Combining GPL and non-GPL code

John Cowan cowan at
Sat Aug 18 02:49:47 UTC 2007

Rick Moen scripsit:

> > Once you get your mind around the necessity to relicense
> > (or sublicense) GPL derivatives as GPL,...
> FWIW, I deny the premise, as detailed below.

Well, some people call it sublicensing or relicensing, but what we
are talking about here is just the incorporation of BSD-licensed text
(possibly just part of it) into a GPLed work, in such a way that the
original BSD text is no longer really visible as such.  This is *not*
the normal case of a tarball containing separate GPL and BSD files,
such as you explain below:

> then, if I extract the OpenSSL tarball and redistribute it,
> _that_ code remains BSD-licensed, as specified and required by its
> owners and licensors.

So it does.  This, however, is about something like copying some functions
from a BSDed coriginal into your GPL code, possibly modifying them in
the process, in such a way that it isn't obvious how to reconstruct
the original.

> I personally think it's abundantly clear that this is, actually, a
> phoney issue, because copyright owners alone are entitled to decree
> licence terms for their creations.  Period.

Quite so.  But the copyright on a derivative work (as opposed to a mere
collective work) belongs to the deriver, provided the derivation was
lawfully made, which means obeying any licensing requirements attached
to the original.  So this is not "relicensing" or "sublicensing", it's
applying the license permissions to make a derivative work.

John Cowan                              cowan at
Humpty Dump Dublin squeaks through his norse
                Humpty Dump Dublin hath a horrible vorse
But for all his kinks English / And his irismanx brogues
                Humpty Dump Dublin's grandada of all rogues.  --Cousin James

More information about the License-discuss mailing list