I'm interested in converting part of our company application into and open source project.

They will let me work on it (they need it) and publish it to their own GitHub account. I will be the only one working on it. If I leave the company, I would like to continue contributing to it.

What kind of license should I choose to avoid the code being turned back into closed source and that would allow me to fork it without being troubled by the company ?


1 Answer 1


If you want to avoid that any derivative is kept as closed-source, you will need a copyleft license. That ensures that any derivative work will need to be published with accompanying source as well. The established licensed in that area is the GPL.

If you only want to ensure that your current work remains free software, any open source license will do; the licenses are irrevocable. But MIT and BSD-style licenses allow - contrary to GPL - that derivatives can remain closed-source.

  • If I choose a GPL license, and then someone fork the project keeping the same license, there is no control possible over this person right ?
    – Pat-rice
    May 9, 2020 at 22:28
  • Yes, correct. That is true for any open source license. Anyone, anytime, for whatever purpose. May 10, 2020 at 3:37
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    @Pat-rice, there might be some limited control through trademarks. With trademarks you can enforce that a fork uses a different name and branding, but that is about all the control you can get. May 10, 2020 at 7:10
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    @planetmaker Ok I think I get what you're saying. What I meant is that if they do modifications, and then sell a service that is based on this GPL licensed source code, that would be a breach of GPL right ? (that's what I was thinking when I said dishonest)
    – Pat-rice
    May 10, 2020 at 16:06
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    Most likely it would NOT be a breach of the GPL. Running software on a server does not mean that you distribute the software and in turn you are not required to publish the software or reveal any modifications made to it - unless we are talking about the front-end HTML / java-script or similar which is actually distributed to a user of that web service. You might look for something like AGPL. That requires that servers make available the full source for services they offer. May 10, 2020 at 16:43

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