I am building a functionality in my propriety software for translation of names between Spanish (and other languages) and English. The translation function works by typing words in Spanish which then performs a 'look-up' and 'match-up' function against a dictionary (database/text file) of Spanish to English translations. The translations are then used to perform the primary function of my software (which is compliance services and wholly unrelated to a translation type service - the translation function is just an optional first step so non-english speaking users can use the software.)

The complicating factor is that I want to use dictionaries licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA license. The dictionary is not integrated in to the software code or modified in any way, rather, it is provided as an external file which would be distributed as part of the software package (containing my proprietary software) for use in conjunction with the software, which carries out the data-mining exercise on the dictionary and spits out the results to the client. However, the software doesn't depend on the dictionary to work - it's more so the data that is fed in to it to generate results for the end client.

My main question is whether the above use case would constitute an "adaption" and therefore potentially require me to distribute my software under the same licence? I want to licence my software under my own strict commercial licence term so don't want to be subject to the 'ShareAlike' condition contained in the BY-SA licence terms.

I don't think the provision of the dictionary as part of my software package is adaption... however, I'm not so sure if the running of the translation function over the dictionary and the production of the results (albeit simply an automated presentation of the selected words already contained in the dictionary) is adaption.

Is there a simple way around this to avoid any risk of infringement? I could potentially distribute the dictionary to clients under a separate module and under the same CC-BY-SA licence but want to avoid this so not to detract from the client having a user-friendly experience.

I personally see the risk as low because it's not as if I am providing a marketed translated service - its more of an automation feature to support the real purpose of the software (automated compliance services.)

Thanks in advance for any insight on this.

  • 2
    "I could potentially distribute the dictionary to clients under a separate module and under the same CC-BY-SA licence but want to avoid this..." - Why do you want to avoid this? This seems like the minimum that you would be required to do. You are obviously using "the dictionary" in your program, and this is a use that requires copyright permission by the CC-BY-SA license. So why would you not be obligated to share it? SA is short for ShareAlike. See that site for the terms, and please clarify your question if it is still not clear.
    – Brandin
    Nov 13 '19 at 12:41
  • @Brandin thanks for your comment. As explained in the sentence that followed, I want to avoid distributing under a different module because it detracts from the user experience somewhat (or my developer said it would.) I know it stands for ShareAlike, but that condition only applies if there you 'adapt' (i.e. 'remix') the licensed material. Are you saying that my proposed use case would certainly be an "adaption"? I'm trying to avoid this so I aren't obliged under the BY-SA licence to distribute my proprietary software under the same BY-SA licence terms. Sorry if I am overcomplicating this!
    – glenisla
    Nov 13 '19 at 13:50
  • How are you going to distribute this 'proprietary' software? For example are you giving the program files and data over to the customer, who will then host that program and accompanying data files in some way of his choice (e.g. installed onto a workstation or server)? Are you building your own application and installing it onto your own server to run (e.g. to run your own web service)?
    – Brandin
    Nov 13 '19 at 18:58
  • The software will either be installed on-prem at client's location or alternatively (depending on client requirements) provided as a managed service i.e. hosted on Azure environment with access granted to client (I'll install and provide access to the computing environment). Yes building own application but either installed on client server on site or on cloud for remote access.
    – glenisla
    Nov 14 '19 at 14:41
  • @glenisla tell clients you are using the dictionary, and that they are free to pass it along (or use it themselves in another way). Adding a file to the distribution media isn't that costly... even better, allow them to change it for another (new version? client's own jargon?).
    – vonbrand
    Mar 12 '20 at 0:39

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