I have created an open-source project in github and R around financial calculations under GPL v3.

Today I saw in the traffic graph of github that someone cloned the repository and that there was a visit from this referring site: jira."company name".com

I researched a bit the "company name" and it seems that it is a financial technology company which sells non open-source systems.

So, it is apparent that they downloaded my software and even put a link to their jira system towards it.

I think that this is illegal, correct? How should I proceed so as to ask for a fee for the use of my software?

  • 4
    From your description, it's not clear at all whether they are potentially violating GPL by shipping it in closed source software, or merely using GPL software internally/privately, which is perfectly fine. A link in an internal JIRA doesn't prove anything. Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 23:57
  • ok today also they added a linked from their portal to view it better. Yes, a link doesn't prove anything but what if they advertise in some time a product with the same focus as my open source project? It's not getting more obvious that they actually used the code?
    – sen_saven
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


No, cloning your GIT repository into their JIRA is not yet illegal.

Remember that the GPL only covers redistribution, not use. When they just want to look at it (maybe to check what the competition is doing) or use it internally, this is perfectly fine and within the coditions of the GPL. They can even change it for internal use without having to do anything.

But they start violating your copyright the moment they integrate your code into a non-GPL program and distribute this program to other parties. Unless you have good reason to believe that this is happening, you have no legal basis for doing anything against it. You might still want to keep an eye on them and wait if they announce a product which sounds suspiciously similar to yours.

  • Hi Philipp, Thanks for your reply. Probably they will actually start selling an application around the same financial regulation that my open source project is around....it's in their core business to do so... So I should wait until they actually start advertising the product until I contact them with legal claims? Thanks
    – sen_saven
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 20:56
  • @user3578718 You should ask your lawyer about when is the right time to take what legal action.
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 22:10

The GPL3 license does not prevent people from using your code in commercial apps. It requires that they comply with the license to use your software. As the copyright owner of the code you have the right to contact them and find out if they are complying with the terms of the GPL3. If they aren't you can let them know that they do not have the right to use your code until they do. The Free Software Foundation (fsf.org) can help you if there is an issue with GPL compliance. You may want to change the terms of use for your code if you don't want people using it for commercial products for free. For example, there are Creative Commons licenses with non commercial options. You can also dual license the code, GPL3 or introduce your own commercial terms (where they have to pay you for use).

  • 2
    The CC licenses (except for CC0, essentially public domain) are not recommended for code.
    – vonbrand
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 1:00
  • The biggest issue here is that if something is GPL, it cannot be used in a proprietary program. If it's ever distributed, it must be accompanied by an offer of source code - thereby breaking the "closed-ness" of a program. You could dual-license, but it comes with implications: the code must be completely yours is one that notably comes to mind.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 2:08
  • 2
    Please be very careful with the term 'use' in regard to software licensed under the GNU GPL. The FSF has defined more precise terms just to avoid ambiguity. Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 11:01

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