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I'm currently working on a wordpress plugin. My client gives me a specs doc (a powerpoint presentation, if you can call that a specs doc), and I code the requested functionality.

Every time I send him code every file containing code starts with these lines:

Author: My Name
Copyright: The_client's_company.com
License: MIT Expat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expat_License)

My intention being giving my client complete right to relicense and distribute the code under any other license (as the TOS of the freelancing website requires, plus I know he intends to sell it under a proprietary license), but at the same time giving myself the right to expand and redistribute the plugin under MIT license if I wish to (not that I do).

The reason is I am paid only 10USD/hour (this is my first gig) so I want to at least keep the right to reuse parts of the code in other projects or expand it if I want to start a similar project myself when I finish the contract (unlikely, but who knows...) or show it to potential employers. The contract we agreed upon doesn't include any licensing specifications but I've informed him on the emails we've interchanged that although all my work is licensed by default as MIT I'm giving my clients the copyright of the code I produce so they can relicense it at will before distribution.

Is this the correct way of achieving that?

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This is an interesting problem, and I regret to say, carries some risk. You have several things to consider.

  1. When you transfer the copyright to your customer (as it appears you have) you lose all rights to impose any kind of licensing obligations on that code. It is up to your customer to decide what licence they want to use.

  2. It is perfectly reasonable for you to retain the rights to use the code for other purposes, but since you do not own the copyright you can only do with the code what your customer has explicitly agreed to. In effect, your customer is granting you a licence to use your own code, and you only do what is in the licence. That's legalese for: if you later do something the customer doesn't like, you could get sued.

  3. No, you should not assume you have the rights to redistribute the plugin (see previous point).

I agree with what @robert that transferring copyright is not such a great idea and probably completely unnecessary (unless you really have to).

At this point I suggest you either renegotiate the deal with your customer, or kiss that code goodbye when you finish the job.


I had not noticed this was Odesk. In this case you really must read the Ts&Cs and especially 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7. You're working for the client and it simply is not your code once you have finished. No licence, no rights, just walk away.

  • Well, that's a bummer (I cannot work through this elancing site without assigning copyright to the client: odesk.com/info/terms , article 12.22), but that's pretty much what I expected... – corintiumrope Jun 18 '14 at 5:39
  • Your actions appear not to be compatible with the requirements of that site, in particular clause 3.5. – Simon B Jun 18 '14 at 11:08
  • @SimonBarker: Yes, I hadn't noticed it was Odesk. Worth an edit. – david.pfx Jun 18 '14 at 11:38
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Your license that you provide to your clients should specify their redistribution rights; that is, it should specify:

  1. Whether they can redistribute,
  2. How they can redistribute (via source and/or binary copies),
  3. Whether or not they can be compelled to provide source code, and
  4. Whether they must license any changes they make to the code.

You don't need to assign copyright to do this.

Generally, redistribution means that the client provides the program and/or code to a third party, meaning someone outside of their organization.

  • As much as I would like it otherwise, I need to assign the copyright: it's under the elancing website TOS (odesk.com/info/terms , article 12.22) – corintiumrope Jun 18 '14 at 5:36

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