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If I use a GPLed image to illustrate a blog post, does that make the text of the blog post part a derivative work, thus "infecting" it with the GPL?

Or do only changes made to the image itself count as a derivative work?

Or, I suppose the most likely answer is: It depends. So, on what does it depend?

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    Perhaps the more pertinent question is: why is anyone licensing an image (a creative) under the GPL (a software license)?
    – ArtOfCode
    Aug 31, 2016 at 19:23
  • @ArtOfCode: It's a good question. I don't know. I thought of the question after reading this post which encourages the use of "GPL images" (albeit for reasons which I don't think are true).
    – Flimzy
    Aug 31, 2016 at 19:37
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    Merely referencing a work does not create a derivative work, which is what someone posting an image to their webpage would be doing (<img src="">).
    – EMBLEM
    Aug 31, 2016 at 21:23
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    @Flimzy Oh god. With the CC license, you have the rights to copy, modify and redistribute the materials only if you have the author’s permission for doing that... That was the most utter nonsense I've read in years... If only the author understood that there was also no one CC license... Anyways, there's some precedent for licensing media with software licenses, so I've started this question.
    – Zizouz212
    Aug 31, 2016 at 22:08
  • @Zizouz212 Please don't use terms like "oh god" in this sort of context. The Be Nice Policy asks Stack Exchange users to refrain from using "[l]anguage likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on . . . religion."
    – user5126
    Aug 31, 2016 at 23:43

1 Answer 1

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If I use a GPLed image to illustrate a blog post, does that make the text of the blog post part a derivative work, thus "infecting" it with the GPL?

First, GPL does not "infect" anything. This is not a virus. That important point being cleared, I would consider reusing an image in a blog post as side-by-side redistribution. Only the image has GPL obligations.

As a side note, the GPL is a poor choice for media in general as this was devised for code more than for data. I therefore may have some challenges to meet the GPL obligations for an image. I would consider a comment with credits to the author and a link to the GPL to be good enough for me and the author in most cases.

Or do only changes made to the image itself count as a derivative work?

Yes, in light of my comment above.

Or, I suppose the most likely answer is: It depends. So, on what does it depend?

I cannot fathom how it would depend on anything else assuming my blog post is HTML'ish.

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    Images can have source code. Most fractals are generated by software rather than drawn by hand. Same goes for screenshots of GPL software.
    – Kevin
    Sep 2, 2016 at 2:25
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    @Kevin true, but it's also true that the output of a GPL'ed program is not usually covered by the GPL. So just because the image has source code, even if that source is covered by the GPL, it doesn't automatically imply that the resulting image is.
    – MadHatter
    Sep 2, 2016 at 12:06
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    @Madhatter Say I take GPL-licensed SVG "source code" and create a Gif, I would tend to think the Gif image is still GPL, as would be a binary compiled from C... But that would be rather weird in all case: what would it mean for a 1kb Gif to be GPL'ed? 37kb of license, and a notice and the need to redistribute the SVG sources? :D Sep 2, 2016 at 19:26
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    @PhilippeOmbredanne I think we are in agreement that the GPL is a very odd licence to use for an image, which is probably why the GFDL (amongst others) was developed. I was merely unconvinced by Kevin's arguments as to how an image might end up under GPL, other than by explicitly being put there.
    – MadHatter
    Sep 2, 2016 at 19:58
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    @Kevin A screen shot of a GPL programme running will likely be covered by copyright, but almost certainly not be covered by that software's GPL; I have never heard anyone make such a contention before. If it contains visual resources (eg GIFs, JPEGs) that were themselves under GPL (which is still a bad idea, see premiss of question) then those elements of the screenshot will likely be GPLed, as they are simple copies. If you, as rights holder, wish to distribute the entire screenshot under any kind of copyleft, you had better make the licence explicit.
    – MadHatter
    Sep 3, 2016 at 7:09

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