I am the author of an open-source program. I am the primary author, and the repository on github is owned by me. There are however, ~3 other individuals who have made a few dozen commits into the project. Their commits are non-trivial, and cannot simply be removed.

I have a company that wants to pay me to modify this program to fit their needs. However, they want the changes to be closed source. Part of their business involves them distributing this binary to their users via a web assembly. My understanding is that since they are distributing this binary, they must comply with requests for the source.

I would like to re-license a fork of my project. My understanding is that I can obtain permission from the ~3 other individuals and create a fork.

My question is: What is the process? Is this as trivial as receiving written permission to fork as of a specified commit? Or is there a deeper legal process involved?

  • I’m voting to close this question because it not about open source and thus out-of-scope here. It's about legal advice May 18, 2020 at 9:38
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    Its about the process of modifying the license on an open-source project. That falls under the scope of this forum. This thought is reinforced by other related but not exact questions I have read on this forum. May 18, 2020 at 9:42
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    Does this answer your question? How can a project be relicensed? May 19, 2020 at 4:00

2 Answers 2


What is the process? Is this as trivial as receiving written permission to fork as of a specified commit?

Yes, the process does not have to be more complicated than that, although it would be good if you have some way to prove that the permission to relicense was given by the same person that holds the copyrights on the corresponding contributions. If it comes to a court case, if the only proof you have is the From: line in an email, that is probably not going to help you.

You might want to look at how a Contributor License Agreement works, even though those are typically signed before a contribution is accepted into the project.


The process needed is one where you get agreement by each involved person that you can re-license their work (or get a separate proprietary license). You might want to be able to prove this to a court, should someone come and claim that you are conducting a license infringement.

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