Combining GPL and non-GPL code

Chris Travers chris at
Fri Aug 17 23:17:24 UTC 2007

First I appologize to Andrew Wilson for not attributing his comments 
when quoting them.

Chuck Swiger wrote:
> The BSD license does not mention relicensing anywhere, only: 
> "Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without 
> modification, are permitted provided...."
> It is commonly understood that this permits people to modify BSD 
> licensed code and place the resulting derivative work under the terms 
> of another license so long as the other license preserves the original 
> copyright notice and BSD license text.  I would term this "sublicensing".

I don't think the following points apply in any way safely.  IANAL though.

1) Unmodified BSD code available to the general public but distributed 
by the same individual in a different program under the GPL cannot be 
reverted to the BSD license.  If it is available to the general public 
under the BSDL, I would argue that any member of the general public has 
permission to use it under that license, wherever they got the code.  
This case is stronger where the content is relicensed by a third party 
under the GPL because they may not have a strong claim to the copyrights 
of the code in question when divorced from the rest of their application.

2)  That code in a GPL application which is still bears BSDL licenses in 
the files cannot be reverted to BSDL just because it came from a GPL 
app.  I don't read the GPL as requiring that an author relicense BSDL 
code under the GPL as a condition for including it.  If in doubt, one 
may look for other ways to incorporate code incompatible with the GPL 
alongside code derived from GPL code (IANAL, but I would think the 
proprietary code would need to be nonderivative and the work you 
distribute would need to be arguably separate from the GPL'd work, thus 
limiting derivate portions to something that could exist under the LGPL).

Best WIshes,
Chris Travers
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