Carlo Wood carlo at
Fri Jul 20 13:36:15 UTC 2001

On Fri, Jul 20, 2001 at 08:02:23AM +0200, Bernard Dautrevaux wrote:
>     Company A provides, under an NDA, information to company B.
>     Using this information, B develop, based on some GPLed code, 
>     a program for A.
>     B then distribute this program (which IS GPLed) to A, but is 
>     prohibited to distribute it to anybody else (due to the NDA).
> Is this a violation of the GPL or is it possible, provided that B distribute
> the program to A with the normal GPL provision of the access to the source
> code?
> Of course if A decide to redistribute the program in any form, then this
> must be done witout requiring an NDA to conform with the GPL. My question is
> about the initial "distribution" of the NDA-covered code by B to A.

Imho, it works as follows:

anything + GPL can not be distributed unless it is first GPL-ed.
If 'anything' disallows changing the license, then it can not be
distributed period.  However, if the NDA allows B to perform the
following atomic operation: distibute it back to A and GPL it at
the same time, then there is no incompatibility with the GPL.
However, and that is certainly an interesting legal question,
can something like that be atomic?  If you first GPL it and THEN
distribute it to A, then there CAN NOT be a restriction to also
distribute it to C.  While when you first distribute it to A and
then GPL it, you violated the GPL.  And even when the operation
can be atomic, A can not distribute it anymore of course - if he
does that then the orginal authors of the GPL-ed code as well as
B can legally request a copy - which would be GPL-ed.
Imho, this is only possible when the transfer from B back to A
is not considered a distribution as per GPL.

Carlo Wood <carlo at>

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