I want to use in my program (closed source code) binary (GPL v3) which is used by execute it with parameters and read output/log of this execution. Can I do it? If yes, what information should I include to my software if I have to? Of course my software will distributed with included binary (GPL v3)

  • 2
    "Executing with parameters and reading output/log" is "at arm's length" according to the FSF
    – user253751
    Dec 1, 2020 at 12:11

1 Answer 1


It depends a bit on how your program and the GPL program communicate with each other, but most likely you can do what you want.

The FSF uses the concept of communication "at arm's length" and when two programs communicate at arm's length with each other, then they are considered independent programs whose copyright licenses don't affect each other. Two programs communicate at arm's length if they use a communication mechanism that is typical for communicating between independently running programs (commandline arguments and stdin/stdout are examples of that) and if the two programs don't communicate complex data structures. It is that latter part which I can't tell from the question, but it is a-typical to communicate complex data structures over stdin/stdout.

Also, it must really be two programs, which means that the end-user must be able to replace the GPL program with a different version after the package has been installed on their system.

As for the information you need to include, you must include a copy of the GPLv3 license that comes with the GPL program and you must tell your users how/where they can obtain a copy of the GPL source code. For the GPLv3, that could be a link to the project/repository where you obtained the binary from.

  • Thank you for your comprehensive comment. Does the situation change if the program asks the user to download the binary (GPL v3) during installation or startup? In this case, the binary is downloaded by the user and the program is not distributed with my software, it is only somewhat dependent, and it is the user who decides whether he wants to download this software. Dec 2, 2020 at 18:49
  • 1
    @needprayfornotaxes, no that doesn't change the situation Dec 3, 2020 at 6:24

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