I have made a product which I have used the GPL licence, and am now getting pull requests from other authors.

The product also has a less restrictive commercial license available for purchase.

Can I include the submitted code with the commercial licensed product?


The short answer is "no."

The code that your submitters are writing is covered by copyright, and that copyright is assigned to the submitters. Since the project is GPL, they have agreed that the code may be released under the GPL. You will need to get permission from the submitters (all of them!) to release the code under a different license than GPL.

(I am not a lawyer, this is nowhere near legal advice, etc.)

  • 1
    Nowhere near legal advice, but it's almost certainly what a lawyer with experience in the area would tell you. I've seen open-source projects run up against this issue, and the general consensus is that you either make sure to explicitly get permission from the contributors to use it under other licensing terms--and reject any submission where they say no--or you can only stick to the one license. – Mason Wheeler Jun 20 '12 at 23:54
  • @MasonWheeler I noticed on some software they have contributing terms (tinymce.com/develop/contributing.php) but I have never agreed to them, are they therefore breaking the law by taking my code (from a pull request) then changing the copyright and license? – Petah Jun 21 '12 at 1:05
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    @Petah: It might be possible that one could argue that having submitted code to the project constitutes agreement with the terms. – Vatine Jun 21 '12 at 10:46

This is why many "serious" Open Source projects insist that contributors assign the copyright of their work to the project. That means that the project itself owns all the code, and can do whatever it wants with it. Some projects do this to ensure that they can sue people who violate the license (e.g., the FSF does this). Others want to be able to reuse changes in non-OSS products (e.g., MySQL).

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