Oftentimes source code is licensed as "GPL version N or later". But what stops some company from taking their EULA, publishing it as GPL version 4 and happily using whatever code they want to use in a way they want to use?

  • Gnu and the FSF would have significant concerns with such an entity attempting to claim the term "GPL" for their own, for a start.
    – user28517
    Mar 31, 2020 at 3:47
  • But what cause will they have in a court? Do they have "GPL" copyrighted or something like that?
    – 0xd34df00d
    Mar 31, 2020 at 4:13
  • 1
    @0xd34df00d The name of the license is not GPL but GNU General Public License, and the Free Software Foundation holds a registered trademark for "GNU". Furthermore, it can be argued that the FSF holds a common law trademark GPL in the context of software licenses. If someone makes their own GPL, they could perhaps be sued for deceptive trade practices.
    – amon
    Mar 31, 2020 at 6:41

1 Answer 1


The Gnu General Public License text specifically refers to versions published by the Free Software Foundation when availing yourself of the “or any later version” option:

If the Program specifies that a certain numbered version of the GNU General Public License “or any later version” applies to it, you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that numbered version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of the GNU General Public License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

Gnu GPL version 2 Gnu GPL version 3

Therefore, only the Free Software Foundation can do as you describe.

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