My question is: where lies the border for a programmer to copyright new software when in GNU/linux basically everything is released on very restrictive licences that force you to copyleft your work?

The thing i need to know the most right now is: Bash is licensed under GNU GPL v3+, if I write a software with it do i hold the right to copyright my software?

P.S. I'm actually very fond of open source project, since if I'm here today as a "programmer" is thanks to countless of people who work for free every day, but I wish to know more on this subject to avoid screwing up when making software that i wish to copyright.

  • 1
    Great question, just a couple of things to clarify for you: you always own the copyright to whatever you write. How you license it when you distribute it is what the GPL restricts (if it derived from GPL code; not including being written with a GPL program). Secondly, open source developers don't work for free - free software means freedom for the users, not free of payment. There's still many business models that work with FLOSS software :)
    – Tim Malone
    Apr 29, 2016 at 10:58

1 Answer 1


If you are just using tools for software developmemnt like development environments, editors etc. which are licensed as mentioned above, this does not affect the legal terms under which you wish to license your software.

  • And you would decine bash scripting as a tool?
    – riccardo
    Apr 6, 2016 at 8:00
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    Jochen is right that using a tool - including bash - does not generally make the output of that tool a derivative work of the tool, and thus no copyright issue is engaged. There are occasional exceptions to that: GNU bison, for example, copies substantial amounts of its own source into its output, thus turning works created using bison into derivatives of bison. Its licence therefore includes an explicit exemption from the GPL for the otherwise-GPLed code bison includes in its own output.
    – MadHatter
    Apr 6, 2016 at 8:03
  • yes i would, because you could write you bash script in any editor and just execute it in the shell. Another thing is e.g. static linking of parts of the bash in your script, if possible, which would affect the license i think. Apr 6, 2016 at 8:04
  • I see, thank you for the feedback and a special thanks to @JochenSchwarze for pointing out the static linking issue, I think to have everything figured out, I'll leave open the post for another 24 hours then if nobody adds anything i would consider this case closed :)
    – riccardo
    Apr 6, 2016 at 9:10
  • There wouldn't be any static linking involved in a Bash script. There's no binary, no link step, just the text source code of the script itself which doesn't include any part of the Bash interpreter itself.
    – Todd Knarr
    Apr 6, 2016 at 17:52

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