commit hash) to retrieve commits with content under the MIT license.

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    Such a change won't prevent people from lawfully continuing to use and copy existing copies. – MadHatter supports Monica Jul 16 at 7:43
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    @MadHatter: That is why I linked to your answer, where you explain that better than I could have. I am just proposing steps how to limit the impact of future copies. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Jul 16 at 7:46
  • Understood, and thanks for clarifying. – MadHatter supports Monica Jul 16 at 7:53
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    On top of what @MadHatter said, you don't want to create the appearance that you're trying to falsify history to defraud people who have obtained your code under the original license out of their rights under it. Reordering the license change in the history borders on that; squashing the entire history might be more appropriate. – R.. Jul 16 at 19:13

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