Combining GPL and non-GPL code

Roger Fujii rmf at
Thu Aug 2 05:54:46 UTC 2007

John Cowan wrote:
> Wilson, Andrew scripsit:
>>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.
> I disagree.
> In particular, I hold that although the work as a whole can only be
> distributed under the terms of the GPL, any parts that you receive
> with BSD (or similar) licenses applying to them (which may not be
> removed, by their own terms) may be distributed by you under the
> said terms, with no GPL restrictions.

This is incorrect.  Though in practice, it would be difficult
to prove a violation (assuming all you did was copy the GPL license
on top of the BSD code), or that anyone would really care.

> To refute this, you will have to explain to me how the express
> terms of the BSD license somehow no longer apply to the file in
> which they are physically embedded.

You are missing the mechanics of how licenses work.  These things
are all source/receiver based - that is, the last person in the
chain agrees with the conditions set by the previous person (assuming
that the conditions are legal and is legally allowed to do so).
If user A gives BSD program P to user B, who 'relicenses' it as GPL
and gives it to user C, user C must abide by the GPL for P, since THAT (GPL)
is the condition user C made to user B when he got the program.
If user C wants P under BSD, he must go to user A and get it from there.

Roger Fujii <rmf at>

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