Public Domain Python

Adam Sampson azz at
Tue Sep 12 13:38:40 CEST 2000

Pat McCann <thisis at> writes:

> > Linux isn't public domain at all! Linux is under the GPL, the GNU license;

> The first quoted line is, like most statements, not quite accurate.
> Parts of Linux OSes and part of the Linux kernel are under various
> licenses or in the public domain.  Linus seems to have no qualms about
> claiming (see the README) GPL (plus his own addendum to allow
> closed-source modules) coverage of the entire kernel formed of parts
> copyrighted by many people (or none) under many licenses (or none).

The point is that Linux as a whole is distributed under the terms of
the GPL, because that's the way that the GPL works; if you've included
code from a GPL-compatible license, then although that code on its own
can be distributed under its original license, the aggregate ("derived
work") has to be distributed under the terms of the GPL.

In general, the Linux developers seem to be fairly happy to preserve
original licenses on code or to relicense code where it would be
useful to other projects; there is code shared between the BSDs and
Linux where development is being done on both sides, for instance.

> This use of the GPL has the ironic practical effect (though not the
> theoretical effect, of course) of removing software from the public
> domain and from very permissive licenses.

You're being a bit pessimistic. The code that was in the public domain
still remains in the public domain; including it in a GPL-licensed
project doesn't magically relicense it for other users, and many
developers are quite happy to contribute changes back under the
original license.


Adam "Not speaking for GNU" Sampson
azz at

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