I like the jQuery Isotope plugin and I want to use it on my website. I was wondering if it was OK to use it without a licence.

It's licensed under either GPLv3 as an open-source license, or there's a commercial license available if you want to keep your code proprietary.

I am not gonna sell the plugin or claim its mine.. I just want to view a couple of images and categories to my clients.

Is this OK? Will they sue me?

  • Well, if you use any software without a license you are in violation of copyright...
    – vonbrand
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 12:32

2 Answers 2


If you use a copyrighted work in a way that is normally an exclusive right of the copyright holder (redistributing the work, creating a derivative work, etc.), and your use has not been licensed by the copyright holder, then you are committing copyright infringement. The decision of whether or not to sue you for copyright infringement is entirely up to the individual copyright holder.

That said, if you've downloaded the open-source version of the code, you have already been granted a license to use the work under the terms of the GPLv3. If you don't want to pay for a commercial license, then you must follow the terms of the GPLv3. If your use correctly obeys the GPLv3, then your use is licensed and you cannot be successfully sued for such use. (Note that they could still file suit against you -- anyone may do so at any time, for more or less any reason -- but their suit will almost certainly not prevail, because it would be completely baseless.)

If you use violates the GPL, then you would be operating outside the scope of the license grant and you would be liable for infringement. For example, if you do not also make your work available under the GPL (or a GPL-compatible license) when you distribute it, and appropriately make your human-readable source code available, then distribution of your code combined with Isotope would violate the GPL.

If you are selling the code you write to your clients, and they do not wish to abide by the terms of the GPL, I would suggest you (or your client(s)) purchase a license to relieve them of the requirement to make their source code available.

  • 1
    "Note that they could still file suit against you -- anyone may do so at any time, for more or less any reason" And if they keep filing baseless suits, they get punished
    – anon
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:08
  • @apsillers, By "appropriately make your human-readable source code available", do you mean gnu.org/software/librejs/free-your-javascript.html ?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 17:13
  • @apsillers, Re "purchase a license", what if there is no license to purchase? What if its GPL or nothing?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 17:15
  • @Pacerier By "appropriately make your human-readable source code available" I mean complying with the requirements of the GPL for distribution (e.g., sections 5 and 6 of GPLv3). LibreJS is a great way to provide a machine-readable license grant in your JavaScript (e.g., so that your browser can be configured to run only freely-licensed JS), but you are not obligated to make your license grant machine readable; it is only necessary that the license grant (and the the corresponding source or its network location) be viewable by and comprehensible to the user who receives a copy.
    – apsillers
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 17:21
  • @Pacerier If there is no other license option for a library I wanted to include in a project for a client, then I would ask my client if they were comfortable licensing their website as a whole under the GPL, or if I should seek out or write a replacement for the GPL-licensed library.
    – apsillers
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 17:25

Because the previous question does not make it clear, IMO:

Isotope is Javascript. You distribute it as part of the Javascript on your website. That means your website is a Derived Work, and must itself be licensed under the GPLv3 (or under the commercial license terms, which in this case is an alternative).

However, you can still charge your clients for configuring & testing that it works as they want it. GPL doesn't prevent you from making money, you just have to abide by the GPL rules when doing so.

  • A GPL plugin wouldn't necessarily make the entire website into GPL, but it could be argued that it would make any code that calls the plugin into GPL. Seeing as you are distributing the source code anyway (because it's the web!) this make compliance very easy. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 12:18
  • 1
    Even in the classical UNIX process model, the GPL already can suffer from boundary definition problems, and with websites it's even more so. But in general, it is not just the direct caller which must be licensed as GPL, but the whole work - and that in the end is a legal definition whichmy very well be explained as all Javascript on the website.
    – MSalters
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 12:27
  • Yeah, but it would be hard to argue I think that a GPL JS plugin would make all of the text/images/other content GPL. That's more what I meant. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 12:28
  • @curiousdannii: You may think so, but do not assume that. Ballmer wasn't entirely off-base when he was ranting about the GPL. The two legal questions to answer are: (1) is the website a Work in the sense of the copyright act, and (2) is it a Derived Work, derived from the plugin ? As I believe both to be true, it follows that the Work itself must be licensed under the GPL.
    – MSalters
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 12:32

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