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This is a question focused on the legal aspects of software licensing.

I am starting to develop a proeject want the option to claim the source code as properitary and retain full copy rights. I like 'git' (license under GNU v2), but want to make sure of a couple legal things.

  1. What is the legal status of source code under version control of 'git' (which is distributed under the GNU v2 license)? Does it qualify as a 'derivative work'?

  2. What are the legal ramifications of the source code's legal status? Specifically in regards to being legally obligated to realeasing source code.

  3. What besides git (GNU v2 license), what are my other version control options (legally speaking)?

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migrated from Aug 7 '11 at 8:40

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

If that were the case no one would use Linux, OpenOffice, Ruby, Python, etc.... – manojlds Aug 7 '11 at 6:31
That's like asking if Sears owns your fence, because you used tools you bought from Sears to build it. – chovy Nov 3 '12 at 9:34
up vote 23 down vote accepted

Does it qualify as a 'derivative work'?

No, unless you're specifically forking Git itself.

Your source code is totally separate from Git itself, in the same way your documents are separate from the FOSS tool you used to create them, or the FOSS OS (e.g. GNU/Linux) whose file system you put them on.

You can license your own code any way you like as long as you understand and honor the license. You can use version control with proprietary, in-house software projects as well. The VCS you use has nothing to do with it.

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The GPL FAQ answer almost this exact question.

Can I use GPL-covered editors such as GNU Emacs to develop non-free programs? Can I use GPL-covered tools such as GCC to compile them?

Yes, because the copyright on the editors and tools does not cover the code you write. Using them does not place any restrictions, legally, on the license you use for your code.

Some programs copy parts of themselves into the output for technical reasons—for example, Bison copies a standard parser program into its output file. In such cases, the copied text in the output is covered by the same license that covers it in the source code. Meanwhile, the part of the output which is derived from the program's input inherits the copyright status of the input.

As it happens, Bison can also be used to develop non-free programs. This is because we decided to explicitly permit the use of the Bison standard parser program in Bison output files without restriction. We made the decision because there were other tools comparable to Bison which already permitted use for non-free programs.

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  1. No
  2. Absolutely none

From the GPL FAQ:

An “aggregate” consists of a number of separate programs, distributed together on the same CD-ROM or other media. The GPL permits you to create and distribute an aggregate, even when the licenses of the other software are non-free or GPL-incompatible.


By contrast, pipes, sockets and command-line arguments are communication mechanisms normally used between two separate programs. So when they are used for communication, the modules normally are separate programs.

This is the closest thing to your question that the FAQ mentions, and I'd say using a GPL program to process your code doesn't even make them an aggregate, just two completely separate things.

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