Consider a company A which buys software from company B.

That software contain code owned by company B, also some open source libraries licensed under Apache license or MIT license, but no GPL and variants stuff.

Company A modified that software under permission of company B, added some component licensed with GPL or GPL variants, but use that software for commercial purpose, not to distribute that software to any third part.

Is that legal?

  • 1
    There are several cases to consider: Is the software closed source or open source? Is company A using the software only in-house or distributing it? Has company B given a sub-licensing right to company A (I am assuming that "buy software from" means in fact 'licensing') and what are the terms of this license? Please provide a bit more detail to your question. Dec 3, 2021 at 9:07
  • 2
    If I understand the OP, (s)he has already answered some of those questions. A intends to use the modified software in-house, but not for distribution. The software as conveyed by A to B is non-free, otherwise permission to modify wouldn't be required. I do, however, agree that nearly everything depends on the specific licence terms applying to that conveyance.
    – MadHatter
    Dec 3, 2021 at 9:13
  • Can I assume B is ok with A?
    – WestFarmer
    Dec 3, 2021 at 9:29
  • @MadHatter I wrote my comment and asked questions seeing the original question, not the later modifications. I assume some edits are a response to my questions, answering them. Dec 3, 2021 at 9:56
  • @Martin_in_AUT all the points I make above relate to the OP's original version, also.
    – MadHatter
    Dec 3, 2021 at 10:39

1 Answer 1


To restate the issue, B has taken some free but non-copyleft software and produced a modified version, which they are distributing as a commercial (and therefore proprietary) product. A has bought a copy from B, and acquired their permission to modify it for in-house use. A's modifications include the addition of some GPL software. You want to know if all this is lawful.

The in-house use and modification of software received under GPL is perfectly lawful; the GPL FAQ is clear about this, as are many other sources. You tell us that B has licensed the right to make derivative works of its software to A, so A is clear on that score also. The resulting combination of B's product, GPL libraries, and in-house work by A is clearly un-redistributable, but in-house usage of it should be fine (note that "in house" probably doesn't include contractors, who cannot lawfully receive copes of this code).

IANAL/IANYL, though, so A should take professional advice before betting a business on this.

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