Recently I create a fork from an "open source project GPLv2" with different name. I make a major changes in source code and I gave a new name to the modified open source. I kept in the header of each source file the origin author copyright. And then I publish my new open source in github.

is this behavior is legal according to GPLv2 License statements ? do I have the right to change the name of the modified open source ? Could you please provide justification from licenses with the answer.

  • You're allowed to do this, but you have to keep the GPL license for the new project.
    – ziggystar
    Apr 11, 2014 at 8:23
  • Actually you're encouraged to do this, but if it's GPLv2 you probably have to use the same (or later).
    – david.pfx
    Apr 11, 2014 at 10:50

2 Answers 2


is this behaviour is legal according to GPLv2 License statements ?


do I have the right to change the name of the modified open source ?


Could you please provide justification from licenses with the answer.

A name change is just a modification to the source code (etc) that embodies the name, and modification of "the work" is one of many things that is permitted by the GPL (subject the rest of the license terms).

Besides, a restriction on renaming would go against the Four Freedoms.

In a comment, you say "the name is different!".

Yes and no.

  • Yes. A name can be trademarked. But trademark law does not prevent you from using a non-trademarked name ... unless it that one is sufficiently similar as to cause confusion. Trademark is about stopping the use of a word / name, rather than forcing its use.

  • No. A name cannot be copyrighted independently. It is too small to be considered copyrightable. Besides, if you replace a name with a different name, you are not copying the original one.

  • No. To the extent that the name is part of the copyrighted work as a whole, the GPL says you can modify the work; see above.

Standard disclaimers apply. IANAL.

I recommend that you take the time to read the GNU license itself, and the accompanying FAQs. The latter have been professionally translated into many languages ... probably including yours.

  • +1 for 'read the licence'. Why is this so hard?
    – david.pfx
    Apr 11, 2014 at 10:49

Open source licenses (including the GPLv2) give you the right to modify a program written by someone else and distribute your modified version. There are few restrictions in the modifications that you can make.
The most common restriction is that you can't remove or alter the copyright license.

I am not aware of any open source licenses that forbid renaming your fork. In many cases, it is rather the other way around and it is frowned upon to release a fork of an existing project under the same name, because it can create a lot of confusion among the users if it depends on where you got your copy from whether version 10.1 of product FOO contains feature X.
In fact, some open source projects use trademark protection on their name (for example firefox) to force forks to use a different name.

  • 1
    the name is different ! Apr 9, 2014 at 9:21
  • @EllouzeAnis: And the functionality as well. Why would changing the name be any different from changing the functionality. Apr 9, 2014 at 9:23
  • is GPLv2 license allow me to create a fork from an open source project ? Apr 9, 2014 at 9:23
  • @EllouzeAnis: Yes. Allowing you to fork a project is a defining characteristic of an open source license. Apr 9, 2014 at 9:32

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