I learned that there is no requirement to distribute the source for an non-distributed (that is used only inside the company) GPL licensed software.

But what if a hacker steals it and puts online?

  • Does this make the company (which developed the software) obliged to distribute the source?

  • Does this give the third-party users the right to use the program?

  • What does "GPL" stand for? I'm also not clear under what context you think that there would ordinarily be a requirement to distribute the source code.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:07
  • 1
    @ohwilleke en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_General_Public_License The requirement to distribute the source code appears for anybody who distributes a GPL-licensed software due the wording of this "copyleft" license.
    – porton
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:07

1 Answer 1


All assuming the company has modified the GPL licensed software, so they have a copyright in the code: The company hasn't published the software, therefore it has no obligations that would arise from publishing it.

The thief committed copyright infringement by copying without permission of the copyright holder. He or she may have committed all kinds of other crimes, like hacking into the company's computers, violation of trade secrets and so on, depending on the situation.

The thief has no permission to make further copies, and no permission to license it under the GPL. That means he or she is creating a legal mess. Anyone downloading the software believes it is GPL licensed, but it isn't. A downloader has no right to use it. This would be different if the complete source code had been GPL licensed (if the company had used an unmodified copy of GPL licensed code).

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