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I'm the original author of an Apache 2.0 licensed open source project. I'm considering splitting up from this project and continuing to develop my own fork.

Do I owe anything to the original authors if I monetize and sell my fork?

PS - I'm the only active developer on this project.

Edit 1 - There were a few more people involved in the past. Those are not involved with the project as of now in any manner.

  • Do you owe them money? No. Do you owe them the courtesy of adhering to the license requirements? Yes. – Brandin May 16 at 8:39
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    "I'm the original author" and "Do I owe anything to the original authors" indicates you're asking whether you owe yourself anything... Is either statement maybe incorrect and you're the current maintainer? – Frank Hopkins May 16 at 15:35
  • @FrankHopkins I've added more detail in the edit. I believe this will clarify the situation and should have been stated in the first place. – Harshil Sharma May 17 at 5:22
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Do I owe anything to the original authors if I monetize and sell my fork?

You must comply with conditions of the Apache license, such as maintaining existing copyright notices.

Apache license permits commercial exploitation of covered work.

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Your question is a little confusing; it asks about your debt to the original authors, while suggesting you're the only original author. Nevertheless, you've written enough to make me wonder about contributors, and the licence under which they contributed.

Contributions to code under GPL generally don't cause problems. The normal workflow (contributor copies codebase, modifies codebase, then conveys modifications back to the original project) is enough to ensure that a contribution can only be lawfully made if it's made under GPL. A Contributor Licensing Agreement is often helpful, but without it there are still legs to stand on if a contributor later decides to cause trouble about the terms under which their contribution can be used.

This is not so for all the permissive free licences. I can copy the original codebase and modify it, and as long as I preserve the original copyright notices and some additional text, I can re-distribute those modifications without incurring any particular obligation with respect to the licensing of my contribution. As amon points out (to whom many thanks!) Apache2 s5 does make provision for this, but it's only advisory as an opt-out is permitted.

If you are the project leader, and you don't clarify the terms on which you are accepting my contribution, such as by using a CLA or (in the case of Apache2) having a procedure to ensure nobody's opting out of s5, then they may remain ambiguous, and I could later cause a fuss if you did something with them that I personally did not approve of.

I'm not suggesting this is common, or even likely, but if your project accepted contributions and didn't have a clear CLA in place, then to be on firmest ground it would be useful to make a good-faith effort to contact those contributors and have them clarify that their contributions were also made under Apache2.

Once it's clear the whole codebase is under Apache2, then I concur with the interpretation of my colleague D. SM.

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  • I learned that github has a handy provision in their tos that helps with this. – D. SM May 16 at 6:45
  • @D.SM indeed, though the OP doesn't mention that he's using github. – MadHatter May 16 at 6:47
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    Yes I agree, I myself wondered for a long time how a maintainer can trust that contributors won't claim they didn't license under the repo license and it didn't occur to me to read TOS of the site where contributions were made. – D. SM May 16 at 6:51
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    @MadHatter I'm the original author but there were a few people involved in the initial phase. I didn't mention that because I wanted to ask a general question for monetizing a fork. – Harshil Sharma May 16 at 7:50
  • The Apache license explicitly discusses contributions in section 5, so there's no problem: “Unless You explicitly state otherwise, any Contribution intentionally submitted for inclusion in the Work by You to the Licensor shall be under the terms and conditions of this License”. – amon May 16 at 15:31

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