I'm working on porting a very old program (1994) that was released under the GPL. However, the only reference to that license is this text in the header of the C files:

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. You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 675 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

Should I then assume that it's version 1, and can I release it under a later version of the GPL?

  • 2
    Initially, I would assume yes. The GPL should let you relicense under any later version of the licence.
    – Zizouz212
    Feb 11, 2016 at 0:48
  • 1
    Don't take my word on that yet though. Though I will see if I can find something along those lines.
    – Zizouz212
    Feb 11, 2016 at 0:58
  • 1
    No, you can not. It was (presumably) licensed only under GPLv1. Unless the "or, a your option, any later..." wording is present, it does not apply. In any case, GPLv1 is from 1990 (or somewhat earlier, it evolved from previous licences for emacs), GPLv2 were published in June 1991. If the code was written in 1994, I'd suppose it is GPLv2 only (see the wording...), but the fact that no version is mentioned would point at GPLv1.
    – vonbrand
    Feb 11, 2016 at 1:25
  • 2
    @lordcheeto Oh my... That looks... well.... scarily old.
    – Zizouz212
    Feb 11, 2016 at 1:48
  • 3
    It was developed by Dr. John L. Gustafson and others at the Ames Laboratory, with research papers indicating it was developed as early as 1994. No idea how it was originally released, or if it was, before being tarballed in 1998. I'll need to take a look at that dissertation, but at first glance, it seems to only have dead links.
    – lordcheeto
    Feb 11, 2016 at 2:30

1 Answer 1


From the text of the license:

If the Program does not specify a version number of the license, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

This clause is in every version of the GPL.

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