I've rewritten my personal website using this https://github.com/bk2dcradle/researcher . I've made some significant changes. Like I did on my previously (built from scratch) website, I'd like to add something like a

Copyright <my name>

at the bottom. I was thinking of something like

Copyright <my name> | I like this website

Where I implicitly link it to the page. I'd also prefer keeping my source code private.

Is this within the legal implications of the License? It seems the project is licensed with the GNU GPL V3 here https://github.com/bk2dcradle/researcher#license

I have a hard time understanding open source licenses and their implications :(

2 Answers 2


Short overview:

The GPL-licensed code you modified is a web page template, and the code you want to distribute as a web site is the output of rendering that template with some of your own text and images. These are two different works. However, since the template-rending process leaves substantial portions of the GPL-licensed template in the output web page, the web page is a derivative of the template, and it can only be distributed under the GPL as well. (See the second paragraph of this GPL FAQ item.)

Long answer:

The central principles of the GNU GPL are:

  • If you make a derivative of a GPL-licensed work, then your derivative is required to be under the GPL.

  • Whenever you distribute a GPL-licensed work (including a modification), the license requires that you make available the human-readable source code to anyone who receives a copy of the work.

  • Recipients should be aware the work is licensed under the GPL. If you distribute the work verbatim, you must keep notices intact; if you modify the work, you must ensure that notices about the work's license are present.

In your case, the applicable requirements, taken from sections 4, 5, and 6 of the text of the GPLv3 are:

  • conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy [of the software] an appropriate copyright notice
  • keep intact all notices of the absence of any warranty
  • give all recipients a copy of this License along with the Program
  • The work must carry prominent notices stating that you modified it, and giving a relevant date.
  • The work must carry prominent notices stating that it is released under this License
  • You must license the entire work, as a whole, under this License to anyone who comes into possession of a copy. This License will therefore apply [...] to the whole of the work, and all its parts, regardless of how they are packaged. This License gives no permission to license the work in any other way, but it does not invalidate such permission if you have separately received it.

Finally, if what you distribute is not the preferred form for making modifications, you must also choose a method from section 6 to make the source code available to anyone who receives a copy of your site.

These requirements apply to whatever GPL-licensed material you actually deliver to the recipient viewing your page. If there is GPL-licensed code that constructs your page before it is delivered to the viewer, and no one ever receives a copy of that page-constructing code, you do not need to share that unseen code in any form. However, any GPL-licensed material that the user does receive, such as the HTML, CSS, or JavaScript that the browser renders, must be licensed under the GPL (and appropriately marked) if it is based on GPL-licensed material.

Strictly speaking, the recipients already have received the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, so you might not need to distribute it separately. However, be aware that:

  • You still need to ensure the files are marked as being GPL-licensed

  • You need to make sure the files are not minified or obfuscated, since that is not "source code" as the GPL defines it (specifically, the "preferred form for making modifications")

  • Depending on the structure of your site, people may find it difficult to gather all the separate files involved in your site -- it would be much easier to provide them as a source-controlled repository or as a downloadable file archive (tar, zip, etc.). Without doing this, a copyright holder could make the argument that your are deliberately impeding people's ability to usefully download the complete source. (It is difficult to say whether or not such an argument would be correct, and may depend on the specifics of how your files are structured and used within the browser client during rendering.)

All these requirements could be satisfied by a simple footer like

© 2018 {my name}
Based on Researcher theme, © 2017 {original author}
Licensed under GNU GPLv3 | download the source here

The "GNU GPLv3" link should be to a locally-hosted copy of the text of the GPL, available from the same server as your site as a whole. The source-download link may point to a remote code-hosting site or a file download where users can download the complete HTML, CSS, and JavaScript of the built site. You do not need to share the Jekyll template, which is never distributed to a viewer of the website.

These requirements are not affected by whether your distribution is commercial or noncommercial.

