multilicensing and relicensing doubts

Ben Finney ben at
Mon Apr 16 21:54:07 UTC 2007

On 16-Apr-2007, lolo wrote:
> Multilicensing:
> 1-Could i license something under 2 diferent copyleft compatible 
> licenses?
> 1.1-Could i license something under 2 copyleft uncompatible 
> licenses?
> 1.1.1-If so, Could i also add a third one to the same document?
> 1.1.2-Could i also license it with a fourth free, non-copyleft, gpl
> compatible one?

The copyright holder has certain freedoms reserved under copyright 
law, and has the ability to allow others to exercise these freedoms on 
her own terms. These freedoms *are* the license (look up the meanings 
of the word "license" and you'll see it is somewhat similar), and the 
terms are those stipulated when the recipient gets the work.

Thus, if you have sole copyright in a work, you can grant any 
particular people you choose any of your rights, on any terms you 
want, as many different times as you like.

If you grant a license to one person, you can grant a completely 
different license to another person. You can even grant two different 
licenses to the *same* person, and then that person has been given two 
different sets of things they can do, under two different sets of 
terms -- i.e. more freedom.

When that person decides they want to perform some act covered by 
copyright, they are dealing with a single work by a single copyright 
holder, and they only need one permission to do so -- they can 
*choose* which of the licenses they will exercise.

The situation is different if you're *combining* works under different 
licenses, because then you're not the sole copyright holder. You, 
*and* the people whom you received pieces of the work from, are all 
join copyright holders, and the license under which you received each 
piece of the work must be followed.

When you distribute a work that *you* received as a combination of 
different works under different licenses, they must all be satisfied 
as far as distribution is concerned. If you are allowed (by all of the  
licenses you received to the work) to re-license the work, you can do 
so, and the recipient gets it under that license. If, on the other 
hand, you may redistribute under one particular license, then that's 
your only option for performing the act of redistribution.

> Re-licensing:
> Project 'a' was GPL when it was 1.1, now is 2.2 and has changed into 
> LGPL, ok?
> Project 'b' was GFDL and now hasn't got any license displayed, ok?
> Project 'c' was GFDL and they changed the license banner into 
> another copyleft uncompatible one, ok?

You don't state whether these are cases of the work being distributed 
by the copyright holder, or re-distributed verbatim by a recipient, or 
re-distributed as a modified work by a recipient.

 \      "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I |
  `\      like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."  -- |
_o__)                                                    Bilbo Baggins |
Ben Finney <ben at>
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