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Changing GNU GPL software to proprietary software

From: Scott A. Zanke
Subject: Changing GNU GPL software to proprietary software
Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 12:28:45 -0400

I have come across an interesting situation that involves changing software released under GNU GPL being changed to proprietary software. I am hoping that others more knowledgeable in this area will comment on this situation in order to help me better understand how the GNU GPL works. The original software, a cgi perl script, was released under GNU GPL and had reference to it and copyright information on the download page and in the perl script header info. The original author has apparently had no active interest in this program for several years and another individual claims that the original author has transferred copyright to him. The second individual admits to having no legal documentation concerning the copyright transfer as it was done verbally during a phone conversation. The second individual has heavily modified and improved the original program and it is still available for free download. He claims that there is very little of the original source code left intact and in fact much of the program consists of original work as add-ons to the perl script. The new author has inserted copyright information and text to the perl script header changing it to proprietary software, yet has left the original copyright and GNU GPL info in the script as well. The original program is still available for download from the original authors web site.

Here's some snippets from the script to illustrate...

 Copyright (c) XXXX, XXXX, XXXX by XXX XXX, All rights reserved

 This code may not be copied, borrowed, stolen, sold, resold, reused,
 recycled, plagiarized, modified, or in any way used for anything at
 all without the express written permission of the author.

Author for vX.X and later: XXX XXX XXX.

 Resale rights of this software by XXX XXX were granted by XXX XXX
 on XXX XX XX.

 This software is a custom modification of XXX XXX.
 Any alterations that differ this source code from XXX release X.X
 are the sole property of XXX XXX, and may not be used for any purpose
 without his express written permission.

 -- Original XXX Header --

 A product of XXX XXX. -

 Copyright (c) XXXX, XXXX by XXX XXX, All rights reserved

 Original Author: XXX XXX.
   (Portions Copyright (c) XXXX XXX XXX)

 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, WITH THE FOLLOWING EXCEPTION:
 You may not remove the code that includes the XXX logo and the
 link back to the XXX home page on any generated pages,
 Nor may you modify the XXX logo itself.

 This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
 but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
 GNU General Public License for more details.

 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.

Please note that I have no real interest in this software as I do not use it. I am just curious if this method of changing to a proprietary format is indeed proper and correct.

Scott A. Zanke

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