What means "distribution" for Open Source licenses MIT and GPL? Is the client side code running on user's browser "distribution" for these licenses?

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The GPL does not define "distribution" but mentions it as a subclass of "propagation" (which is itself a subclass of "conveyance"):

To “propagate” a work means to do anything with it that, without permission, would make you directly or secondarily liable for infringement under applicable copyright law, except executing it on a computer or modifying a private copy. Propagation includes copying, distribution (with or without modification), making available to the public, and in some countries other activities as well.

To “convey” a work means any kind of propagation that enables other parties to make or receive copies. Mere interaction with a user through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not conveying.

In your case, since a copy of client-side code is transmitted to another person, the GPL's requirements about conveyance (notably, supplying access to corresponding source and making the recipient's GPL rights clear) apply to the client-side code you transmit to a user.

The same is true for code under an MIT/X11 license, though in that case your requirement are merely limited to preserving the license text and copyright headers, not sharing the corresponding source.


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