I'm developing a project that includes a section with an implementation on Docker, but Docker is based on Apache 2.0 license. I saw that Apache 2.0 is incompatible with GPLv2 and I want my project to be based on GPLv2 or BSD licenses.

So, I want to know if there is a problem if I include Docker in my project and the License is GPLv2 or BSD.

  • 1
    Are you modifying the source of Docker itself? If not then its license doesn't really matter, no more than the Linux kernel being GPLv2 prohibits you from running Apache 2.0 code in Linux. Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 5:11
  • No, I will use Docker in my project just as a tool. Then, it doesn't matter if I add it into the project based on GPLv2 or BSD? Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 5:19
  • 2
    Well you still need to abide by its license, but you shouldn't need to worry about the Apache 2.0's compatibility with other licenses. Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 5:31

1 Answer 1


For open source licenses, license compatibility only matters when we are integrating multiple components into a single program. For example, when linking a library with a program, or copying a code snippet into our code.

Docker is typically used as a separate tool without integrating code from Docker into your software. As long as it's a separate program, the license doesn't really matter.

(There are interesting considerations for the licensing of the software within a Docker image though – each image is essentially half of a Linux distro, with lots of separate programs under lots of different licenses, possibly distributed across multiple image layers.)

If you were to combine code in a manner that would create a derivative work in the sense of copyright law, then we need to think about license compatibility. While Apache-2.0 generally has pretty good compatibility, it is incompatible with GPL-2.0. The two licenses have patent-related clauses that contradict each other, so it's not possible to combine them. Sometimes, the GPL code is actually licensed under GPL-2.0-or-later, in which case choosing the GPL-3.0 license resolves the incompatibility.

At the start of this answer, I restricted the response to “open source licenses”. This is important because there are popular non-open-source licenses that can lead to licensing issues even for separate programs. Notably, the SSPL (used by MongoDB, Elasticsearch, and others) can affect your entire software stack in some scenarios. If those scenarios apply, it's typically impossible to satisfy all licenses. The CC-BY-SA-NC license is another popular non-open-source license that is highly incompatible, but at least it doesn't have an absurdly broad scope like the SSPL.

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