Hot answers tagged

58

The GPL, and software licensing in general, must be understood in the wider context of copyright. Only the copyright holder of a software can issue a license. You have no rights to the software, except through the license (and except for copyright exceptions in your jurisdiction). The GPL does not give you the right to re-publish the software under any ...


47

The FSF believes, in the jurisdictions they have considered, that the transfer of GPL-licensed software by an employer to an employee, for the fulfillment of their responsibilities as an agent of the employer, does not constitute distribution, so any conditions that GPL imposes on distribution do not apply: Is making and using multiple copies within one ...


31

You can indeed. GPLv2 and GPLv3 only require that you distribute the source code when you're distributing the binaries. In the case of software-as-a-service you're not distributing binaries and, as such, you're under no obligation to distribute your source code either. This is sometimes referred to as the SaaS loophole


31

Yes, the GPL is a free software licence, and one of the properties of free (as in freedom) software is that you can use it for anything, including providing commercial online services. This is not only legal; it is common. Ángel’s answer provided some good examples. A comment on the question mentioned the LAMP stack (half of which – Linux and MySQL – is GPL ...


29

You have accepted two other small commits to this project, but apart from those you are the sole rightsholder in your work. Moreover, although IANAL/IANYL, because the two commits simply correct the target text of some links in the documentation, it seems likely that they do not qualify for copyright protection. As we discuss here, as the sole rightsholder ...


27

In general, if something is completed as "work for hire" then anything produced as part of that work belongs to the hirer, not the hired. However (and this is a very big however) there is enough uncertainty around exactly what counts as "work for hire" that you should always spell this out explicitly in any contract. This is all ...


25

The crucial statement there is "terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation". So yes, if the FSF should decide that a future version of the GPL should look more like a BSD-style license, a software released under GPL v3+ would then be eligible to be distributed under that newer version and exercise the ...


21

If code is licensed strictly under a specific version of the GNU GPL, future versions have no effect for that specifically-licensed code. For code that is licensed under "version 3 or any later version," then recipients could choose to apply (a possibly more permissive) GPLv4, whenever one comes into existence, and enjoy whatever permissive terms ...


18

Nearly no way if we talk GPL. If you use GPLv3 code in your project or you use it for reference for a re-implementation or port, you are bound by the license. That's the point of a license: you are given permission to use the code on the conditions stated in the license. Without license you would not have legal access to use it at all. If you call the n2n ...


16

Mr. Coyote should talk to his lawyers ASAP. While he was unaware that the code he was using was a copyright violation, he could make a reasonable defense against punitive damages. However, now he is aware (or has a strong suspicion) it is a copyright violation and continues to use it, a court will look far less favourably on him. Unrelated to that: Let's ...


16

As a add-on answer to amend what @amon explained in his answer: That is the point of releasing a library under GPL: Any programme which wants to make use of it also needs to be distributed under terms of the GPL. For most practical purposes, a ready-built programme is always a derivative of the libraries it makes use of and thus the distributed binary must ...


15

To answer the question in the title ("What is the legal definition of a company/organization?"), that depends on the laws in the concerned countries and may also depend on how the company is exactly structured. I will assume that the part in country A and the part in country B are legally independent companies that are both subsidiaries of a larger ...


14

AGPL is an OSI approved license. An open source license cannot permit who can use it, as per section 5 of the open source definition: The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons. I am not a lawyer, but the terms of the AGPL and the statement mentioned in the question that "The author [sic] has the permission to prohibit a ...


14

Copyright does not allow for that. You need to wait 70 years after the copyright holders' deaths to do this. In that respect it is no different from a closed source license: If you want to change the license, you need permission. Back around 2000 Larry Lessig had a lecture where he explained there are may works, where we cannot contact the author (https://en....


14

Your hunch of "no" seems correct to me. The GPL FAQ has this to say about standalone copies of the GPL without an explicit license grant: Is it enough just to put a copy of the GNU GPL in my repository? Just putting a copy of the GNU GPL in a file in your repository does not explicitly state that the code in the same repository may be used under ...


