Specifically, the GPLv2. The creator of a work can allow people to upgrade to a higher GPL version:

(emphasis mine)

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

If I modify a work with a license statement such as this, am I allowed to say that people who then further modify my distribution cannot upgrade it to a higher GPL version? Or do I have to allow them just as the original does?

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can.

The authors of the software allow you to receive the software under the GPLv2, GPLv3, or any future higher version of the GPL at your choice.

If you choose to receive it under the GPLv2, you are only bound to the GPLv2, and are under no requirement to release it under any later version.

Paragraph 6 in the GPLv2 (the one that tells you you can't impose additional restrictions) only tells you you cannot impose additional restrictions on top of the license you receive, but the document that tells you you may receive it under the GPLv2 or later isn't part of the license itself.

  • So statements like "version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version" are, in effect, dual-licensing the project? So just as with other dual-licensing situations, end users only need to abide by whichever license they choose. Dec 10, 2015 at 14:30
  • 1
    That's certainly how I read it - though I think that in this case one of the permitted licence options is "GPL2 or later", in case you want to pass that freedom through to your end-users.
    – MadHatter
    Dec 10, 2015 at 15:53
  • @curiousdannii Yes, version x or later is multilicensing. re-users may choose a GPL version which they want to receive the software under.
    – Martijn
    Dec 10, 2015 at 19:34

Paragraph 6 of the GPL-v2 license says you cannot impose additional restrictions.

I'm not a lawyer, but I believe that the grantee (you, in this case), cannot remove the option to use a later version of the license, because doing so would "impose an additional restriction".

I think that if you follow the requirements of the GPL (or any license) to the letter, you are OK. If you want to do something different, as is the case here, ask a real lawyer.

I've asked a real IP lawyer this question but didn't have any money to offer. If I get an answer I'll add it here.

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