GitHub Actions is a continous-integration service by GitHub. You can create actions that other people use in order to e.g. test their code.

Let's say, I license a github action with GNU GPLv3.

Do people using this action need to open-source and license their whole repository with GPL or is this just the case if they e.g. fork my action?

They just include the action by adding something like this to a yml file:

- using: myusername/myaction

This does not redistribute my code or create binaries or something like that.

1 Answer 1


It probably depends:

This does not look like adding source code. It looks like what makefiles add to a repository: instructions how to build your programme from source, specifying tooling in the required order. So it is an indication of using a certain toollike certain flags for certain compilers, to use make or whatever is needed to build your programme from source.

The answer might change when the tool actually injections something like libraries do... (which use the LGPL for that very reason). So GPL might be a requirement for the build artefacts, unless your tool chooses to use the LGPL.

Anyhow: IANAL.

  • My tool does not create any binaries/artifacts when used. Nov 29, 2019 at 9:37
  • And my action does not produce any output to the caller. The only thing is debug output and (maybe) an exit code. Nov 29, 2019 at 9:40
  • 3
    In that case: it definitely does not fall under source code, thus your tool being GPL does not impact the repo which states that it uses it as part of its toolchain Nov 29, 2019 at 11:59

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