Derivative Works Under the GNU General Public License

18 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2015

Date Written: June 1, 2011


This article discusses the treatment of derivative works under the GNU General Public License. It argues that the functioning of the GPL depends upon a definition of derivative work that is significantly broader than that employed by the Copyright Act or the courts. This over-broad definition ultimately leads to nonsensical results in the face of many modern program development and distribution methodologies. This article visits a number of fact-patterns to help illuminate possible weaknesses and inconsistencies in the GPL definition of derivative work.

Keywords: open source license, GPL, derivative works, software copyright

Suggested Citation

Dugan, Ben, Derivative Works Under the GNU General Public License (June 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

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