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The GPL clearly states that in the case of interpreters, if the interpreter is linked against a derived work, and the interpreted program code reaches those bindings, then the licensing extends to it as well.

But what about a more intermediate representation? Think of it less of a "program" and more of a "save file", out of which the runtime can produce a program on the fly, which it can then execute.

Does the license obligation still extend to the save file?

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The GPL clearly states that in the case of interpreters, if the interpreter is linked against a derived work, and the interpreted program code reaches those bindings, then the licensing extends to it as well.

No, it does not. I suspect you are referring to the GPL FAQ but the FAQ is not the GPL; it is "just" the FSF's opinion as to some consequences of using the GPL. The FAQ certainly expresses the FSF's desires and was probably written in conjunction with some reasonably good lawyers, but it has no legal standing.

The question you need to answer is (as always) "is the representation a derived work of the GPL-covered work?", and that is a question of copyright law, independent of the GPL or any other licenses. There is no bright line here and in the long run it would be a question for a court to decide. I can certainly imagine cases both side of the line.

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  • So if I copyright a song that contains instructions, and someone implements that sequence of instructions in a program that links against gpl code, then my song could potentially be subject to its licensing obligations?
    – dtech
    Jun 12 at 10:20
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    Absolutely not. Your song is your copyright and no actions of a 3rd party can force you to release it under the GPL; what happens here is that there are two incompatible licensing conditions on the program (your "all rights reserved" copyright and the GPL conditions) - at that point the program simply cannot be distributed. Jun 12 at 10:25
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    No; I don't honestly see how you make that leap - if you violate any single one of the licensing conditions, the copyright holder can prosecute. Jun 12 at 11:30
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    I would strongly recommend you talk to a lawyer if you're trying to draft your own license. In any case, this is definitely now off-topic for this site. Jun 12 at 11:47
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    @dtech I think you're looking at this exactly backward. If you created a work (the song, in your example) and someone created a derived work (a computer program, in your example) the computer program is always subject to your work's license terms. Nothing the derived author or anyone else can do will affect your work's license. A song would probably be licensed under Creative Commons, not GPL. Jun 13 at 0:27

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