Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have an opensource project currently under MIT license. I have received a request from a company to use my code for their commercial project without having to give any attribution or credit.

To be honest, when I released the code, my sole intention was only to help a fellow programmer, and I didn't really think about if I was credited. Choosing the license was just one of the step I had to do to set up the project on codeplex.

On one hand, I feel honored and appreciate that they actually bothered to ask, on the other hand, I felt if I just allowed them to do so without any cost may just destroy the spirit of open source.

What are the typical things I or other code owners can do or request from the company to make it a fair trade? Should I even allow it?

I am thinking of asking the company to write a official letter of intent and I will sign against it just to make it more formal; and also to request a donation to project/charity of my choice or buy something on my wishlist as compensation (not very expensive). Will that be too much?

share|improve this question
27  
They are effectively asking you to relicense your software for them. If you can do that (sole contributor, yada-yada), then I humbly suggest what businesses do in this case: ask them to pay for the privilege. And don't ask too little money either: it's obviously important to them. –  Joachim Sauer Jun 6 '13 at 14:40
13  
Your code is a substitute for $100/hour labor. Price it accordingly. –  kevin cline Jun 6 '13 at 15:18
1  
Why would it be a problem for the company to put a short note about using an open source library in some About dialog in their application along with lots of other copyright messages, thus making it hard to notice? Is it a shame to use open source? The only reason I thought would be security, if they fear your code might be buggy, so hiding the sources gives more security. –  Czarek Tomczak Jun 7 '13 at 9:05
    
@CzarekTomczak, have a read up on Security thru Obscurity. It's a lot like airport security (theatre). –  Mark0978 Jun 7 '13 at 18:44
2  
@MartinSchröder: credit in sources is not enough according to the license, read it carefully: "The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.". It is more clearly written in the New BSD License: "Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.". –  Czarek Tomczak Jun 11 '13 at 8:34
show 1 more comment

3 Answers

up vote 32 down vote accepted

Many open source applications have closed source licensing options for just this scenario. How much you charge them is dependent on:

  • the size of the company (how much can they afford)
  • what they're going to do with it (if they're stealing it or just using it)
  • what they expect you to do (support/updates/extensions? what contractual level?)
  • a ton of other things.

Do you want to avoid tax implications of income? Do you hate the company? etc.

In general, I would treat it as a business deal while knowing that you've got all the leverage. The mindset of "I'd like to promote open source, so I'm charging you $5k (or whatever else high quote seems appropriate for that company for your project) - do you really not just want to give me attribution?"

share|improve this answer
7  
+1 for leverage: "worst-case" scenario is that they don't pay you, and still use the software without paying. That's exactly what you would have gotten if they didn't approach you. (In related news: posting a comment that starts with "+1" does not automatically upvote the answer!) –  Joachim Sauer Jun 6 '13 at 15:30
    
I like the directness of your response. Unfortunately, I have a soft side to overcome. I realised that binpress.com would be a nuetral way to complete the transaction. –  Jake Jun 6 '13 at 16:31
    
I do not believe you have all that much leverage, you might have right and the law and justice on your side, but if you don't have enough to pay for a lawyer, and they decide to steal it, what can you do? –  mattnz Jun 7 '13 at 1:45
3  
Accepting money creates a whole new ball game. Whatever you charge, make sure that its more than enough to cover any legal fees (probably the largest cost) that you might incur as a result of the transaction. By selling it to them, you are almost certainly taking on commercial risk factors from minor defect fixes thought to defense of (alleged) patent infringement. I would also consider liability insurance. –  mattnz Jun 7 '13 at 1:49
1  
@mattnz - I would not be surprised if the EFF or similar organization provided legal aid for a clear cut case of open source copyright violation. –  Telastyn Jun 7 '13 at 3:47
add comment

If you're the only contributer it is up to you. You can request anything to change the license for the asking company.

If there're other contributers you have to ask also them.

share|improve this answer
1  
Are any official procedures/license to use? I want them to be able to use the code in anyway they wish without crediting me; but I still own the code so that they cannot sue someone else later down the road for using the same code. I don't know if I make sense, but I just think there's some kind of loop holes that needs to be covered. –  Jake Jun 6 '13 at 14:40
1  
@Jake They ask to relicense the code. You then have effectivly a dual license your code. –  Uwe Plonus Jun 6 '13 at 14:55
add comment

Looks like the MIT license won't allow no attribution of the copyright holder.

Assuming you are the copyright holder, your name would have to appear in the copyright line of the license and, the license has to be included in every copy of the software.

Key points in the license related to your concerns:

"Copyright (c) year copyright holders"

"free of charge"

"subject to the following conditions"

"The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software."

So, either the company includes attribution if using your MIT licensed software or, you create a version of the software with another kind of license that you could sell to the company including the copyright.

Below is the MIT License (from page http://opensource.org/licenses/MIT)

The MIT License (MIT)

Copyright (c) <year> <copyright holders>

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
 of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal
 in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
 to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
 copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
 furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
 all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR
 IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY,
 FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE
 AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER
 LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM,
 OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN
 THE SOFTWARE.
share|improve this answer
    
MIT license in Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIT_License –  Only You Jun 6 '13 at 18:05
4  
This is irrelevant. The copyright holder is free to relicense the software under any terms they see fit at any time - they just can't revoke an irrevocable license they have granted to someone else. –  tdammers Jun 6 '13 at 19:25
    
@tdammers You are not understanding the OP concern. I was showing that because of the MIT license under which he released his software, the company could not use it without attribution. –  Only You Jun 6 '13 at 20:30
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.