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I am planning on creating a rather small repo on github but I am not sure which license should I use. The project is basically a collection of bash, batch and powershell scripts. Those scripts invoke programs licensed under Mozilla Public License 2 and GPL 2 and 3. I am not using any actual open source code inside my scripts, just running programs.

My question is, does this scenario mean that I am creating a derivative work based on those programs? In this case I would have to distribute my scripts under the GPL and/or MPL. I am not sure if this is possible since GPL and MPL aren't compatible to my understanding.

I originally planned on releasing my project under the Unlicense license. Is this possible? I understand that I would need to either distribute all the source code of the programs or provide instructions on where to get them.

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Merely calling various programs through their command line interface is most likely entirely fine, and does not impose any licensing obligations on you. You are free to use MPL or GPL, but can just as well use the Unlicense, a proprietary license, or no license at all (all rights reserved).

However, I'd caution against using the Unlicense. While its intent is clear, it is not drafted very well, is arguably contradictory, and might not fully work in some countries. Thus, it fails at a crucial task for an open source license: giving potential users peace of mind that they can freely use the software. Instead:

  • dual license with a more robust license, e.g. “Unlicense OR Apache-2.0” (at the user's choice)
  • if you want to give up your rights in these scripts to the fullest degree possible, use CC-0. It uses the same general mechanism as the Unlicense (public domain dedication + fallback license) but is drafted much more carefully.
  • if you want a very liberal license that doesn't even require attribution, consider 0BSD or MIT-0
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  • I still do need to provide the source code of the programs while distributing the scripts, is it correct? I guess that Attribution and a link to a github repository in a readme is enough as well. I have to distribute the binaries along since I don't expect the software to be installed on the target machine. – patvax Aug 23 at 21:50
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    @patvax If you're distributing other people's programs then you have to comply with their licenses. That generally means including a copy of the license. For GPL and MPL-2.0 you also have to provide the source code, but for GPL-3.0 and MPL-2.0 this can be done by linking to the source code (probably also for GPL-2.0, but it's less clear). You can combine software under different licenses into one repository, package, or ZIP archive, as long as they are clearly separate programs. Avoid the impression that these programs would also fall under your license, e.g. the Unlicense. – amon Aug 23 at 22:07

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