Say I have created a new (DSP) algorithm. Will I have some advantage if I open source the algorithm under copyleft licence (GPL etc.)? From what I know about licensing this should lock people out from using the exactly same code as closed source, but would they be able to "rewrite" the algorithm as closed source?


I fear this may actually be two separate problems:

  1. open sourcing a known algorithm
  2. open sourcing a new algorithm

I don't really know if the algorithm is new but it has not been released as open source yet. Since I am from the European Union do I need to look for software patents if I wanted to copyleft it?

  • This seems very subjective. Yes as you say they couldn't make it closed source, but by what objective standard would them re-implementing the algorithm be either an advantage or disadvantage for you? Jun 8, 2015 at 11:41

1 Answer 1


Algorithms are not subject to copyright. A particular implementation can be copyrighted, but an algorithm itself can't be copyrighted. Someone re-implementing the algorithm with their own code has done nothing to give you copyright claims against their work, and is not bound by any software license you use. That's what patents are for.

  • 2
    Note that if someone has read the code of your implementation, their own could get tainted, and be argued that is a derived work. This does not apply if they just work from the pseudocode or the mathematical description.
    – Davidmh
    Jun 15, 2015 at 10:26
  • @Davidmh, that's sort of true and sort of not true. It's very common to work on "green-field" reimplementations of existing libraries/applications, having had extensive experience working in those prior applications. What has to be avoided is any "copy-and-paste." In most software languages there are standard ways of doing certain things (like iterating over collections, accessing file systems, etc.) that will be very similar in the new implementation. That in and of itself isn't enough to trigger.
    – dwoz
    Sep 3, 2015 at 16:21
  • Does anyone have a reliable source for this? Nov 10, 2017 at 18:03
  • @LateralTerminal from 17 US 102 (just for example): "In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."
    – Sneftel
    Jun 9, 2021 at 12:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .