Combining GPL and non-GPL code (was: multiple topics)

Wilson, Andrew andrew.wilson at
Wed Aug 1 22:52:40 UTC 2007

The specific question under discussion is what license applies to
a combination of GPL and non-GPL code.  My assertion is that GPL applies
to the entire combination, and that the creator of such a combination
must place additional terms and conditions, in the form of GPL, on
the underlying non-GPL license.  Downstream distributees of such a
receive a license under GPL from the creator of the combination
and from any subsequent distributors of the combination.  The license
subsequently applies to the non-GPL portions is either the union of GPL
and the
original non-GPL license (which obviously must contain no provisions
would be in conflict with GPL), or an outright conversion of the
non-GPL licensed portions to GPL (as allowed, for example, by LGPL).  
Put succinctly, relicensing under GPL occurs to the non-GPL code. 

John Cowan has disputed this and wrote: 

> The GPL begins thus:
> # 0. This License applies to any program or other work which contains
> # a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it may be distributed
> # under the terms of this General Public License.
> "By the copyright holder".  You aren't the copyright holder.  You can
> place such a notice {on non-GPL code}, but I fail to see how it has
any legal force at all.

I do not believe this section is relevant to the question at hand,
the combination of GPL and non-GPL code, e.g. to a derivative work.  
I believe the relevant section is GPLv2, sec. 2, para (b), which reads

# You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole
# or part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof,
# to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties
# under the terms of this License.

There is no obligation here to be the actual copyright owner of all 
code in a derivative work in order to apply GPL terms to the derivative.

Rather, there an affirmative obligation to
license (note the verb) said entire derivative work under GPLv2.

Andy Wilson
Intel open source technology center

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