There are many questions in here regarding licenses, however, I did not find this specific scenario.

I have the following situation:

  1. There is an internal company software, which is used for producing physical products. In essence, one can imagine a simulation software used to test the mechanical stress resistance of the end product/mechanical part. We sell only the mechanical part, the software is purely internal.
  2. There is a software package under the GPLv2 license, which we would like to integrate into our internal software. Question: will this mean that our internal software needs to be published? or are there any copyright issues in this case?

Many thanks in advance!


2 Answers 2


With all the usual caveats regarding legal advice from non-professionals on the internet, the answer is absolutely, clearly, no: there is no issue with using GPLv2 software in such internal software at all.

The key clause of the GPL is that anyone who receives this software from you is entitled to also receive the source code.

There are two aspects to this.

One, your customers never receive the software or any part of it. They are, therefore, completely irrelevant to the licensing question.

Two, "you" in this case is not you, the developer, but since you are working on this on company time, it is the company. And since you only give the software to other people working on company time, "you" (the company) are keeping it to "yourself", not distributing it, so the license doesn't apply.

  • 3
    I think it is worth to mention a 3rd aspect: imagine in a few years from now the OP wants to give or sell the internal software to business partners or customers. Then, they might become obliged to give them the source code and put the whole - formerly internal software - under GPL.
    – Doc Brown
    Sep 27, 2023 at 8:50

I would extend this a bit. First, if you don’t hand the open source code to anyone outside the company, you have no obligations whatsoever. However, if you hand it to a contractor who is not part of your company, that might count as distribution.

If one of your employees hands out the open source code against orders from the company, then they have the obligation to hand out your source code which would be copyright infringement, so doing that gets them into serious legal trouble, one way or another. Should they hand out your source code that’s worse because nobody is allowed to have your source code.

Now if you distribute the open source code to just one person in the world, then everyone and their dog has the right to demand your own source code from you. You can avoid this by handing out the open source code together with your own code, and you have no further obligations.

  • 1
    That last paragraph is not entirely correct. Only people who have received the product have a right to demand the source code. As every recipient has the right to re-distribute, there is no central registry who has received the product, but just knowing that a product (which you don't own) contains GPL code is not sufficient to demand that you are sent the source code. Oct 2, 2023 at 8:40

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