During an online discussion about the possible steps MS might take after acquiring GitHub, the other user suggested that MS could change the ToS so that they become the owners of the code.

So imagine I have a project. I create it on my PC, attach a GPL license to it and publish it on GitHub. MS using the hypothetical ToS takes over my repository and changes the license to some other one. Is that possible? (Would it be the same if instead of GPL, I reserved all rights to the code and my repository would be private)?

I am interested in this from the perspective of the EU citizen.

2 Answers 2


Regardless of the licence, you are the copyright owner.

So, unless you consent to Microsoft owning your code (transferring over the copyright), you're safe.

That's probably the kind of thing Microsoft would do though.

  • 3
    "That's probably the kind of thing Microsoft would do though." - Clarify this statement. Microsoft can't consent for someone else a transfer of his copyright.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 11:08
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    The question is, can they say in ToS that I agree to them owning my code? More specifically, could they change the ToS without notifying me and the change would say that from now on, each time I use their service I consent to Microsoft owning my code? (That was my original intent, sorry for being not clear on this one) Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 12:25

Not for existing code

I don't know all the finer points of where this might be legal, but generally speaking, it is illegal to relicense anything without explicit permission from the copyright holders. Although copyrights are typically assigned to the project owners by contributors, code owners who hold the copyrights must give explicit permission for their content to be re licensed.

A similar issue came up on this very website with the shift from Creative Commons v3 to v4- the legality of a unilateral licensing change is questionable even for an update to a newer version of a license.

After all, it is illegal to fork GPL code (for instance) and then relicense a derivative work because the obligations of the license require that you retain the license and publish source code for any derivative works that you distribute. Contrast to the MIT license, where you can do almost anything with the code, including the distribution of closed-source forks.

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