Who really owns the code?

At 13 Llama Studio, we have no qualms of handing over the code base and giving away the ownership of the code to the client. The way I figure it is this –

Since most of the work we do is based on derivative works under the GPL license, the source code by default needs to be included as part of the deliverable. Yes, we build multiple interesting things with WordPress, but WordPress as a platform is under GPL.

What is GPL?

The GPL is a copyleft license, which means that derived works can only be distributed under the same license terms. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD licenses and the MIT License are the standard examples.

Excerpt from Wikipedia.

Most of the freely shared libraries and applications you find online (almost all of the projects listed on SourceForge for example) are under the GPL license. So in case you are using open source applications for developing your app, do take a look under the hood to check the license under which it is built.

So what if it’s GPL?

If it is GPL, then the customer who is paying a certain fees for the code base is free to modify and re-sell that code base. The client also gets the entire code base as is.

GPL can still be proprietary code (which means that the client has to pay a certain fees to use the code), however, after the transaction is done, the client has full access to the code base and is free to modify and sell it further. That’s the crux of GPL … I should be able to do stuff with it if I am paying for the same.

How does this impact SaaS based products?

A freemium SaaS based product complicates things a bit. The fee I am paying is for the access to the platform. So if I am paying that fee, then am I entitled to get access to the code base of that SaaS platform (if it is built using GPL libraries that is). At this point, even I am not sure about the answer.

So who does the code base belong to?