A group of students including myself have developed a certain program/algorithm. I as the main coder behind this group have provided 95% of all the actual code. The other two involved parties have given 4% and 1% of the code each.

The code was created in an academic environment for a paper, but the actual algorithm has applications not limited to the scope of what was worked on during the duration of our work together.

I wish to release the code as open-source as does the other party who contributed 4%, as it has other applications, and potential uses, and we don't want to limit its use.

The problem is that the 1% is adamant about not releasing any code and keeping it. He will not listen to reason.

Can we just use a majority vote to decide this? Do I as the main coder have more say than the other two? We do not want to get any external parties(ie., lawyers) involved.

This is not a question about the benefits of various licenses; we know what each licence does. As Simon statrs: "it's about team dynamics, within academia, where collaborators disagree about whether to release the code at all." Two of us want to release. One of us does not. How do we proceed in such a situation?

  • 6
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about software licensing not academia
    – 410 gone
    Jul 23, 2014 at 6:09
  • This website is dedicated to explaining which software license to choose in simple language choosealicense.com
    – user479
    Jul 23, 2014 at 12:33
  • Isn't your question on topic for this website on StackExchange Software Recommendations beta or StackOverflow?
    – enthu
    Jul 23, 2014 at 13:00
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    to the off-topic people: As I read it this question is NOT about what license to choose - it's about team dynamics, within academia, where collaborators disagree about whether to release the code at all. As such I think it's on topic.
    – Flyto
    Jul 23, 2014 at 13:09
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    Is the 1% coder your advisor? Or are there other supervisory relationships among the three of you?
    – JeffE
    Jul 24, 2014 at 12:44

1 Answer 1


If that other 1% of the code isn't anything special (which I'll assume is the case since your question would have otherwise made a point of it), tell the other coder that if he is going to be adamant about it, it will force you guys to rewrite the code, and he might not get any credit at all. See how he "likes them apples".

Otherwise, you might search for his reasons (is he hoping to commercialize it?) and find a license that he's amenable to. There are many licenses that support a basic idea of "open source".

I'd opine that you can't legally use his work without his consent, but you can rewrite it. But if he made new IP (that is new thoughts/techniques that no one has coded before) encoded in that 1%, you will probably have to negotiate those rights.

Note that this opinion, is applicable within the academic community where a "shared intellectual commons" has been fairly active for centuries. It may not be appropriate policy for commercial entities.

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    Exactly. Your 1% guy has copyright to the parts that he wrote, and as such you can't release it without his permission. But because it is copyright, he only has a right to that exact code. So if you remove those parts and reimplement some things yourself, you are legally allowed to release it under whatever license the two of you agree on (Disclaimer: IANAL). Whether this is the right thing to do is another matter.
    – Mangara
    Jul 23, 2014 at 17:19
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    I would add that hopefully you've kept this project under some kind of version control so that you can easily find the 1% person's contributions and replace/remove them.
    – Thomas
    Jul 24, 2014 at 8:29
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    IANAL either, but rewriting problematic contributions is relatively common in the open source world (for instance, BSDs had to do that in the early '90s to get rid of AT&T copyright) — so you can probably google the practice. Mar 8, 2015 at 16:39

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