Background: I am making contributions to a certain project which is released under LGPL and also under a commercial license.

According to the terms of contribution in the project by doing so I am transferring all my rights and ownership of the code to the company which owns said project.

My question is whether this stipulation has any effect on the license-terms of the code I contribute? That is as far as I understand that once a code is released as GPLv3 (and LGPL seems to contain mostly permissions for use additions to GPL) that this license cannot be rescinded.

Is my contribution (independent of ownership) thus also LGPL in a way which cannot be rescinded?

Are their terms of contribution than just a way of saying that they can dual-license your code (if they so choose) for a Proprietary version of the product?

Do I lose the ability to do the later myself?

  • 2
    There are some very specific questions here that would necessitate analysis of all terms and conditions and the licensing agreement as a whole. You should review the types of licenses gnu.org/licenses/licenses.html
    – gracey209
    Aug 15, 2015 at 19:20

1 Answer 1


If you sign over the copyright of a piece of code, then under US copyright law you have essentially lost any authority over the code and any inherent right to use it. It is exactly as if a company employee had written it; for at least 35 years, you lose any and all rights of authorship. You may not use the code except under license from the assignee; in particular, you may not modify it and use it in your own proprietary program, unless you have permission from the company.

The default for a simple copyright assignment is that the assignee gains the right to do whatever they want with the code. If they own the copyright, nothing they do could conceivably be copyright infringement. Likewise, the original author often loses any right to do anything whatsoever with their code without explicitly gaining permission. Note, though, that the GPL is not revocable except under certain conditions; the company could at most make future versions proprietary.

That said, these agreements can be more complicated. The FSF copyright assignment licenses the code back to the author for use as the author sees fit; it also imposes conditions on how the FSF may use the code. Copyright assignments are generally standard contracts, and can have all sorts of terms. I'm not sure what the effect is if the FSF violates its transfer, but the specific legal document you have been asked to sign is very important. The details of understanding it are a matter for a licensed lawyer, not a Stack Exchange site.

  • Thanks for the response. > The details of understanding it are a matter for a licensed lawyer, not a Stack Exchange site. The problem is that lawyers are expensive, especially since in either case I never stand to have any material benefit from this. I think there are probably many contributors to open-source projects in a very similar position to mine -- Which in my mind is precisely why this information deserves to be on a StackExchange site and not exclusively the domain of those with enough money to afford legal advice. Aug 15, 2015 at 12:24
  • If you could add more information regarding the exact licensing agreement terms as they relate to these issues, it would be possible to give you a decent answer. This is just too complex an issue without reviewing the documents.
    – gracey209
    Aug 16, 2015 at 23:10

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