how much right do I have on my project, if there are patches by others?

Nick Moffitt nick at
Fri Jul 6 11:20:29 UTC 2007

Joseph Hick:
> but things become different when someone submits a patch to my
> software. the patch-submitter holds the copyright on the patch. so if
> I include it into my software, do I lose the right to sell my own
> software under a commercial license? :-(

"You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it

The GPL *is* a commercial license.  One of the rights it protects is the
right to commerce.  You or anyone in the world is allowed to sell
distribution media containing the software, provided certain other
criteria are also met.

Perhaps you meant a proprietary license, rather than "commercial".

> so in order to avoid it, i have to reject his patch and code the same
> changes myself. is there any other way?

The GNU project has always preferred that copyright for GNU code be held
by the Free Software Foundation for reasons parallel to what you
describe.  In situations where copyright could not be assigned for
whatever reason, project GNU has been known to re-implement.

I recall RMS saying once that for patches below a certain threshold (a
diff of 10 lines, say) it wasn't worth bothering with copyright
assignment since the material in question is so trivially small as not
to be a risk.  I'm unsure as to whether this attitude is still
reasonable in the current climate.

BitKeeper, how quaint.                         Nick Moffitt
                -- Alan Cox                   nick at

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