Combining GPLed code with codes of other licenses

John Cowan cowan at
Fri Jul 6 15:56:18 UTC 2007

Joseph Hick scripsit:

> 1. The programmer combined GPLed code with code covered under an
> incompatible license, added his own code and released the work under
> GPL license.
> 2. Same as above, but he released the work under the incompatible
> license.
> what are the penalties the programmer or its *users*[1] might have
> to pay if he refuses to discontinue such distributions and decides
> to continue?

Mostly the programmer would have to live with the knowledge that he was
not a morally worthy person; if the facts were to be discovered, there
would also be a large amount of public opprobrium available to go around.

In the U.S. at least, unless the copyright is registered with the
Copyright Office (something which few individual programmers are likely
to bother with), only actual damages can be collected in such a case,
and actual damages are almost certainly $0 when dealing with a program
distributed by both the originator and the infringer at a price of $0.

Nothing would happen to the users.  At most, if the copyright owner were
to sue, it might be that by settlement (or conceivably by injunction)
the infringer would be required to notify the users that the program is
infringing and ask them to stop using it.

I am not a lawyer; this is not legal advice.

Is a chair finely made tragic or comic? Is the          John Cowan
portrait of Mona Lisa good if I desire to see           cowan at
it? Is the bust of Sir Philip Crampton lyrical,
epical or dramatic?  If a man hacking in fury
at a block of wood make there an image of a cow,
is that image a work of art? If not, why not?               --Stephen Dedalus

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