I want to release a program under the CeCILL version 2. It permits relicensing to the GPL, and I'm okay with that. However, version 2.1 permits relicensing to the European Union Public License, and I don't want to allow that, because (as the FSF notes) it permits relicensing to licenses with weaker copylefts.

The issue is that one is allowed to distribute a program under "any later version" of the Agreement.

12.3 Any Software distributed under a given version of the Agreement may only be subsequently distributed under the same version of the Agreement or a subsequent version, subject to the provisions of Article 5.3.4.

The French version of 12.3 says the same thing.

Does this mean that a Licensee can choose to distribute the software under version 2.1 of the license and use that as a justification to relicense the code to the EUPL?

I think the final clause might give the answer as no, but I'm not sure. Article 5.3.4 is the one that allows relicensing. It reads as follows in version 2.0; version 2.1 adds "the GNU Affero GPL, and/or the EUPL" to all occurrences of "GNU GPL".

The Licensee can include a code that is subject to the provisions of one of the versions of the GNU GPL in the Modified or unmodified Software, and distribute that entire code under the terms of the same version of the GNU GPL.

The Licensee can include the Modified or unmodified Software in a code that is subject to the provisions of one of the versions of the GNU GPL, and distribute that entire code under the terms of the same version of the GNU GPL.

  • My 2 cents: KISS, the CeCILL licenses while drafted with all the good intentions are less common licenses that will put off several contributors. Unless you are French and working with one of the original drafters of the CeCILL, I would generally avoid them for the simpler more common licenses. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 5:32

1 Answer 1


My interpretation would be that it does.

I read 12.3 as saying the following:

If the code has been released under CeCILL v2, it may always be released under the GPL.

If a subsequent version of the CeCILL is released which does not retain the GPL compatibility clause, you still have the rights granted to you by Clause 5.3.4

If you want strong copyleft, I'd very much advise sticking to the GPL.

  • Why does it not also work the other way?
    – EMBLEM
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 18:27
  • Rights may only be granted in accordance with the original contract (license). Therefore, if you wish to potentially take advantage of newer versions of the license, a clause enabling this must be inserted into the original license. (5.3.4) On the other hand, generally speaking by changing the license version, we cannot take away rights granted by the original version; These are usually referred to as grandfathered rights.
    – leezer3
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 20:18
  • In other words, changing the version can, and sometimes does provides additional rights over and above those granted by the original version. It cannot though revoke rights without a specific clause in the original version providing the authority to revoke rights upon use/ issuance of a newer version. (Even that I'd suspect to be a sticky wicket, it would very much depend on the exact terms of the license itself, and whether users are compelled to use the latest version)
    – leezer3
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 20:25

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