I am referring to open source software used in commercial products sold in different countries. Is fulfilling the license obligations described in the license text enough or there are also local laws that must be taken in consideration ?

LE: I guess the question is too generic, therefore I would focus on L(GPL)v2 Licenses.

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    What license or what term of the license are you thinking about, and in what country do you think it wouldn't apply? Once you have those specifics, maybe you should ask on Law StackExchange.
    – Brandin
    Jan 25, 2018 at 15:18
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    Local laws must always be taken into account, because they can override/nullify clauses in a license. Jan 25, 2018 at 17:26
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    I heard that with Public Domain, you give away all rights and, in Germany, you cannot give away all your rights as the creator. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Public_domain and search for Germany. There are also Country specific rules.
    – User
    Jan 28, 2018 at 16:15

2 Answers 2


I can not cover it all here, but

  • Public domain is not accepted everywhere (Creative commons zero license does what public domain should do).
  • There is a clause that says “no warranty”, however if you sell the software, then you are bound by local sales laws. Consumer protection, etc.
  • Some jurisdictions have software patents, so it may be illegal to create, sell, buy, use, import, or export the software.
  • Some jurisdictions have Digital Restrictive Management, therefore it may be illegal to create, sell, buy, use, import, or export the software.
  • Some jurisdictions have laws about encryption therefore …
  • and the rest, there are probably more, but I don't know.

Use a good existing licence (approved by the Free Software Foundation). These have been checked by good lawyers, that insure that the licences are applicable globally. However there is nothing that can be said in a licence that can undo a law.

That been said: The GPL says you don't have to accept the licence, but if you do not, then note that this work is copyright, so you are bound by laws, and cannot do anything but use it.

This licence gets away with this, because if you choose not to accept it, then you are worse off.


To complete some other replies, legally speaking, as long as you accept to follow the terms of a given licence, you accept to make it the applicable law in case of litigation. This doesn't exclude the possibility for the jurisdiction which will hear the case to outlaw/render inapplicable a provision of the licence, if it is judged to be illegal by this jurisdiction. But still, the licence is deemed to be applicable before all. So, I guess the straight-forward answer to your question would be : as a general rule, yes.

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