At this point, you might be saying, "Wow, do I really need to license my entire site under the GPL just because the template is under the GPL? That doesn't seem great." In fact, the Free Software Foundation agrees with you, and explicitly discourages the use of copyleft licenses for website templates:

Templates are minor enough that it is not worth using copyleft to protect them. It is normally harmless to use copyleft on minor works, but templates are a special case, because they are combined with data provided by users of the application and the combination is distributed. So, we recommend that you license your templates under simple permissive terms.

So, the author of the Researcher template chose to license their template under the GPL, in contravention of the FSF's advice. However, since the original author did choose the GPL for their template, you must deal with the consequences: namely, your entire site that is the built from this template must be licensed under the GPL to avoid a license violation.

  • (Copying this question from the below comments for your answer for your opinion as well) - Ah alright. Say hypothetically, If someone built their website inspired by this theme (not a drop in replacement as such), don't have a copyright on their website, don't acknowledge the work, have close sourced the code, don't use it for commercial gain - what can be the legal implications ?
    – gabbar0x
    May 15, 2018 at 8:21
  • Using some software to host a web site is not generally distribution of that software. For example, I use MySQL GPL edition to run the database which hosts my web site. It does not mean that I have to advertise to web site visitors the fact that I am using that software, nor does it mean that I have to provide them with the source code to MySQL (which I modified).
    – Brandin
    May 15, 2018 at 11:17
  • 1
    @Brandin Irrespective of whether there is server-side software involved, the site appears to deliver GPL-licensed material directly into the local memory of the computer viewing the web page. Consider default.html and _style.scss both of which are distributed in some form to the person viewing the site. Or is there something I'm missing -- do you think those files are ineligible for copyright, or not GPL'd, or something else?
    – apsillers
    May 15, 2018 at 11:25
  • 1
    @Brandin Ah, I see I did say to distribute the "source code necessary to build a copy of your site" but indeed the OP's GPL obligations are limited to the built files only; any files responsible for building them are not distributed. I've edited to clarify this point: GPL obligations still apply, but only to the material of the page that is actually distributed. Does that satisfy your concerns, or is there a anything more I've missed?
    – apsillers
    May 15, 2018 at 11:55
  • default.html is the source code. The HTML result that a visitor sees is the output; you do not need to license your own HTML page (which includes your own copyrighted content) as GPL as well. However, it would be better if the license said this explicitly, in the same way that GCC's license says that the binaries emitted by it are not GPL just because you used GCC to produce them.
    – Brandin
    May 16, 2018 at 8:05

Developers who write software can release it under the terms of the GNU GPL. When they do, it will be free software and stay free software, no matter who changes or distributes the program. We call this copyleft: the software is copyrighted, but instead of using those rights to restrict users like proprietary software does, we use them to ensure that every user has freedom.

Whenever someone conveys software covered by GPLv3 that they've written or modified, they must provide every recipient with any patent licenses necessary to exercise the rights that the GPL gives them. In addition to that, if any licensee tries to use a patent suit to stop another user from exercising those rights, their license will be terminated.


In other words you can use this open source resume template tool. You can make changes to it. Once you start having others use it, then you need to make them aware of their rights to the original code. What you suggested does not meet that requirement.

  • Does that code have to be open source (public), if it's non commercial?
    – gabbar0x
    May 14, 2018 at 14:32
  • @bholagabbar: The idea behind the GPL license is that code that falls under that license can only be used in open-source projects. These can be commercial or non-commercial projects as long as they are open-source (with the same freedoms and guarantees that the GPL gives). May 14, 2018 at 17:57
  • Ah alright. Say hypothetically, If someone built their website inspired by this theme (not a drop in replacement as such), don't have a copyright on their website, don't acknowledge the work, have close sourced the code, don't use it for commercial gain - what can be the legal implications ?
    – gabbar0x
    May 15, 2018 at 8:20
  • 2
    @bholagabbar Being "inspired" is not copying. If you copy and modify a work, that is a derivative work. If you make your own work simply to emulate the appearance of the old one, it is most likely not a derivative work, but if the new version is very similar, someone might suspect it is a derivative work anyway. If you use someone's copyrighted work without permission (not adhering to the license means you do not have permission), they could sue you for copyright infringement and that may cost you a lot of money.
    – Brandin
    May 15, 2018 at 11:20

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