Matt Kimball mkimball at
Wed Apr 1 18:22:38 PST 1998

On Wed, Apr 01, 1998 at 05:31:57PM -0800, Michael Thomas wrote:
> Alexandre Oliva writes:
>  > Bertrand Guiheneuf writes:
>  > > What if Linus Torvald decided to stop distribute Linux freely? 
>  > 
>  > Godzillions of people would keep the free development of Linux.  No
>  > one can stop them from starting from the last Free release of Linux,
>  > just like no one can stop a commercial company from using Kaffe 0.9.2
>  > in a non-free project.  But this same company cannot use Kaffe 0.10.0, 
>  > nor the forthcoming Kaffe 1.0.
>    I'm somewhat confused here (and who isn't from
> time to time about the GPL). I sort of thought
> that the GPL doesn't allow for a person to take
> back something that has been GPL'd and create
> "proprietary" versions of it. That once it's been
> GPL'd, that if you improve the base, you must
> release that code back to the world (well, make
> it freely available). I know that differences are
> made for using "components", ie that if I use a
> GPL'd component (usually a library), it doesn't
> taint the entire piece of software. 

The author of a program can put his code under whatever license he
likes at any time, regardless of the history of a program.

Suppose I write a program and release it as Foobar 1.0.0.  And I put
it under the GPL.  Everything is fine, but next week I modify some
things and I release Foobar 1.0.1.  I could put this version under a
proprietary license because I am the author of the work.  I couldn't
retractively change the licensing on Foobar 1.0.0 though.

Now, people can still use Foobar 1.0.0 under the GPL.  People can even
modify Foobar 1.0.0 and release new versions.  (GNUFoobar 1.0.1, based
on Foobar 1.0.0).  People just can't modify and distribute Foobar
1.0.1 because my license doesn't allow it.  And other people can't
change the license on Foobar 1.0.0 and its derivatives to something
other than the GPL.

>    But this situation sounds fundamentally like taking the GPL'd
> software, modifying it to make it better and not releasing the
> sources for it, which I've always understood to be a no-no. Is there
> something I'm missing here?

The thing you're missing is that the creator of the work can change
the license at his or her whim.  It is just other people that can't
change it.

Matt Kimball
mkimball at

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