10

Do open source licenses such as GPL or MPL include page content such as text and such within the open source file, or just code, therefore layout?

Because if I go open source for my website can someone just host a duplicate and try to do a phishing operation where I can't do anything to stop them except for DMCA for images, but what about page content such as text?

3
  • 7
    I don't quite understand your concern about phishing. Even if a phisher does manage to use 100% free/open source software and correctly complies with all the content licenses, that would not somehow make the act of phishing itself legal (i.e. computer fraud). See also: opensource.stackexchange.com/questions/6073/…
    – Brandin
    Nov 13, 2023 at 10:48
  • 6
    This whole premise is kind of silly. If somebody wants to use your website's content and client-side code, they're just going to do it, regardless of licensing. They won't be deterred even by "all rights reserved". And if they did violate your copyright, that's unlikely to be effectively or usefully actionable: probably they're in a jurisdiction you can't reach, without assets to their name, and even assuming you win a court case against them, it's going to take long enough that the damage will be long done and they'll have moved on to a fresh new operation.
    – nobody
    Nov 13, 2023 at 14:14
  • 1
    Phishing is already a crime; they're not going to care about the DMCA (or copyright/trademark/licenses).
    – ceejayoz
    Nov 15, 2023 at 19:50

3 Answers 3

35

If you create the content of the website, you can license it however you wish, regardless of the licensing of the code and/or layout.

It's perfectly valid to have a license that boils down to "All code and layout as specified in files XYZ are licensed under the MIT license. All other content, including textual content and images are copyright to ABC and may not be redistributed without written permission."

5

I think you're asking the wrong question here, but I'm going to answer it as given, in the hope that this helps clear things up.

If I make my website open source, does it include page content?

Do open source licenses such as GPL or MPL include page content such as text and such within the open source file, or just code, therefore layout?

If you're creating a piece of software to run your website, you can license that software under an open source software license, such as GPL or MPL, or indeed others like AGPL or BSD.

However, if you're just, say, installing WordPress (or some similar product), creating a theme and writing content, then you're not creating a piece of software, so there's nothing to apply a software license to (regardless of open source or not). Similarly, if you're writing a good old-fashioned website in plain HTML and CSS, with nothing dynamic/interactive in it, then again there's no software there to license.

If you wish to release the theme/layout of your website under an open license, software licenses aren't really the right tool for the job (they have been used for this, but it creates some complications). Normally, you'd use a Creative Commons license, or something similar, if you wanted to do that. These (non-software) licenses can also be used for the content, but it's up to you to choose how much of your work to release under a particular license. If you wish to only release the theme/layout, and not the content, you can easily state something like "Theme released under CC-BY-SA, content © All Rights Reserved".

If you're creating a piece of software and a theme and the content, you could state "Powered by SoftwareProductName released under AGPL. Theme released under CC-BY-SA. Content © All Rights Reserved." (Or whatever licenses you wish to use.) Of course, you'd need to read up the specifics on the correct way to use each license you choose.

Because if I go open source for my website can someone just host a duplicate and try to do a phishing operation where I can't do anything to stop them except for DMCA for images, but what about page content such as text?

This was answered in a comment.

Using a software license won't do anything to stop phishing operations. Software licenses are legal tools, not technical ones; they don't prevent anyone doing anything, they just give you the right to bring certain legal actions against someone who goes against your license. Phishers will do what they do, license or no license.

So, go ahead and choose the license(s) you think work best for you, but don't base that choice on what you think phishers and other cybercriminals will do.

1
  • Thanks for the detailed answer. To be more clear, I published the source files, eg .html with an MPL license header. But now I realized I have textual page body content within these html files thus Im wondering if I have inadvertently also released the content itself as being free to use, which in my opinion it probably shouldn't and wouldn't be of use to anyone unless they want a clone of my site which would not be good from a business standpoint, and perhaps give a green card of "I had permission to use this" for abusers. Dec 13, 2023 at 0:08
-8

Open Source, as such, means nothing more, and nothing less, than that the source of a digital artifact is open for people to inspect. Any HTML page is open source to every single visitor, as the original HTML is sent to the visitor, for their browser to parse.

Open Source licenses are often (not always, but most times) Open Source and Free software licenses: people are allowed to use the software freely, without restrictions, and often (but not always) for free, as in gratis, as in for no money at all.

A license will do two things:

  1. protect the users of your software, because you have granted them rights (especially important if you want professionals/businesses to use your software, as they need reassurances)
  2. protect you if you are willing and able to sue people who violate the license

You may want to visit Choose A License which aims to help people explore licenses and decide on the right one for them. Mostly focused on software licenses, they also provide help with licenses for content or imagery.

2
  • 11
    Some do use the term open source in that way, but on this site we use the OSI's definition of open source, which differs from what you describe above. For clarity here, a better term for what you've described would be source-available. (This is one of a number of reasons why I myself prefer the term free software.)
    – MadHatter
    Nov 13, 2023 at 15:13
  • 8
    You're using some very unusual definitions here. What you describe would normally be called "source available" rather than open source Nov 13, 2023 at 17:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.