Here's my dilemna:

I own proprietary software that generates HTML.

I want my end users to use a GPL v3 open source licensed software that renders HTML in a special GUI. But I want to white label/modify the original GPL v3 software to match my brand, etc.

I understand if I then want to distribute my modified executable I would have to provide the source code for it and open source it too.

I am fine with doing this, but I don't want to release the code for my proprietary HTML generator software. My end users would simply run my modified EXE and drag and drop their html files that were generated from my software (runs on a website).

The HTML generator is separate from the modified .exe in terms of the GPL? Right?

1 Answer 1


The advantage of HTML is that it is a standardized markup language. If both the generator and the renderer try to follow that standard, and you also look towards that standard for determining which component is wrong when a page doesn't look as intended, then the generator and renderer are independent from each other in terms of copyright.

If two applications are independent in terms of copyright, then their respective licenses also don't affect each other.

  • So you would have to make the branded GUI open source to follow GPL, but you will be able to keep the HTML generator proprietary as long as you distribute it as a separate file
    – DrakaSAN
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 11:56
  • 1
    @DrakaSAN, and as long as the two communicate in a standard way, yes that is correct. Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 13:56
  • I could imagine some copyright terms that do in fact attempt to place conditions on things created by excecuting the software, even if none of the copyrighted software itself is added to or linked into that thing. However, GPL explicitly doesn't do that (it would violate their "Freedom 0")
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 20:16
  • The mod I'm making to the open source application is an API that the code from my HTML generator will call. Without the renderer my code would display fine but not actually function/update without the API. Does this still count as independent? Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 16:51
  • @lemon-apples If you make the API interface public and standardized, you should be able to keep the implementation itself proprietary. If the API is an HTTP server, you could publish the swagger as GPL for example.
    – DrakaSAN
    Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 13:30

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