License Issue

Back in July 2018, Developer A made a project with significant contributions from Developer B and others. The project was released to the public under the GNU v3 license. Everything was fine and no one was complaining.

Fast forward to now, Developer A and B have recently had a history of not liking each other and its getting really bad right now.

Developer B made major contributions to the project started by Developer A and during that process, the whole project was closed source. Once the project was ready for public use, it was open sourced under the GNU license. No one complained and everything was fine until now.

Developer B is saying this, 6 months after…

“I made major contributions to *REDACTED*. However, my contributions were made when the project was closed sourced and not licensed. So my contributions were explicitly licensed under exclusive copyright. This means nobody else can use, copy, share, or change them. The project was open sourced and licensed under the GPL 3.0 license without taking permission from the other contributors’. This is essentially stealing. There’s no way to fix this unless the project is taken down. *REDACTED* is stolen software.”

Is Developer B correct? Is that tool made by Developer A now violating the license? Keep in mind, Developer B had absolutely no issue with this up until now and the only reason he is bringing this up now is as a result of not liking Developer A. In addition, Dev A isn’t actually selling the software, it’s free to use for anybody (don’t think that matters in this situation though) Also, in the beginning of the release, Dev B heavily encouraged users to use the tool - than the 2 devs got into bad blood and Dev B is pulling this as retaliation to try and get the tool removed as he wants no one to use it. Developer B is also credited in the tool too.

Edit: The code written by Dev B was never sent as pull requests, instead, it was pushed directyl to the repo while it was still closed source - does this automatically put the code under the ownership of the prohect?

Hi @fattyffat,

As GitHub Staff, we aren’t able to provide advice about licensing like this; you really can’t get any better advice than that from your own lawyer. That said, GitHub has put together a guide on the legal side of Open Source that you might find helpful:


Just as @nadiajoyce said, I really wouldn’t trust legal advice from an online forum.

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