I have a question about licensing, and because my legal English isn't really strong, I was hoping for a simple answer...

My idea is to create a set of services, that uses command line programs which are licensed under LGPL and LGPLv3 and distribute amazon AMI for a fee. The question is should my code be also LGPL, and if not, can i charge people for this?

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    Cool! Just remember that none of us are lawyers either, and that the answers that we give are out of good faith, and are not legal advice :) – Zizouz212 Mar 1 '16 at 20:26
  • I thought some of you may have experience with this legal stuff. :) – Štef FoReal Mar 1 '16 at 20:44
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    Oh no, I'm not saying that we can't give you an answer - I'm just saying that you can't use us as your lawyer. We'd still be more than happy to provide an answer though :) – Zizouz212 Mar 1 '16 at 20:51
  • Are you asking only about using free software to offer a network service? Or do you plan to offer your code to other people? – apsillers Mar 1 '16 at 21:21
  • Amazon AMI is a snapshot of a OS. All the installed software is on it. On AMI would be my services and free software, but I intent to charge for it, if possible. – Štef FoReal Mar 1 '16 at 21:50

The question is should my code be also LGPL, and if not, can I charge people for this?

The LGPL draws a distinction between two kinds of new work that make use of an LGPL-licensed library:

  • modifications to the library, where the LGPL-licensed work is modified directly
  • a "combined work" (or "work that uses the library" in v2.1), where a separate application uses the library

In the first case, changes to the library must be licensed under the LGPL. In the second case, only the library must be released under the LGPL; the application that uses the LGPL-licensed work does not need to be licensed under the LGPL. (It must follow a few guidelines, though. Notably, it must be easy to for users to make the application use a replacement library if a user wants to substitute the LGPL-licensed library with a different version.)

However, it's possible that you don't even need to follow any of these rules, if your code doesn't combine with the LGPL-licensed work into a single program in either of the above-mentioned ways. If your work is stand-alone program, and only invokes the LGPL-licensed work as a separate program, then your code not bound by any of the LGPL's rules. The distinction between one program with two parts and two separate programs that call one another is a hazy metaphysical and legal distinction; the FSF has some guidelines on how they feel about the subject in their FAQ. If you wish to play it safe, then assume you do form a single program and license your work accordingly.

Finally, you may charge whatever you please for the act of transferring a copy of free software, even if your software is under the LGPL. See the FSF's article "Selling Free Software" for a robust treatment of the subject.

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