According to https://www.libreoffice.org/about-us/licenses/:

LibreOffice is made available subject to the terms of the Mozilla Public License v2.0 which is reproduced below. It is based on code from Apache OpenOffice made available under the Apache License 2.0 but also includes software which differs from version to version under a large variety of other Open Source licenses.

I've looked up the LICENSE file of LibreOffice and found that it included software which are licensed under GPL v2 (e.g. libatomic-ops, poppler, MySQL Connector/C++).

Wouldn't that make LibreOffice, as a whole, a GPL software too?

  • 1
    The answer will likely be of the form, "The GPL components are used in such a way that they do not form a derivative work with the MPL components, so copyleft requirements do not apply to the MPL components." I have not looked at a specific library closely enough to give an answer, though.
    – apsillers
    Jan 23, 2018 at 3:28
  • It seems that the GPL components are statically linked with the MPL components, so as far as I understand the copyleft requirements are necessarily applied to the whole software, including the MPL components. Isn't it?
    – filupin
    Jan 23, 2018 at 22:51

2 Answers 2


This depends on how the software components are combined. If I take a MPLv2-licensed software and link it with GPLv2+ software, the resulting binary will fall under some GPL variant. This doesn't mean that the source code of the core software without those GPL additions is also GPLed.

The GPL FAQ discusses GPL plugins to non-GPL software in some length. E.g.:

Can I release a nonfree program that's designed to load a GPL-covered plug-in?

[…] If they form a single combined program then the main program must be released under the GPL or a GPL-compatible free software license, and the terms of the GPL must be followed when the main program is distributed for use with these plug-ins.

This is fine, because LibreOffice is licensed under the GPLv2+-compatible MPLv2. A LibreOffice binary that includes these GPLed plugins will of course have to be distributed under the terms of the GPL.

  • "This doesn't mean that the source code of the core software without those GPL additions is also GPLed." Well, it would mean that the source code is available under the GPL, since the executable code is, and the GPL is a license to both source and executable code (and since the copyright in the two is essentially the same). That said, they would still own the code they wrote, and be able to license it, alternatively, under any license of their choice. I'm assuming this is not what LibreOffice is doing, of course, since their main license is the MPL.
    – Daniel
    Mar 5, 2018 at 17:04
  • The quote from that FAQ means that you need permission to license it under the GPL -- that is to say, the licenses you have to the components must all be compatible with the GPL or else you're not allowed to release the whole thing under the GPL. It doesn't mean that you're immune from the GPL's requirements after you release that whole thing -- quite the opposite.
    – Daniel
    Mar 5, 2018 at 17:05

The GPL's copyleft functionality doesn't work in cases of "mere aggregation." It triggers when you're creating a derivative work, which is generally thought to include all linking and a few other interactions, but not other interactions. Which interactions, exactly, are far enough, and which are too close and trigger the copyleft requirements, is a tricky question people debate pretty often.

That said, LibreOffice is big enough that there's probably an attorney advising them, which means that this probably wasn't done haphazardly. I'd think that LibreOffice is primarily licensed under the MPL, with some parts under the GPL as necessary.

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