I'm writing an internal application for my company. I'd like to use a package released on a GNU/GPL license. Due to internal nature of the application I am obviously free to present its source code to its intended users (= employees of the company). However, due to corporate secrets I cannot present the code to anyone else.

The application is not intended to be used by anyone outside the company. However (theoretically), someone can illegally obtain a copy (or simply may be an ex-employee who did use that application). Can such person ask me for the source code of this application in this case?

  • Assuming it's not a duplicate, "understanding, applying, and complying with Free & Open licenses" is on topic on Open Source SE. You may be able to ask this question there.
    – Brian
    Apr 3 at 13:23
  • Well, they can always ask, but I suspect what you want to know is whether you're obliged to provide the code... Apr 23 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


If someone is making an illegal copy and distributes it, then that person is bound by the GPL license. If they copied the application without the source code and distribute it, they can obviously not conform to the license terms. Which means you can sue them, and the copyright holder of the GPL licensed code can as well.

If they steal your source code together with the GPL licensed source code, and if they want to distribute it, then on one hand they must copy your code or commit copyright infringement for the GPL licensed code, but on the other hand they must not distribute your code, because that is copyright infringement against you.

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