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I'm currently writing an application which I am thinking of open sourcing once I'm out of beta. However, I would like to maintain ownership of the icons and other graphics (they're actually the work of someone else that I'm paying to do).

Does the GPL allow this kind of mixed licencing? Or is it all or nothing? Are there alternative licences which allow the source code to be released while not allowing images to be modified or reused?

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Maybe, but why? What's the point of open-sourcing your app if the open-source version is unusable? – Mike Baranczak May 12 '11 at 1:19
Because the person who is doing the graphic work for me might not like the idea of other people deriving from their work? – HorusKol May 12 '11 at 2:49
Did you ask the person doing the graphic work? Maybe you should do that first. – Mike Baranczak May 12 '11 at 3:43
Sorry - I meant to say that I have my reasons, and I don't necessarily feel that they are relevant to the question. – HorusKol May 12 '11 at 4:00
up vote 1 down vote accepted

If you intend to distribute the icons with the application, then they should be licensed as GPL or a compatible license. [1]

The question comes down to how you want to assert your ownership of the icons (if copyright/copyleft is not good enough) and if you intend to distribute them with the application to make a working build.

This isn't unheard of...for example, id Software released RTCW and Enemy Territory source code under the GPL license, but neither includes game data or graphics. [2] Without those, you either need to provide your original, commercially-purchased files or create new graphics and data. Obviously, doing something like this could reduce participation from others in your open source project (if that's what you're looking for).



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So - I could have less sexy icon graphics to go with the open-sourced code than the ones that get shipped with the binary? – HorusKol May 12 '11 at 2:48
Would they be embedded in the binary? I would say that is equivalent to "linking", which means they would need to be GPL compatible. The GPL states that the source code for the binary must be made available, so if I (for example) got a binary that is GPL and the images are in it, I should be able to get the source code with images to create my own build and end up with the exact same binary (and optionally any changes I make, like bug fixes). – Michael Dean May 12 '11 at 2:54
so how did id Software get around that? – HorusKol May 12 '11 at 3:31
The graphics and data were external files, not embedded in the binary output. Effectively, you ended up with a build capable of running the game, but useless without the necessary data files from the original install CD (or a replacement set of files that would make it a different game). – Michael Dean May 12 '11 at 3:45

If you are supplying the icons and graphics as part of the build, I think you are stuck if you want to use GPL. The whole point of GPL is that the recipient have the freedom to modify the source code of what you provide.

Another way might be to omit those and indicate that an user of the software needs to supply their own. Or you can supply versions that you have the right to grant use of under the GPL.

As far as the binary you provide, it can be built with those restricted-license icons and images because you are not limited by the GPL in what you do with your own work. You could link to the source that is available, but the source you provide would not have those icons and graphics. That will annoy some folks, although you are completely within your rights to make derivatives of your own work and not be bound by the GPL.

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If you (or your employees) are the sole authors of the application (and anything it derives from), then you can do whatever you want with it. You can release a GPL version, sans graphics, and a more restricted version with the images, etc.

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