Legal Release of Closed Source under Open Source License

David Woolley forums at
Tue Aug 10 06:03:50 UTC 2010

Andrew Cutler wrote:
> On 10 August 2010 01:42, John Cowan <cowan at> wrote:
>> They attach the appropriate copyright and license
>> notices according to their internal procedures (which may involve
>> lawyers) and make the work available for download, and that's that.
> Thanks for all the replies so far.
> I'll be the one 'making the work available for download'. What I'm
> really asking is what is the necessary documentation to evidence the
> fact that the client has allowed the code to be released under an open
> source license? Is a letter sufficient?

If the client previously owned the copyright, you need an assignment 
contract.  The Free Software Foundation pays a token US$1 as 
consideration for such a contract. Examples should be on their web site. 
  (I believe, in the UK, you can avoid the consideration by making it a 
deed, which means that they would have to apply the company seal in 
front of a witness, and would also have to sign or seal it in front of a 
witness.  A certain form of words is probably also needed.)

If the client never owned the copyright, it will probably depend on the 
nature of the original contract under which you promised not to release 
it, but this may well have to be in the form of a contract.

Note, in most parts of the world and many US States, if there is an 
employment relationship, the employer automatically owns the copyright. 
  The GPL contains an example of a release by an employer.

IANAL.  You use this advice at your own risk.

David Woolley
Emails are not formal business letters, whatever businesses may want.
RFC1855 says there should be an address here, but, in a world of spam,
that is no longer good advice, as archive address hiding may not work.

More information about the License-discuss mailing list