[development] Convince Client to Release Code

Stewart Robinson stewsnooze at gmail.com
Mon Jul 13 10:35:17 UTC 2009

Typically in legal circles ownership is given to the creator. However if any
sort of contract was signed and that mentioned work for hire, or basically
detailed that the work was to be owned by the company rather than Fred then
Fred can't distribute this. Even if Fred does own the code it is not wise to
distribute something built as part of a contract without agreement. It's not
good for references and future work.

Re the GPL. Building on top of the GPL is fine and you don't have to
distribute it at all. The only thing the GPL does is make you ship the
license and original stuff along with your new product if you distribute
that product. That's a gross simplification. But in essence if this work was
done to go on a website then that is most likely not distributing the work
as the website delivers the output of the work, not the work itself.

Fred should get agreement first to be safe in my opinion..

2009/7/13 Nir Aides <nir at winpdb.org>

> This is an interesting legal problem.
> According to the GPL, your work is derived from software covered by the GPL
> and therefore the client can not give you a copy of the source under any
> terms other than the GPL even if they own the copyright to the part of the
> work created by you.
> Now, you have a copy of the source (since you created it) by permission
> (which may be irrelevant) of the client.
> Therefore the copy you have is governed by the GPL and it is illegal of the
> client to prevent you from distributing it under the GPL.
> Some people might look at this problem and trivially dismiss it because of
> such and such, but I wonder if it can be trivially dismissed.
> The interesting thing is that there are a lot of transactions and business
> based on similar relationships between developers and clients. The
> consequences of this problem can therefore be huge.
> This is not the only problem with the GPL. There are other fundamental
> problems such as the problem of determining and maintaining ownership of
> copyright of Free Software projects.
> I would love to hear the opinion of a legal expert on this.
> Nir
> On Mon, Jul 13, 2009 at 11:53 AM, Fred Jones <fredthejonester at gmail.com>wrote:
>> We have one client for whom we wrote a set of custom modules. I asked
>> the client if we could put the modules on d.o and he balked. I tried
>> to explain that he'll get good testing and also bug fixes and new
>> features maybe, if others post patches etc.
>> He feels that he (his organization that is) paid for the work and why
>> should someone else now benefit? He also has this idea that other
>> organizations like his will want a site like his and he has plans to
>> provide a hosted service for them (while this idea may seem
>> far-fetched, I do think he has some connections which might make this
>> idea feasible).
>> So he thinks if we release the code, then they will just grab the code
>> and use it. I tried to explain that your average layman has no idea
>> what Drupal is, no way to figure out your site is running Drupal, and
>> if even he got that far, he has no way of building his site without a
>> professional to put the pieces together (after they figure what those
>> pieces are of course), and then they he would do just as well to use
>> our hosted plan!
>> But he hasn't accepted this. Are there any good arguments we can use
>> to persuade him? I feel he has nothing to lose in releasing the code,
>> but we have to convince him of that.
>> Thanks.
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