Legal

Useful Compliance Tips For Vendors

These useful tips can help you locate some common issues when releasing software that contains code under the GNU GPL licence. For a complete and authoritative guide to releasing software under the GNU GPL you should read the FSF's GNU GPL FAQ and the FSF's HOW-TO for using the GNU GPL.

This is not legal advice. If you have doubts consult a legal advisor.

Basic guidelines

  1. Check if the source code of the software is available to users.
  2. Check if you are the copyright holder of the software and if you include Free Software copyrighted by third parties make sure you give proper credit.
  3. Check if you are distributing the correct version of the source code. The source code shipped must be the same source code used to build the binary.
  4. Check if you include the source code for any derivative works of the GNU GPL code you are using, not just of the third-party GNU GPL components themselves.
  5. Check if you include the scripts used to control compilation and installation.
  6. If the toolchain is released and contains tools under the GNU GPL (like the GCC compiler), check if the source code for those tools is also released.

Before shipping the product

  1. Check if your purchasing contracts require suppliers to disclose the presence of any GPL software.
  2. Check if your suppliers provide all the materials you need to comply with the GNU GPL licence.
  3. It helps to ensure that if your supplier turns out to not comply with the GPL they agree to rectify the situation in a timely fashion.

Shipping the product

  1. Check if a copy of the GNU GPL licence is shipped with the product.
  2. Check if a copy of the source code is shipped with the product or that you include a written offer to provide the source code on a physical media like a CD ROM for no more than the cost of production and shipping.
  3. Remember you cannot offer a download link to the source code instead of a written offer to ship the source code on physical media. You can supplement the written offer with a reference to a download site. This may reduce the number of requests for source code.
  4. Remember that if you distribute binaries over the Internet you must host the source code on a server that you operate or that is operated by someone you have an explicit arrangement with.

Don't forget to review the FSF's HOW-TO for using the GNU GPL. It's short, clear and explains exactly what you need to do when you release code under the GNU GPL licence.