Converting/Splitting Code - Open to Closed

Ben Tilly ben_tilly at
Mon Feb 12 23:56:49 UTC 2001

Eric Jacobs <eaj at> wrote:
>Brian DeSpain <bdespain at>
> >
> > Yes - but the previous versions licensed under the GPL remain GPLd and
> > development can continue on the code.
>Can you explain why this is the case?
> > > 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.
>How can licensees retain their rights against the copyright owner's
>will? Is there something in the GPL that requires this?

IANAL, but read the GPL, section 5, very closely.

Looks to me like it is a copyright statement that serves
as an offer of a contract.  Whether this will stand up
is, last I heard, not yet completely sure.  But under
this design, for the copyright owners to retroactively
withdraw the GPL would put them in violation of their
offered contract.

But there are some caveats though.  If the GPLed code
should fall under multiple copyrights, patents, or other
restrictions, it may be impossible to meet all terms and
distribute.  In that case you cannot always continue to
develop and distribute code, even though the primary
author put it under the GPL.

As I said before, IANAL, and this is my personal reading

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