We have a Javascript codebase that we want to open-source in an incremental fashion. That is, we want to release the full code to some of our core modules first, keeping the rest of the "application" code in minified format. Eventually, we will also release the whole application code in full (although that may take a few months to happen).

We have determined that the GPL (v3) is the best license for our software project. However, we're concerned that it cannot be used in the way that I've described. Specifically, since our application code depends on the aforementioned core modules to function, it would become bound by the GPL the moment these modules are released under the GPL. If I understand correctly, this means that we would have to release a non-minified version of the application code from day one.

Is my understanding correct? And if so, is there a "next best" license that we could use for our core modules, which would provide us with similar protection against non-free derivatives, without the requirement that we release the whole application code in full from the start?

  • Think of it kind of like this: your code is currently (non-)licensed under a "nobody can use this except me" license. You want to dual-license it under your current "nobody can use it except me" and the GPL. You couldn't be using the GPL'd version.
    – apsillers
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 2:18
  • How does that fit in with what @Ross Patterson is saying? Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 2:50
  • 1
    I'm saying virtually the exact same thing as Ross, but with less exact language. Copyright gives you full rights over your own code. Releasing your code under the GPL for others to use does not impact your full rights under copyright. Before you release under the GPL, only you have rights to your code. After you release under the GPL, you continue to have full right to your code, and now others have some limited, GPL-granted rights as well.
    – apsillers
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 3:07

1 Answer 1


The GPL binds others, not you. It places restrictions on what people and organizations who are not the copyght holder can do with the code. The copyright holder can always do whatever they want with it.

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