My Open Source Dilema

I was terminated from a company that I worked day and night for for about 5 years.  During the last 2 years of that time, I created a simple web framework and contributed it to open source.  We had always used open source, so it was high time we became a contributor!  Recently I found out that they have removed all of the licenses from the files (GPL and MIT), gave it a silly name, and have the intention of marketing it as a product.  What should I do?  I am trying to get past the fact that I am upset that I was terminated — that pissed me off — but the fact that they are taking credit for my work and making it proprietary is really bothering me!  What should I do?

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6 Responses to My Open Source Dilema

  1. Jure Repinc says:

    First I would calmly ask them to stop doing this unethical robbery and if they couldn’t be reasoned with and would not do the right thing I would tell them that in this case you will have to unfortunately use legal means to make them do the right thing. And I would definitely ask people at GPL Violations for help as they have a lot of legal expertise in this area: http://gpl-violations.org/

  2. frameworkdev says:

    It’s a bit difficult to calmly sit down with the people who just fired you not long ago ;)

    Thanks for the link — I did not know it existed!

  3. Llama says:

    If you did it as part of your employment with the company, its their property and they can do whatever they want with it. Even if you were the only person working on the project and it was all your idea – if it was done as part of your job, its their code. Something to that effect will be on your work agreement.

    If you did it in your free time, didn’t get paid for the time you worked on it or whatever, then yes you have a case.

  4. frameworkdev says:

    Hi Llama, I have no such agreement. It was done on my own time with the company’s full support. They knew it was open source. I think now that I’m not at the company, they want to “control” it. As far as I understand it, they need to abide by the license. I think the tricky part is compelling them to abide by the license.

  5. Bill says:

    If the work was done in the course of your W2 employment (which can generally be judged by whether or not you gave the code to the company while you were in their employ and whether or not they used it while you were in their employ) then they own it. This means they can release it under a new license if they want to as well as improve it and keep improvements under the new license.

    On the other hand, if you were paid some other way than a W2 salary then you own it and should consult a lawyer on the best way to stick it to them.

    Also, they can’t undo the past. Whatever new licenses they release it under, the last version you released is available under the GPL. As the owners, their improvements will fall under whatever license they want, but anyone else who has a copy of the code under the GPL can make copies under the GPL and derive improvements under the GPL.

    • frameworkdev says:

      Thanks! I was not paid on W2, and I never signed the rights away. I think your right, that the code is GPL. It’s out there. It is what it is. I’m going to report this to GNU project and warn them that if they don’t bring to code back in-line with the license, that I will send a letter to their customers to make them aware of the situation.

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