Is it possible to distribute binary files using any open source or Creative Commons license? In particular, I have several Flash videos (.swf files) whose sources (.fla files) are not available/lost. These videos need to be shipped with an open source project. I am looking for possible ways to address this situation. An option would be to recreate them using Flash or JavaScript, but that would be very costly in terms of effort, and therefore, does not seem feasible. I saw that BSD license has something related to "object code", but not sure if that is applicable here.

  • Does the project work without these videos? When that's the case you can just license the software under one license and the videos under another.
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 14:32
  • @Philipp The project, which is an web application, "works" without the videos in the sense that those videos are neither required to build/deploy the project nor any runtime exception is thrown in their absence. They are merely displayed. As mentioned in my other comment, those videos are planned to be licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 3. In other words, I agree with your suggestion.
    – Barun
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 18:24

1 Answer 1


Yes you can; you are the copyright holder so you can apply whatever license you want.

However, I recommend that you avoid the licenses designed for source code (such as GPL, BSD and so on) and choose a more general-purpose license. The Creative Commons licenses are an excellent choice; they have been used for books, photographs, music, movies and many more things. Flash videos are surely no problem.

The problem with source code licenses is that they can cause confusion, and worse, some like the GPL may not even work since they require access to the source code for binary distributions.

Since you want to integrate these files with an existing open source project, it's important to make sure that the licenses will be compatible. Fortunately most licenses do not consider binary files (like videos, images) as critical parts of the software, so most licensing choices should be safe. For example, people have licensed projects composed of GPL source code + proprietary assets.

  • 1
    I have considered using CC BY-NC-SA license for these videos. In fact, all other content (not source code) of the project would be distributed with that license. However, I am concerned about the "Adapt" clause of CC, which says that one can edit the content. Since, one can't edit the binary .swf files directly, would I still be required to provide the source (.fla) files if anyone asks for?
    – Barun
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 5:01
  • 1
    @Barun congusbongus has answered that question in Why is CC BY-SA discouraged for code? ("So someone is perfectly within their rights to take CC-BY-SA code, produce a derivative software, and only share the binary under CC-BY-SA."
    – apsillers
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 15:19
  • @apsillers I think the above answer, together with your pointer, satisfies my query. I would just wait a little, if there is something else, before accepting it.
    – Barun
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 18:37

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