I am building a web application for a client of mine. I will likely wish to use the software with other clients. My client has no expectations that they will have exclusive rights to the software, but also doesn't want to be stranded if I get out of the business and licencing prevents them from being able to modify the source code. I am strongly involved in creating the application, but am paying someone to write much of the script. I wish to be seen as the main contributor of this software as it will help me from a marketing standpoint.

My thoughts are to do the following:

  1. Licence the software opensource. Probably GNU General Public License (GPL), GNU Library or "Lesser" General Public License (LGPL), or MIT license, but I am not sure which one. Maybe more than one?
  2. Add to the HTML of each page of the application "Created by MyCompany under the XYZ opensource licence".

Is this an applicable approach? Which opensource license might be most applicable? If the individual I am paying to write much of the script is okay with me putting my name as the author, is this okay? What else should I be doing?

  • As an aside, the technical term for the kind of rights you'd want to retain is "moral rights". Moral rights are protected more aggressively in Europe than the U.S. but can still be protected via the kind of scheme you or the answer suggest in the U.S.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 22:21

1 Answer 1


You don't create software "under a license". You create software, then you own the copyright, and as the copyright owner, you license the software with whatever license you want.

Since you want to use the software with more clients, and your client wants to use it as well, you could just add

Copyright 2017 by user1032531
Unlimited, non-exclusive license granted to TheirCompany

In other words, they can do whatever they like, except that you are the copyright holder. So they can't stop you from doing anything, and they can't sue someone who makes illegal copies of the code (only you can). GPL has restrictions that they might not like.

In many countries, you can't claim you're the author if you are not the author. You may be the copyright owner, but to be the author, you must have written it yourself.

GPL restrictions: If you give GPL licensed software to anyone, you have to give the source code to them at the same time. OR you have to give the source code to anyone (and I mean anyone) who asks for it.

Let's say your client hires me to add to your software. And I don't want my code to end up GPL licensed. Then your client has to find someone else to do the work.

  • Thanks gnasher, Okay, so someone always owns the copyright regardless of licensing, right? What restrictions of GPL might they not like? Is US such a country that I cannot claim to be the author? How is authorship determined with jointly developed software (i.e. if I tell someone exactly what to type, who is the author)? Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 5:20

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