Combining GPL and non-GPL code

Roger Fujii rmf at
Fri Aug 3 21:11:27 UTC 2007

Walter van Holst <w.van.holst at> wrote:
>> Roger's argument, with which I complete concur, is that the
>> end user who has received a copy from a distributor under GPL
>> does not have sufficient rights to strip off GPL and revert
>> to the original BSD.
> In case the code was otherwise unaltered, I would lean towards the opinion that anyone
> can strip off GPL and revert to the original BSD.

sigh.  Let's try this simple case:

I write program A.  I put BSD license headers on it, intending to release it under BSD.
I then change my mind, and I place the GPL on top of program A, not removing the BSD
parts because I'm lazy.  I give you program A under the GPL.

I will testify in court that
   A) There is no physical difference between what was originally BSD version and the GPL
      version minus any textual difference for the licensing.
   B) I gave you the program under the conditions of the GPL.

Do you honestly think you would win this argument that you can strip off the GPL just
because a BSD version exists somewhere?  I could even give someone else Program A under
BSD.  As long as I can prove that you didn't get it from them, you are bound by GPL.
Andrew Wilson's original statement is correct.   You have to right to strip off the GPL.
Another analogous examples would be if you distribute GPL program B.   Even if program B was
written by someone else, and can be freely gotten on sourceforge, you are still
REQUIRED to give someone who got it from yopu the source if they ask you for
it (at least for GPL2).   Same principle.  Path matters.

Roger Fujii <rmf at>

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