violating a license b4 product release

Karsten M. Self kmself at
Thu Apr 3 19:56:06 UTC 2003

on Wed, Apr 02, 2003 at 09:55:07PM -0800, Ian Lance Taylor (ian at wrote:
> Erik Ostermueller <eostermueller at> writes:
> > I'm planning on releasing an open-source product,
> > probably under the GNU license.
> > 
> > Must I do anything in particular to insure that I can
> > safely/legally violate the terms of the license PRIOR
> > to the product release?
> Assuming that you hold the copyright on the product, there is nothing
> you need to do.  The GPL and similar copyleft licenses place
> restrictions on people who receive copies of the program: they specify
> what some random person is permitted to do with the information which
> they have received.  These licenses do not place restrictions on the
> copyright holder.
> Of course this does not apply if you do not hold the copyright on the
> program, or if you assign that copyright to somebody else.  The FSF
> often encourages GNU developers to assign copyright on their programs
> to the FSF.  However, you do not need to do this in order to use the
> GPL yourself.

Significantly, however, if you wish to accept and incorporte code
contributions from others, you'll need to secure rights to license
*those* works under terms of your chosing.

Actually, you'll probably want to secure a copyright statement of some
form for any code you source directly from a contributor, if you're a
business.  The FSF actually secures a grant of copyright (all interest)
from the author of contributions, then licenses the work back to the
author.  The main argument for doing this is to allow the FSF to pursue
infringement cases with greater authority, and access to remedies not
otherwise available.  Or so Eben will tell you (and I generally believe


  - You own your own work.  Licensing terms don't apply to you (you
    don't have to grant yourself rights).
  - You don't own other people's work (barring conditions under which
    you do -- works for hire, etc., and even then you'll want to cover
    contingencies).  If you plan on doing funky stuff with your license,
    you'll likely want to get this in writing.

Generally, this falls under the distinction of free software _licensing_
models (e.g.:  what license(s) do I choose for my work) and free
software _code acceptance policies_ (what terms do I request for code I
plan to incorporate with my official release).  It's a distinction
that's been made fuzzy by an awful lot of loose talk, misunderstanding,
and likely intentional deception.



Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
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