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Part of the GPL license is that the owner of the copyright can never take back distribution rights (un license the work).

Is this legally valid or is it similar to any other "free promise" ("I promise to give you a million dollars" isn't binding while "I'll give you a million dollars for this car which I'm taking now").

  • Which country? Things like this are generally highly country-dependent. – cpast Aug 21 '15 at 17:41
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Under common law, a gratuitous license grant is revocable, one that forms part of a contract is not.

Whether the license is a contract or not turns on a number of things; the most relevant being if there was an intention on both parties to create a contract (which would be demonstrated by their actions) and if consideration passed from the receiver to the giver of the license.

The GPL probably is a contract because by giving it and the receiver acting on it they have both demonstrated intention and the receiver has given consideration: a promise to redistribute on the same terms. As such it would be irrevocable.

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