Software licenses and releasing Python programs for review

Robert Kern rkern at
Mon Jun 6 21:28:51 CEST 2005

max wrote:

> Perhaps 'attempts' is too strong a word. Maybe 'ends up giving' would 
> help my argument more. The best example I can come up with at the 
> moment is programmer A releases a project under the gpl. Programmer B 
> makes a substantial contribution to the project, which pA reads 
> through and accepts. Later, pA decides that he would like to release 
> the project under a more liberal license. To me, whether he legally 
> can under the gpl is a very murky subject, as pB might not agree, and 
> pA, having looked through/thought about pB's contribution might have 
> some trouble proving that he implemented any matching functionality 
> without referencing pB's earlier contribution, which if he did 
> reference it(even by memory), would presumably require him to continue 
> using the gpl.
> I guess my argument is that with multiple contributors, the gpl, in 
> comparison to say, a BSD style license, grants power to the code. If 3 
> people work on a gpl project, they must agree to any changes. If 3 
> people work on a BSD style project, they each can do whatever the hell 
> they like with the code. So, in my opinion, the gpl ends up giving 
> perhaps not rights, but certainly power, to the actual code base.

There's no power being granted to code. All of the power is in the hands 
of pA and pB. If pA wants a more liberal license to pB's code, then he 
needs to ask for one. pB can grant that permission (assuming the code is 
his and not actually pC's). There's nothing special about the GPL in 
this respect. The same situation works with the BSD license, too, 
although the BSD license is pretty much rock-bottom in terms of 
restrictions such that there's almost never a *desire* to ask for more 

The code has never been granted any legal powers. It's still just 

Robert Kern
rkern at

"In the fields of hell where the grass grows high
  Are the graves of dreams allowed to die."
   -- Richard Harter

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