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I work for a city and want to start releasing our projects with CC0 Public Domain license.

However, if we use other bits of code (dc.js, jquery, plugins for leaflet.js, etc) that are not CC0, is that allowed?

Or is there some other sort of wording that says CC0, except for bits that have a more restrictive license?

Or is it ok to use CC0, since the compilation of code we are using is CC0, we are not copyrighting the building blocks of code (libraries) used to make our site.

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By choosing a license for your project (here a public domain dedication), you effectively make a promise to your users about not only your own code but also all the dependencies for your code and the licenses of these dependencies.

In making a promise, you should be clear about your policy for these dependencies: are they all under the same terms (e.g. CC0) or do they use other licenses? If they do, they you should disclose this upfront as the combination of these deps may impose additional requirements on your re-users.

For instance if you depend on leaflet, its main license is a BSD, but it has plugins that you may use that themselves under other licenses and so on (here at least some MIT and Apache license at the first level of deps). And this all the way for the full dependency tree.

With the mere inclusion of a CDN URL you are also redistributing IMHO (the fact this is transferred from a CDN is irrelevant IMHO there, as you are the one triggering the effective reuse) and with redistribution you have obligations (in this case and per the license terms you would need to include somewhere at least the text of the leaftlet license and this text is inconveniently not included in the CDN itself).

So I would be clear in my README that there are other licensed components that are deps and what are the licenses. And I would include in my app proper some about page that lists all these and includes the corresponding license texts (and comply with anything else in terms of attribution and/or redistribution)

(side note: to help find out which licenses are used and what is the tree of deps you could check out my scancode)

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This is potentially a big question but the short answer is it depends - basically if the other components are:

  • Licenced in a manner that is not aggressively copyleft, i.e. allow other uses,
  • Used unchanged
  • Not being distributed just used
  • Correctly attributed on your site

Then in my non-expert opinion you should be OK but collect the licences of the packages that you plan to use then get the cities legal department to look them over complete with the licence for your site & a clear statement of your planned usage - they may well insist on consulting with a specialist in the legal requirements of Open Source software.

  • It's hard to imagine that JS libraries would be used without being distributed. But still JQuery wouldn't typically impose any restriction on the license of the program using it. – Zimm i48 Nov 29 '16 at 9:35
  • Thanks, the more I look, the more my head spins. Here are a couple examples from my work. If I link to cdn, am I not distributing it, so no need to worry about license? Example: <script src="unpkg.com/leaflet@1.0.1/dist/leaflet-src.js"></…> Then there are others that have no license or cdn, so I put in my js folder, <script src="js/L.Map.Sync.js"></script>. Source is here, github.com/turban/Leaflet.Sync. My code is all here, github.com/cityofhayward/historoscope. Thanks and I realize this probably is too big, but appreciate all of your efforts to guide me. – timlohnes Nov 29 '16 at 18:15

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