Ian Lance Taylor ian at
Sat Nov 22 23:54:41 UTC 2003

Brian Behlendorf <brian at> writes:

> On Sat, 22 Nov 2003, Ian Lance Taylor wrote:
> > I think a better word here is ``sticky.''  The GPL is a sticky
> > license; once it is attached to code, it can't be removed.  The BSD
> > license is not sticky; it can be removed (or at least the most
> > important provisions can).
> No, the terms in the BSD license can not be removed by someone
> redistributing the work, or even a derived work from a BSD-licensed work
> that is under a different license.  One can *add* new terms, though,
> which the GPL forbids.

Fair enough.

I still think ``sticky'' is a reasonable word to describe the effects
of the GPL.  What the GPL does is make it difficult to add further
encumbrances to the code.  ``Viral'' isn't a particularly good word
even apart from the negative connotations.  The GPL doesn't ``infect''
non-GPL code; GPL code resists being linked with non-GPL code, but
it's a strictly passive process.

Using a military metaphor, a GPL program is a fortress; anybody can
come inside the fortress, but nobody can take it over.  Under that
metaphor, the GPL is a ``fortifying'' license.

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