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Re: Transfer of copyright on death

Andrew Stribblehill <a.d.stribblehill@durham.ac.uk>:

> The sole maintainer collaborated with another author in writing the
> program, and they have joint copyright. He would like to get it
> relicenced under a standard licence but the other author has now
> died. Is there any way to get it changed?

I would guess that you have to find the dead author's heir and ask
their permission. The heir is unlikely to be interested in the details
of free software licensing, so perhaps the best thing would be for the
living author to ask the heir to give him permission to do anything he
wants with the code, including create derivative works with a licence
of his choice ("so that the dead author's work can live on, etc").

Alternatives might be to assign the copyright to the living author or
put the dead author's work into the public domain, but both of these
are likely to sound less attractive to the heir (though they do seem
to have the advantage of handling the situation where the other author
dies and his estate wants to relicense).

If it turns out that the dead author made no provision for copyrights
in his will and asked his property to be shared out among several
people, or given to a charity, then finding and contacting the heir(s)
might be very difficult.


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