I want to develop an idea for a commercial web application.

To provide that service (and get paid for it), I need to use an external executable software somewhere in the process, which is licensed under GPLv2 or later. I only need to install it (separately) in the server. Then, send it some parameters from my web application, execute it, and get its output back again to my web flow.

Will I have any legal problem doing this?

What kind of implications could the use of that external executable have?

1 Answer 1


No, you will not get any legal problems with your idea.

First of all, it is perfectly fine to use GPL licensed software for commercial purposes. You just have to meet the requirement that the people that get a copy of the binary also get access to the source code and the right to modify the GPL licensed software.

As the users of a web application don't receive a copy of the server-side backend code, the distribution terms of the GPL are not applicable to those users and you don't have to provide any code to them.

Furthermore, if the GPL software exists as a separate executable and only communicates with your web application as two different, independent executables in such a way that the GPL program could have been any program that works similarly, then they are considered separate, independent works for copyright purposes. This means that the GPL terms don't apply to your web application and you can keep that under any license that you choose.

  • Thank you very much Bart! Very clear explanation, exactly what I needed.
    – andcl
    Feb 25, 2018 at 10:38

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