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I've created a personal project and licensed it as GPL3 (I'm a fan of the open source movement). The source code is posted publicly on GitHub. I'm planning on submitting it to the Siemens Competition, a science/engineering fair.

All was fine and dandy until I discovered the following in the Siemens rules manual:

How do I cite my source code? You need to place the code in a repository , for example GitHub , and link to your GitHub account in your references (please also list the log - on information) . Keep in mind a ny sites you post to must be anonymous . There is usually a name associated with the account, so you would need to name the account “ Competition Entrant ” to avoid being disqualified for personally identifiable information.

So, it looks like I'll have to make a copy of the repository somewhere, using an anonymous account, and share that with my paper.

If I do that, am I in compliance GPL? Isn't one of the clauses of GPL that source code must cite the original author? How does it work if I am the original author, but am posting it anonymously or under a pseudonym somewhere?

I doubt there's any risk of litigation, and I don't think there's anything immoral about this arrangement; but I'd like to stay in the clear for GPL as a matter of principle.

  • If you're the author, then you're not someone who needs to adhere to the license. Licenses are for other people. – curiousdannii Jul 7 '18 at 12:15
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As the author of the software, you can never be in-violation of the GPL.

From the FAQ on gnu.org:

Is the developer of a GPL-covered program bound by the GPL? Could the developer's actions ever be a violation of the GPL? (#DeveloperViolate)

Strictly speaking, the GPL is a license from the developer for others to use, distribute and change the program. The developer itself is not bound by it, so no matter what the developer does, this is not a “violation” of the GPL.

However, if the developer does something that would violate the GPL if done by someone else, the developer will surely lose moral standing in the community.

(https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#DeveloperViolate)

This is assuming the software is indeed entirely written by you and you own the copyright on it. Vs say if it was GPL and not in some way a derived work of say a GPL licensed software.

In general you own the copyright, you can more or less do what you want. The GPL has no terms that really refer to your actions.

If for some reason you wanted to tangle though the idea of treating “Competition Entrant” as a separate person from you. Then the sensible thing to do would be to grant another license exclusively to “Competition Entrant” that does not have the GPL clauses about crediting the original author.


As an aside:

That policy is rather silly. Asking you to create a fake account on Github is pretty dubious, and an unnecessary amount of work. If the entry date is soon then comply (maybe using a service other than Github), and afterwoods complain about it. If it is a while away, then complain now.

Assuming there is a general need to submit things online (like the write-up), then they should be allowing you to submit a zip file full of code. This is what CS and Engineering research conferences do.

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Strictly speaking you do not have to have an identifying copyright notice with your GPL-licensed code... yet a copyright license (which is what most consider the GPL to be) somehow begs for such an identifying copyright notice, does it not?

Yet, you can still use a GPL without a copyright notice: this is weird but you are entitled to do this alright.

That said, the whole idea of posting to a public, non-anonymous-site such as GitHub that also should be non-identifying is rather silly. If you have to go through this, do it. You could always add back a proper copyright notice once the competition is over.

Note also that irrespective of the GPL, you may also be granting some license of your submitted code to the organizing body and this may weaken your GPL license:

Research Reports and findings are the property of the students. You agree to permit the Siemens Foundation and Discovery Education to utilize and share the reports, including any parts and any other documents or corroborating materials (in any form or medium) submitted to supplement the original report, with third parties as it deems appropriate in their respective sole discretion.

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Publishing something under a pseudonym does not mean you don't have copyright. There are just two problems:

  • If you want to sue someone for violating your copyright, you don't just need to prove that they are violating the license of the work, but also that you are the one behind the pseudonym.
  • Hiding your true identity makes you less trustworthy. So it might be more likely that someone doubts that your work is actually yours and that you have permission to put it under GPL.
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The intent of the clause is to prevent yourself being unfairly selected or judged over any other participant. If personally identifying information isn't available beyond an email address that people who havn't interacted directly with you it's probably fine. Would every entrant really go through this?

As for the GPL as long as it's your code, and you have taken no other contributions without a contract changing ownership, then you are free to relicense it however you wish, and ascribe copyright to any relevent pseuodym

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