Combining GPL and non-GPL code

John Cowan cowan at
Thu Aug 2 19:03:05 UTC 2007

Wilson, Andrew scripsit:

> From a pragmatic point of view, although GPL requires you to mark
> source code changes, in the real world this doesn't always happen.
> The user who has received a copy of a derivative should see the
> original BSD copyrights intact in the sources, but he/she is probably
> ill-advised to assume the original code is also intact.  If the code
> does contain any modifications, if those modifications are made to
> a GPL'd derivative they are automatically GPL.  If this user really
> wants the original BSD code under a BSD license then he/she would
> be well advised, IMO, to find a pristine original copy which has not
> passed through a distribution chain under GPL.

I can't argue with that, pragmatically speaking: it's true that it's
not always obvious when looking at a BSDed file that arrives as part
of a GPLed program whether or not it's been modified, and therefore a
derivative work as such.

Let's consider a hypo in a different domain.  I get a book with
the ordinary copyright license: All Rights Reserved, specifically
copying is forbidden.  However, one of the book's chapters is in fact a
verbatim article published by the ACM, with the standard ACM copyright
notice intact:

	Copyright© 20XX by the Association for Computing Machinery,
	Inc. Permission to make digital or hard copies of part of this
	work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided
	that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial
	advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation
	on the first page or intial screen of the document. Copyrights
	for components of this work owned by others than ACM must be
	honored. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To copy otherwise,
	to republish, to post on servers, or to redistribute to lists,
	requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. Request
	permissions from Publications Dept., ACM Inc., fax +1 (212)
	869-0481, or permissions at

Do you argue that I must not (not should not pragmatically, but must not)
exercise the rights granted there with respect to that part of the book,
and make a copy of it on a copier machine for personal use etc. etc.?
Is this "stripping" the book publisher's global copyright notice, or is it
just recognizing that the article continues to have its permissive license
even when it's part of the book?

I suggest you call for help,                    John Cowan
or learn the difficult art of mud-breathing.    cowan at
        --Great-Souled Sam            

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