Converting/Splitting Code - Open to Closed

Samuel Reynolds samuel_reynolds at
Mon Feb 12 22:55:17 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)?
> In reality, the code would most likely *fork,* leaving one strand open and the other proprietary.
> Oh, and, at least for now, I'm not concerned about enforceability or who would have standing to sue.
> ++++
> Thanks,
> Ralph

The copyright owner can license the code under any terms he likes,
or none at all. 
He can license the code under different terms to different people.
He can license the code under different terms to the same people at
different times.
He can do whatever he pleases with the code.
It's his code, unless he legally transfers copyright ownership to
another person/entity. (And in some jurisdictions/countries, the
original creator cannot legally transfer all his rights in his
creation to another.)

The owner of the code has *all* rights to the code. Releasing it under
license simply grants the licensee(s) permission to use and/or modify
the code under certain specified conditions. Various flavors of "open
source" license grant permission to do just about anything under various
sets of conditions. GPL: as long as you don't claim you wrote it, and
any derivative works are also licensed under GPL. Artistic: As long as
you don't claim you wrote it and don't blame the author if it breaks.
Etc. (Note: these are, of course, oversimplifications) (Also note: IANAL.)

I personally don't think the code *as previously released under GPL*
could be yanked from GPL. On the other hand, that's exactly what seems
to have happenned in the case of an open-source DVD decoder last year.
As I noted before, IANAL.

- Sam
Samuel Reynolds
reynol at
samuel_reynolds at
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