If a GPL owner decides to make their code close sourced, say to make a derivative work for themselves (maybe commercialize), what steps should they take?

If they need to rewrite their code, what qualifies as rewriting?

  • 2
    You're asking multiple questions here. And if they own the copyrights then the license doesn't apply to them, so they can do whatever they want, including making closed source derivative works. Jun 5, 2017 at 3:10
  • @curiousdannii OK, could you link a reference for that statement?
    – Nue
    Jun 5, 2017 at 3:26
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    FLOSS licenses are all exceptions to standard copyright law restrictions. Those restrictions never apply to the copyright owner, and accordingly, the copyright owners are not bound by the licenses. That's the whole point of licenses. Jun 5, 2017 at 3:33
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    Closely related (duplicate?): So the GPL doesn't restrict the creator of the software in any way?
    – apsillers
    Jun 5, 2017 at 15:00

1 Answer 1


If you, and only you, own the copyrights on a piece of code, then you can do with that code whatever you like. For the choices that you have, it makes very little difference if you have, at some time in the past, released the code to the public under a FLOSS license.

The condition that you must solely own the copyrights means that you can not have any contributions from others in the code (unless they legally signed over their copyrights to you).

The restrictions that limit your options are that once you have released a version to the public under a FLOSS license, you can not retract that version, nor can you restrict people that have that version from exercising the rights they received under the FLOSS license.
You are free, however, to bring out a new version under a completely different license, even a closed-source license.

Something that you also see in practice is dual-licensing.
With dual-licensing, a program (or more often a library), is released under multiple licenses and the recipient can choose which license terms they want to conform to.
A common combination of dual-licenses is GPL and a closed-source license. The GPL version can then be used in open-source projects, while people that want to use the code in a closed-source project can buy the closed-source license.

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