I'm creating a GPL v3 application. I've found some graphics on www.flaticon.com that I would like to use in the application. The application will be distributed as binary, but with the resources as-is in a subdirectory of the binary. As well as the binary distribution, the application (including resources) will also reside on a publicly accessible repository.

Now, flaticon (owned by Freepik) states that all graphics are free to use for web usage and software applications and such, as long as you credit the author. This is fine and no problem, which is why I went ahead with the project in the first place.

However, reading the license more closely, it states that:

What you CAN NOT DO:

Sublicense, sell or rent any contents (or a modified version of them).

Distribute Freepik Contents unless it has been expressly authorized by Freepik.

Include Freepik Contents in an online or offline database or file.

Offering Freepik Contents designs (or modified Freepik Contents versions) for download.

The full license can be seen here (about half a page): https://profile.freepik.com/license/free

As I'm not well-versed in legalese, I would be grateful for help/clarification on the following points:

  • Am I violating their license?
  • Is their license somehow incompatible with GPL, or does that only extend to program source?
  • How would it ever be possible to include resources such as theirs, without redistributing in some sense (even on the web)?

Edit: I actually have contacted them with the same question, but it seems they're not responding.

2 Answers 2


Generally, the question of whether artwork forms a combined work with software that displays has been addressed in What do I need to share if I include CC-BY-SA artwork in my software?. If your art does not make a derivative work with your code, it's okay if the licenses are not compatible (but it's not completely clear under what circumstances code and art make a derivative work). If indeed your project includes an aggregation of two separate parts (code and data) that are not a combined work, then the GPL could stop at the code only, and the data could be separately licensed. (When the GPL-licensed code consumes the data for display, it would likely be just data and not necessarily part of the GPL work.) If you do this, include a LICENSE file that clearly indicates which parts are licensed which way.

Note, however, that the standard Freepik license does not allow distribution, which makes it unsuitable for any works that you plan to distribute. The page you've linked to is not the full license. The last line says:

The complete content of licenses can be consulted on the Terms of Use, that will prevail over the content of this document.

This appears to refer to section 7 of the Freepik Terms of Use, "APPLICATION END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT". These terms not only appears to be clearly incompatible with the GPL, they also appear to expressly forbid redistributing any Freepik images under any circumstances.

The three particular permissions granted are (emphasis mine, here and following):

FreePik grants the User a non-transferable, limited, non-exclusive, worldwide license for the duration of the relevant rights; to download, use and modify FreePik Content, in a device the User owns or controls and only for the purposes and uses allowed in these Terms.

The permission to "use" is tremendously ambiguous, so you might assume it includes the right to redistribute, but the license's list of restrictions says:

The User may use the FreePik Content provided that it: (i) does not involve collective use, [...] (iii) the FreePik Content is not used or included in a database or archive in such a way that could prevent or limit future visits or downloads from the Website (iv) does not resell, assign, transfer or sublicense the FreePik Content or any derived work from a FreePik Content [...]

This prohibition against redistribution is reiterated in a later paragraph:

The User does not acquire any right as a result of the use of the FreePik Content. In particular, the User is not authorized to distribute, resell or rent any FreePik Content (or any modification of any FreePik Content).

Apparently the only rights being licensed in the text of the actual license are the rights to modify Freepik images (but not distribute those modifications) and to display Freepik images (and derivatives) in a way that does not cause distribution, for example, inclusion in a physical art display or use in a presentation.

Presumably, since Freepik said elsewhere that you may use their images in contexts that do require distribution like on a Website or in software, they would be estopped from denying you that right for such use, provided you followed all other conditions, but I would be very concerned that such use is expressly contrary to the text of the formal license grant in the Terms of Use.

  • 1
    Thanks a lot for your great and extensive answer! I recieved answer from flaticon, btw, with the expected response: "We are sorry to inform you that our Terms of Use do not allow this usage of our resources. You are not authorized in any case to make business or deliver the original (or modified) AI/PSD/EPS file to anyone, sub-license, resell, redistribute or rent any of our resources. Freepik/Flaticon resources can't be stored in any kind of online/offline database where they are offered as editable or downloadable contents."
    – Shaggi
    Mar 17, 2016 at 21:08
  • 1
    I wrote them back, acknowledged their answer, but asked them to elaborate on the use-cases of their service, seeing as you can effectively not use it for software and web.
    – Shaggi
    Mar 17, 2016 at 21:09

Any combined work has to abide by the licenses of all pieces. If one of them is "ambiguous", the whole's license is ambiguous... and might even make the result illegal to distribute, if the terms contradict. For example, GPL forbids "further restrictions", so combining with anything whose license imposes "further restrictions" creates something you might be allowed to use (but the other license may forbid "use with GPLed software, for one), but not distribute at all.

  • Can you elaborate what you mean with "combined work"? I can imagine ways of combining works for which your claim that all individual licenses apply to the whole is invalid. Feb 22, 2020 at 7:30

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