Changing license of Free Software


Question / Quiz:

Say I create a piece of software, and host it on GitHub, can I change the license to a proprietary license? What do you think will happen to the software and its forks?


@yogesh can you change it to “piece of free software”? even though the title suggests “Changing license of free software” the actual question is slightly misleading.


I think it will indicate. but it wont be proprietary on!!


I have few clarifications
Q1. Do we have an option to choose proprietary licence on github ?
Q2 Is there way to change licence after the creation of repo on github?


@mrprajesh if you are posting your code on github… why would you want to pick a proprietary license? You would be releasing the code on github. (Assuming you are not asking about private repos) .

@yogesh . I am waiting for your answer, but what I think is, that the earlier version of the software, (which was a free software, now proprietary), the earlier version still has to be free. Any advancements could be closed source. I am not sure if its even close to right.


the question was asked by Yogesh


My View :

There has been various cases, where softwares have been converted from prop to Free or Open source licences.

But assuming, we are releasing the project under MIT or Apache licence, The project can be forked and be made prop. These licences as I understand does not talk about keeping the software in the same licence as the original licence, nor does it restrict the forks to stay the same.

But in the instance of a GPL licences software, You cant change the licence. It has to be GPL.
To make it prop or something else, you will have to write things groundup and keep it at someother licence other than GPL. Or the otherway round is , to keep the base software under GPL, and any code written on top of that could be prop. Tough you have to maintain the base code originally released under GPL as is.


If I wrote a software and gave free software license to it then I became the copyright holder. It means I am giving others the freedom to use, share, modify and redistribute. As the copyright holder I can change the license anytime I want. So it turns out a free software can be changed into an open source or even a non-free software if the copyright holder decided to change it.


That is quite right. So as a creator, I hold the copyrights to the software, so I can change the license and the terms as I wish. However, the copies that were made when the license was free, continues to be free and those lines of code can be shared, modified, etc. This should open your eyes about certain nuances in free software licensing.


Also, if there’re contributors to the codebase, changing license will need agreement of all those contributors, or removal of their contributions.


Unless you had already signed a contributers’ license agreement waiving rights and royalties to your contribution as is the case with software like OpenStack.


There is a real time example now.

May be it will open a larger debate