Subject: Re: how much right do I have on my project, if there are patches by others?
From: John Cowan <>
Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2007 13:51:12 -0400

Joseph Hick scripsit:

> I did not understand this part. How can anyone stop
> Linus Torvalds or anyone from redistributing Linux
> under GPL v3 even if Linus has partial copyright on
> his software? the GPL clearly states that I or any
> Linux owner is free to distribute it under GPL v2 or a
> later version.

Nope.  The GPLv2 recommends that in the copyright notice that
you attach to your actual source code you allow people to use
it under the GPLv2 or any later version.  If you choose not
to do that, the GPLv3 doesn't license that code.

> so, if Linus wants to distribute it under v3 but his
> co-authors disagree, Linus is legally allowed to go
> ahead with his own fork of Linux under v3 while his
> co-authors can go ahead with another fork under v2. Am
> I right?

Linus can do what he likes with the (rather small) part of the
kernel that is under his copyright.  Others have used the
v2-only language on their parts (as has he) and he is bound
by that, at least in principle.

(In practice, they would be hard put to it to sue for their
rights effectively; see my earlier posting on the paper tiger
that copyright suits are when dealing with works available gratis.)

> and if GPL v2 is copyrighted, and not free, then how do we all use
> it verbatim in our software. under full copyright with no permissive
> clause, i think we are not even allowed to copy and distribute the
> GPL verbatim.

We are permitted to do that; it says so at the top of the GPL.

Principles.  You can't say A is         John Cowan <>
made of B or vice versa.  All mass
is interaction.  --Richard Feynman