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I'm considering using a CANbus software package under GPLv3 that, in addition to code, contains data specifying the format of many hundreds of bus messages. I'm particularly interested in that data.

Does data (e.g. in JSON) that is distributed as part of this GPLv3 software package fall under GPLv3?

Does data that I generate using a GPL software package, from the data that was supplied as part of that software package, fall under GPL? (Think of making a conversion of the data that's more suitable for my purpose.)

Is data in a C header file considered data or code? If it's considered code, could I transform it into say JSON to get it outside GPLv3?

(Now that I'm talking about header files, a theoretical question: Could source code be transformed into another form to make it fall outside GPLv3?)

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Does data (e.g. in JSON) that is distributed as part of this GPLv3 software package fall under GPLv3?

Yes/No/Maybe. For copyright, it does not matter if a work consists or code, data, text, images, whatever. Except that certain types of data are not subject to copyright protections.

If those CANbus message formats are the original creation of the authors of the GPL package and the data is not also offered under a different license, then that data is subject to the GPLv3 license.

If the CANbus message formats were copied from another source (for example, a CAN specification), then you can use the message formats also under their original license.

Then there is the possibility that the message formats are "simple statements of truth" and not subject to copyright protection at all. In my opinion, it is unlikely that this case will apply to message structures.


Now that I'm talking about header files, a theoretical question: Could source code be transformed into another form to make it fall outside GPLv3?

No. If you transform source code, you are creating a derived work of the original and the GPL license requires that derived works are also licensed under the GPL license.

  • Thanks so far! These CANbus message formats are defined in a commercial standard (costing a few hundred $$$). But they have been recreated by reverse engineering CANbus logs. This allows publishing this information. If the formats were directly taken from the standard, publication would not be allowed. So it seems that the CANbus message formats can't be under GPLv3, right? – meaning-matters Dec 6 '19 at 17:39

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