I am working on open source tool for which I want users to not remove or change product logo. Is this possible?

I had originally asked my question here at Stack Overflow but it was recommended that I ask here as well.

  • Haha! Welcome to Open Source!
    – Zizouz212
    Mar 9, 2016 at 0:50
  • 2
    It's not a popular policy to try to force this. Phrasing it as a polite request is much more popular. "BSD with attribution" is generally accepted though if you want to ensure you get credit for the project.
    – pjc50
    Mar 9, 2016 at 11:22

3 Answers 3


If you are the copyright holder, you are allowed to license however you wish. An example of a license you can use is the Common Public Attribution License, which contains this clause (paraphrased):

[…] the Original Developer may include […] a requirement that each time an Executable and Source Code or a Larger Work is launched or initially run […] a prominent display of the Original Developer's Attribution Information […] must occur on the graphic user interface employed by the end user to access such Covered Code […]

So with that license, you can require that anyone using your code must display your logo if they make a program with a GUI.

The more interesting question is whether such licenses are open source / free software.

Virtually all open source licenses have an attribution requirement of some sort, most are very lenient and easy to satisfy, but there have been examples of requirements so egregious that they've challenged the idea of whether the requirement is still open source. Attribution clauses that require prominent displays of product logos have been derisively called "badgeware".

It arguably began with SugarCRM, who initially released their products with a license based on MPL but with a so-called "badgeware clause". The software displayed a "Powered by SugarCRM" logo on all its pages, and the license stipulated that this logo cannot be replaced or removed. This caused a significant amount of community backlash, with many arguing such a requirement wasn't free/open, but it's not clear how - there weren't any clauses in say the Free Software Definition or Open Source Definition that explicitly ruled out badgeware clauses. It could be argued both ways: either it's simply a type of attribution requirement, or badgeware is a burden excessive enough to breach freedoms to derive or to use without discrimination.

Subsequently, OSI essentially threw the question back at the community and approved a "badgeware" license, the CPAL:

"The APL was not a widely used license, I suspect because of its complexity. Let's give attribution requirements another chance in a simpler license. If such a licensed software does not achieve the Open Source effect, it will put the issue to rest."

That is, "we'll call it open source but if nobody uses it then that's that."

SugarCRM on their part also dodged the debate by releasing their software under GPL later.

That's where we've been left today. Whether "badgeware" is open source / free software is an open question. CPAL itself is OSI- and FSF-approved, but interestingly not approved by Debian. What can be said though is that such licenses are highly unpopular. Just as the original BSD license fell out of use due to its "advertising clause", you may find that people will steer clear of your project if it uses a "badgeware" license, even if it is technically open source.


Congusbongus's answer provides excellent information on what I believe to be the removal and inclusion of a project's logo. However, I want to focus more on another part: changing the logo.

This dives a little more into copyright and trademark laws, the latter of which falls out of reign for most popular licenses: they come with no mention, or generally an explicit exclusion of a grant. One that famously comes to mind is the Apache license:

  1. Trademarks. This License does not grant permission to use the trade names, trademarks, service marks, or product names of the Licensor, except as required for reasonable and customary use in describing the origin of the Work and reproducing the content of the NOTICE file.

Generally, your logo can count as a trademark. Trademarks are automatic like copyright: you don't have to register them unlike systems such as patents. We use the (tm) symbol to represent an unregistered trademark, and (r) for registered trademarks.

Since you retain full rights to your logo, others' are not allowed to modify it. If you have a well known logo - other people can't attempt to profit by using your logo as a device. This stops them from making a simple change, such as rotating the image, or even the logo in it's original form, to use it for their own benefit.

It should be made clear however, that these don't stop other people from removing the logo outright. Nor does it stop other people from adding trademarks on their own, and exercising their rights on their respective trademarks.


You need to use trademark law for this, not copyright. To register the logo as a trademark, and enforce it isn't misused, you'd need to consult a real lawyer.

It being otherwise open source, users are certainly allowed to remove the logo, change the name and sail away into the sunset. It happened with Firefox and other Mozilla products, which restricted the use of the name and logos only to officially sanctioned changes. Debian replaced them (Iceweasel and so on).

Red Hat goes one step further, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution is under GPL, except for a set of packages containing logos and other material under trademark, they give instructions to replace them. to create your own rebranded distribution.

  • 10
    Trademark lets you ensure that no one uses the logo inappropriately. It doesn't give you a weapon against someone who doesn't use the logo. Mozilla's trademark can prevent the use of the Firefox branding on an unapproved app, prompting Iceweasel as an alternative. But if they wanted to prevent Iceweasel from existing, they couldn't use trademark to do that.
    – hobbs
    Mar 9, 2016 at 4:03

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