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I have a project that gathers information from the internet and transforms it into a useful format, which I then make public as a CSV file. That project is licensed under GNU GPLv3.

I recently had someone ask if their closed source program can read the CSV file from Github and use the data to display information to their users. Is this allowed under GPLv3?

I feel like the CSV file wouldn't be covered under GPLv3, but I'm not sure. Whatever I try to search for generally describes the case of distributing binaries of the source code itself, which isn't quite the same.

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  • Now that I understand GPLv3 better, I can see that these two questions are treated identically by GPLv3. However, without my current knowledge of GPLv3, I wouldn't have been confident in using the other question's answer because the actual questions are quite different imo. This isn't a hard opinion though, and I'd be happy to close my question as a duplicate if others thought it to be so.
    – beyarkay
    Mar 19, 2023 at 7:51

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The GPL FAQ answers this adequately.

In what cases is the output of a GPL program covered by the GPL too?

The output of a program is not, in general, covered by the copyright on the code of the program. So the license of the code of the program does not apply to the output, whether you pipe it into a file, make a screenshot, screencast, or video.

The exception would be when the program displays a full screen of text and/or art that comes from the program. Then the copyright on that text and/or art covers the output. Programs that output audio, such as video games, would also fit into this exception.

If the art/music is under the GPL, then the GPL applies when you copy it no matter how you copy it. However, fair use may still apply.

Keep in mind that some programs, particularly video games, can have artwork/audio that is licensed separately from the underlying GPLed game. In such cases, the license on the artwork/audio would dictate the terms under which video/streaming may occur.

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