12

It seems to me there are two ways to interpret what you propose. Either a) you make the software is available to all under AGPLv3, except John Smith, who may not take a copy under any terms, or b) you make the software is available to all under AGPLv3, with the additional proviso that John Smith is never allowed to use it. In the case of (a), anyone who isn'...


12

Your question already contains the relevant analysis, and without knowing details about their protocol there's nothing to add here. So this is a case where the software could be compliant, and is not obviously non-compliant. Ultimately, this is not for the FSF or me but for a court to decide. So we'll never know unless and until a Blender copyright holder ...


12

The most important point you need to consider is that software licenses are irrevocable - i.e. once you have released a specific version of the code under the GPL, it is available under the GPL for ever, and there's nothing you or anyone else can do about that. This means that your first two options (relicensing some or all of the existing codebase from GPL ...


9

If you receive an open source application from your employer, it hasn't been distributed to you, but to your employer, so you haven't received any rights through that distribution. (However, I have been told that handing software to contractors might be different, so the employer should be careful). Even if you had rights, you don't have the source code. ...


9

If I write some program from scratch, I can choose to license as open source under e.g. GPLv3, and simultaneously license it for a stiff fee for use in closed source applications, no GPL strings attached. I could even get tired of it all and sell all rights. If my project gets third party contributions, I'll have to make sure the relevant rights are ...


8

The GPL imposes requirements when you convey/distribute GPL-covered software. These requirements trigger regardless of whether the software is in source or binary form, whether the software is distributed in source or in part, or whether the software was modified – but your precise obligations depend on this. The GPL does not impose any obligations when ...


8

To take the question in reverse order: maybe I can publish my code under GPL, while accepting other contributions under MIT license. Is this possible? Yes, the FSF are clear that contributions to GPL codebases can be under more-permissive licences than GPL. How can I make this clear to the contributors? This is where it all falls down, it seems to me, ...


8

The license of an application and the license of data that application produces can be independent, and are only interrelated if the data includes executable code from the executable itself: Is there some way that I can GPL the output people get from use of my program? For example, if my program is used to develop hardware designs, can I require that these ...


7

Yes, absolutely, and it is important that the GPL allows this. First, the FSF encourages people to sell free software when possible (emphasis mine): Actually, we encourage people who redistribute free software to charge as much as they wish or can. If a license does not permit users to make copies and sell them, it is a nonfree license. [...] Free programs ...


7

Yes, there have been lots of lawsuits involving open source licenses. The GPL is a very popular license and been involved in a large share of that litigation. The result is that open source licenses and the GPL have been recognized as effective and enforceable licensing tools in many jurisdictions around the world. However, it might not be possible to ...


7

Indeed, the default license is “all rights reserved”. On the other hand, facts are not copyrightable. If any reasonable representation of these facts would result in the essentially same header file, there is an argument that there is nothing copyrightable in the header file (compare the US merger doctrine concept, though there's similar case law in the EU). ...


7

Let A be the party who is distributing the binary (you don't say this is what's happening, but you say that A is not distributing source, and there's not much else that they can be distributing except the binary) and B be the party who is receiving the binary, but not (as per contract with A) the source. To my mind (and IANAL/IANYL) it depends on who the ...


7

It is pretty clear that your website, which puts different manuals side by side (and does not merger the manuals into one larger document) is an aggregate. The GPL FAQ are pretty clear that what you are planning to do would be OK if it was put on a CD-ROM. Your website is not much different in terms of making things available, so what is OK for a CD-ROM or ...


6

If you are the sole copyright holder on the code, you can do anything you like with it. It doesn't matter if you've published it under the GPL, you are always free to dual-license it under the MIT license, as proprietary code or any other license you feel like. In legal terms, you publishing code under a license grants additional rights to people other than ...


6

Just because a language and its toolchains are licensed under the GNU GPL does not mean that any software you create with it also needs to be GPL-licensed. The GPL FAQ reads: Can I use GPL-covered editors such as GNU Emacs to develop nonfree programs? Can I use GPL-covered tools such as GCC to compile them? Yes, because the copyright on the editors and ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible