Brian Youmans 3diff at
Tue Jan 9 21:13:48 UTC 2001

Janet Casey forwarded me Imran's message; since it was sent to the
list, I thought I should send my reply to the list so that other
people don't waste their energy saying the same things.  If this is
off topic for the GNU Europe list (which I'm not on), I hope people
will cut the list out of any responses they have.

On to the questions...

>1) Does the GPL apply to the GPL, that is can you create a 
>licence which is based upon GPL without violating the GPL ?

The GPL is not covered by the GPL.  The copying permission on the
GPL allows you to copy it, but prohibits changes.

The FSF does not particularly want people making licenses that look
like the GPL but have small differences.  We particularly don't want
someone else to make changes in the GPL and fail to make that clear!

We also discourage people from making changes because we would rather
have someone use an existing license rather than producing a new one.
There are too many free software licenses, it is difficult to keep track
of them all.

However, if you REALLY want to base a new license on the GPL, and you
tell us why that is necessary, the FSF will probably give permission to
use the GPL as a starting point, as long as it is made ABSOLUTELY clear
that this is a different license from the GPL.

>2) Can you licence some software under two licences for instance,
>could you write a program and offer it under both GPL and say the
>BSD licence ?

This is a vague question.  Some programs offer a choice of which license you 
want to use for distribution - Perl is a good example.

In general, the copyright holder can offer the program any way they want.  They
just have to make sure that whatever combination of licenses they make is not

>3) If a program is under GPL does that bar it from including non-
>GPL code ?

No.  The non-GPLed code must be under a compatible license.  The easiest example
is of course public domain code - if there is no copyright on the code, or copyright
has been disclaimed, the code can be included in _any_ program, no matter what the
license is.

See for info on what licenses are compatible.

>4) If you had for instance some graphics which you wanted to
>include with a software package which was under GPL, but didn't
>want to release the graphics under GPL is there anyway you could
>do it ?

Assuming that the graphics were an integral part of the program, the only
way you could include them in a GPLed program would be to add a special 
exception to the licensing saying something like, "As a special exception,
PROGRAM can be distributed in executable form linked with the graphics file

The "mere aggregation" clause might apply, but only if it was truly only 
"mere aggregation" - for instance, if the GPLEd program was one used for sorting
image files, it would probably be OK to include it on a CD full of proprietary
image files.  The program wouldn't care what the images were, they would just
be data to be sorted.   On the other hand, if the images were being used by
the program itself in some way, that would NOT be 'mere aggregation'.

                                    Brian Youmans
                                    FSF Office Staff

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