I'm working for a company that stores millions of newspapers articles. Subscribers can log on our site and make queries. Our search engine returns articles that match the queries.

I know that in general, a company can use GPL Stanford software commercially as long as all their source code is available and the GPL is preserved in their distribution. The case here is that we dot not distribute any code binaries to clients. Clients only log in, make queries and get results. In this particular case, can we use Stanford NER free of charge or do we have to purchase a commercial license?

  • 4
    Do you ever send any part of the NER code to a client? (Most likely you would do this if it were a JavaScript library run in the client's browser.) If not, you do not satisfy the GPL's definition of "conveying" and do not have any responsibilities under the license. ("Mere interaction with a user through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not conveying.")
    – apsillers
    Nov 5, 2015 at 19:44
  • Do the named entities extracted by the NER program are part of the NER code?
    – Patrick
    Nov 5, 2015 at 19:50
  • 3
    The only part that can be problematic is software that's part of NER and actually run on the client browser. JavaScript is the most likely candidate, other possibilities are Java Applets, Flash, or ActiveX extensions.
    – Martijn
    Nov 6, 2015 at 9:54

1 Answer 1


The GPL only requires to publish and license sourcecode when either sourcecode or compiled binaries are conveyed to another party. Any code which is executed on your own servers is not conveyed. The GPL does not apply to the output, unless it copies part of the GPL code into that output (Javascript, for example).

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