I want to develop and share an application for commercial usage (closed source only). This application only "lives" inside a Docker Image. This Docker Image is based an own Dockerfile which inherits from the official Ubuntu Focal Image from Docker Hub and includes my software.

I want to share this custom Docker Image with my software to Docker Hub. So the user can pull it from Docker Hub, start a Container Instance and can use the application.

The application itself should require a license key to use it when opening it and the source code should not available for others.

Inside the Ubuntu base Image there are lots of Ubuntu packages and programs by default of course. Each of them has their own license (like GPL/GPL-2/GPL-3/... which can be found in /usr/share/doc).

Normally, as I understand, a GPL license force me to license my own application as GPL or/and my source code (or Dockerfile?) needs to be shared for others too.

My Application do not use any GPL licensed „source code“. It only execute some GPL licensed programs inside the Ubuntu base Image like „adduser“ from the default Ubuntu as it is.

So the main questions are:

1.) Is it possible to share my own application for commercial usage as closed source in the Docker world? Or do I’m limited by the licenses programs / packages like GPL which are included inside the Ubuntu Image when only "executing" some of them?

2.) Is there any difference if i do not use any Ubuntu program / package (Neither source code nor any execution or referencing).

I think that Docker is an „medium“ / „platform“ for sharing software. So I find it difficult to understand the correct license relation of Docker, the base Images (Ubuntu, their Dockerfile, their programs, their packages) and my own Software.

  • 1
    Welcome to StackExchange and thx for your first question! Have you been looking at this answer here already? The GPL FAQ have a section about containers, stating that they are irrelevant for the assessment. Does that answer your question? Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 21:49
  • Mario, could we ask you to clarify if the linked question has dealt with your query, or if not, what questions remain in your mind?
    – MadHatter
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 12:17


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