Consider this scenario:

  • I am developing a program FooSuite that uses a GPL-licenced library QuuxTools
  • I release the program FooSuite 1.0 under GPL

Later on I discover that, for some reason, I need to licence the program to someone on different terms.

  • I remove the dependency on GPL via QuuxTools, by either...

    • rewriting the program not to use this library any longer
    • obtaining a different licence for QuuxTools (if it's dual-licenced; see PyQt)
  • I release FooSuite 1.1 under a non-GPL licence.

However, FooSuite 1.1 is still a derivative work from FooSuite 1.0. I understand that it's not legal for a stranger to do what I did, but am I myself - as the owner of FooSuite - free from this restriction?


1 Answer 1


So long as you retain the copyright to all the code that is part of FooSuite (this gets problematic if you've incorporated code from the community unless you got the contributors to assign their copyright to you), you are free to distribute the code under as many different licenses as you'd like. So you could release FooSuite 1.1 under a different license.

Of course, someone else could take the code to FooSuite 1.0 that is already released under the GPL and create their own OpenFooSuite 1.1 that would be under the GPL and incorporate whatever functionality you added for the 1.1 release. If there is a reasonably large community interested in FooSuite, it can be very difficult for your closed source version to compete with the open version.

  • 6
    Note that more than one open source project was killed by it's fork (usually slowly). XFree86 is one example, it was replaced by X.Org. OpenOffice (now "Apache OpenOffice") resulted in a similar fork, called LibreOffice which may or may not turn out to be the sole survivor of the two. Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 12:22
  • 3
    +1 for the solid answer. Remember that "Not using the GPL" is not the same as "Not open source". Pardoning the triple negative there, GPL is not the only route (license) to having open source. There's a whole host of alternatives. GPL may actually be inhibiting adoption by others because of its viral nature.
    – user53019
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 14:34

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