can GPL apply to more than source and object code?

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. rod at
Sat Mar 25 23:33:09 UTC 2000

Your question actually points out another example of the viral nature of GNU
GPL's copyleft provision. At times, the GPL uses the terms "software,"
"program," and "source code" as if they were synonymous. As a result, I
would suggest you be careful not to do this.  Of course, the GNU GPL
precludes the mixing of free and non-free programs. In that respect, if art,
movies, game maps, etc. are not public domain material including them is
inconsistent with the goals of free software and you may want to make note
of that fact. If your GPL is not a GNU GPL, then you may be using a rather
permissive copyleft. Consequently, the issue really should not be relevant.
i.e. folks can mix free and non-free subject matter and fork their version
(including the pre-existing copyrighted, non-literal, aspects of the
program) into a proprietary program. As an aside, I should say that I am not
convinced that even the GNU GPL could lawfully claim copyright interest to
work created by a third-party artist. This kind of transfer of interest
should be handled with the utmost care to avoid problems later. It is better
for the project owner to attempt to disclaim copyright interest and
liability for infringement in such.

[not legal advice, but legal discussion]

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M.
rod at

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Nelson Rush [mailto:palisade at]
> Sent: Saturday, March 25, 2000 5:41 PM
> To: license-discuss at
> Subject: can GPL apply to more than source and object code?
> Can the GPL apply to documentation, art, movies, models, game maps, etc.?
> I'm the leader of the QuakeForge project and we've been arguing about
> whether or not we should have a different license for each of
> these things.
> I saw the FDL on the GNU website and thought that maybe we should use that
> on our documentation and then write our own license for other
> media. What's
> the deal? Thanks.

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