BSD / GPL compatibility

John Cowan jcowan at
Thu Feb 17 14:48:44 UTC 2000

David Johnson wrote:
> On Wed, 16 Feb 2000, John Cowan wrote:
> > You must include the *text* of the license, but the derived work
> > as a whole may be licensed under any license, including a
> > proprietary one.  Commercial X servers are closed-source, but
> > incorporate vast amounts of code under the MIT license.
> The user will certainly interpret the text of the license as being a license.

But not a license on the whole (derived) work.

> The way I see it, you can include BSD or MIT code in your alter-licensed
> product, and then license the whole/package/collection under the alter-license.
> But each file originally licensed under BSD or MIT is still licensed that way.

Yes, indeed.

> Think of the book "Open Sources". It is copyright by O'Reilly. However, many
> individual articles in it retain their own copyright.

Yes.  In particular, note that a book like that is treated as a single work
by the copyright law, whereas the GNU GPL would treat it as
"mere aggregation": the mere fact that some programs on a CD-ROM are under
the GPL does not bring the whole CD-ROM under the GPL.


Schlingt dreifach einen Kreis vom dies! || John Cowan <jcowan at>
Schliesst euer Aug vor heiliger Schau,  ||
Denn er genoss vom Honig-Tau,           ||
Und trank die Milch vom Paradies.            -- Coleridge (tr. Politzer)

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