There are various licenses for source code to be licensed under. On the Stack Exchange network, Creative Common's cc-by-sa 3.0 is used. Does this really only apply to the source code? Does this mean an individual can copy the source code, possibly change it, compile it and distribute the object code or executable?

In other words, as long as the source code is not distributed, can anyone do anything they like with the compiled code that used the source code licensed under viral or restrictive licensing? I've never heard of a program itself being licensed under GPL or CC etc.?

  • "I've never heard of a program itself being licensed under GPL" - Many programs are licensed using the GPL. Have you never heard of Linux? The Linux kernel is a GPL program. If I publish a compiled version of the Linux source code, that is allowed by the license, as long as I meet certain obligations (e.g. making the source code of my version available). See opensource.stackexchange.com – Brandin Nov 16 '17 at 13:04
  • @Brandin that is the question, to my understanding GPL only covered the source code, not the operating system once it's been compiled. – mynamehere123 Nov 17 '17 at 8:18
  • Yes, the GPL covers that. Read section 6 of gnu.org/licenses/gpl-3.0 – Brandin Nov 17 '17 at 8:22

If I give you some source code, then any product created by using that source code is derived from my source code. It is up to me to decide whether you are allowed to create derived works, and/or to distribute either my source code or derived works, and under which conditions.

If you receive source code covered by the GPL license, then you are allowed (by the license) to create derived works, for example by compiling a program including that source code or a modified version of that source code. The GPL license allows you to distribute such a program, but only if you provide the complete source code, you have several choices how exactly that source code is provided.

  • I thought "derived" works meant modifying the source code, and compiling the source code counted differently. – mynamehere123 Nov 17 '17 at 8:19
  • @mynamehere123 Read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_work and see if it is still not clear. Compiling a program yourself does not allow you to avoid the copyright. The physical work is still in the object code, translated by your compiler. That is what copyright protects. – Brandin Nov 17 '17 at 8:31

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