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I have a GUI program that launches at start-up on a Linux machine. And this GUI can launch other applications like Spotify. I want to put this machine as a car's infotainment system of a vehicle that I'm planning to commercialize. Can I legally do this? What extra steps would I need to take if I can?

As far as I can see, it'll be a personal computer in your vehicle that can run many apps but with a special program that lets you view information about your vehicle. I am not altering the application itself nor making a replica.

I am asking this because I'm sceptical about allowing an app like Spotify that uses proprietary codecs to be launched.

The whole GUI program would be open source under GPL license.

Also, I'm sorry if this is not the place, I wasn't sure.

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  • This question does not explain how it is related to Open Source, which components would be under a free license (which license?) and what the specific concerns are related to interactions with closed source apps. Oct 25, 2022 at 8:24
  • @Martin_in_AUT I have updated my question about your license question but I didn't understand your last question. My concerns are about the proprietary codecs the Spotify app uses to play media.
    – nostack
    Oct 25, 2022 at 8:33
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    Thank you for the edits. You can obviously run proprietary apps (such as Spotify with proprietary codecs) on a LINUX system, I assume that's not the question. So it might be about interaction between your GUI program and the proprietary software. Does this answer your question? Oct 25, 2022 at 9:14

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Several issues need to be considered here:

  • You need to determine whether you will be using version 2 or version 3 of the GPL. Under version 3, you would need to comply with the "User Product" requirements of section 6, which are not present in version 2. In practice, that means you will (probably) need to allow users to install modified versions of your software on their cars' infotainment systems, and to provide any technical information (such as signing keys) which would be reasonably required to do so.
    • If you will be combining software that is licensed under "GPL 2 only" with software that is licensed under "GPL 3 or later," then you cannot comply with both licenses, and so you cannot distribute the resulting software at all.
    • If you (or your company) created all of the software from scratch (or based on other software that you ultimately created), then you are not bound by your own license, and can do whatever you want (including releasing the whole thing as proprietary, and not using the GPL at all).
  • Spotify and other applications are (likely) protected by trademark law in most or all jurisdictions. While it is probably legal to use their names and branding to identify apps which they created, and to launch those apps at the user's request, you may want to consult a trademark lawyer just in case.
    • If you will be providing those apps in a pre-installed state, rather than allowing the user to manually download them, you need to get a (copyright) license for that, independent of any trademark issues.
  • If this is an Android-based system, then there are components of Android which are not open source (usually under some sort of Google branding) and which might be required for third-party apps to work correctly. You need to comply with the licenses of all components of your system.
    • Even if you are only using AOSP (Android Open Source Project) code, much of AOSP is under permissive (non-GPL) licenses, so you will need to display the associated copyright notices somewhere in your UI. If you are just building AOSP in a completely standard state, then this is usually somewhere under Settings > About Phone (or tablet/device/etc.). Look for "Legal Information," "Open Source Licenses," or similar options.
  • The GPL generally does not extend to unrelated software running on the same computer. If the user instructs your launcher to start a proprietary app, which is a wholly separate application, and not a part of the launcher itself, then that app is very likely out of scope for GPL purposes.
  • Given the legal complexity here, your company may want to consult a copyright attorney for more specific advice.

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