Converting/Splitting Code - Open to Closed

Brian DeSpain bdespain at
Mon Feb 12 22:18:27 UTC 2001

Ralph Bloemers wrote:
> A colleague just asked me the following question, any thoughts from the list?
> ++++
> Can the OWNER of the copyright in software code that has been released under a GPL ( change its mind and take the software *private* (any future versions would be proprietary and released only under typical object code only licenses)?

Yes - but the previous versions licensed under the GPL remain GPLd and
development can continue on the code.
> In reality, the code would most likely *fork,* leaving one strand open and the other proprietary.
That's exactly what would happen and that's why the GPL is there in the
first place. The copyright owner retains copyright, therefore can make
changes. You cannot retroactively change licenses under the GPL. People
retain their original rights under the GPL.
> Oh, and, at least for now, I'm not concerned about enforceability or who would have standing to sue.
You would have a hard time suing the open source version out of
existence, namely because you licensed it under the GPL to begin with...

> ++++
> Thanks,
> Ralph

Brian DeSpain                                        VA Linux Systems
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