I have requested source code for a product that contains software licensed under GPL 2. The product includes a written offer to provide source code if you send a written request by email. The offer is valid for three years. But I have gotten no response. How much time do they have to respond until it is copyright violation? I didn't find that info in the GPL license.

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    The answer to this may depend on the jurisdiction involved. It may be that a better answer could be given if you specify the jurisdiction (country, and perhaps state or province). Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 16:24

1 Answer 1


The GPL does not explicitly specify a time within which the source code must be provided, which probably means a "reasonable time" is allowed. What is "reasonable" would eventually be evaluated by a court, if the matter ever got that far.

But please note that only the copyright holder (or the holder's authorized agent) can sue for infringement. The license does not give other people a right to sue for infringement, and I doubt that any license could grant such a right. One could inform the copyright holder who could sue, but the holder need not sue, and undertaking such a suit would involve expense, time, and effort.

Whether the offer to provide the source constitutes a binding agreement is not clear, and may well vary in different jurisdictions. The question does not state any particular jurisdiction.

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    With regards to the issue of standing: the Software Freedom Conservancy has recently filed a lawsuit under the theory that they as recipients of GPL-covered software are third-party beneficiaries of the GPL, and as such would have standing. They are not suing for copyright infringement (which only the copyright holder can do) but for specific performance of providing the source code. While the GPL is silent on this, some newer copyleft licenses do explicitly mention third-party beneficiaries.
    – amon
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 17:35
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    @Amon that is interesting. That would be a contract-law claim, I would think. It has some logic, but it is hard to predict how a court will treat it. Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 17:42
  • @DavidSiegel: It probably depends a lot on the court , or more specifically, the beneficiary. A quick check suggests that Continental Law systems are pretty inconsistent in their recognition of third-party beneficiaries - Switzerland codified it in 1881, and France still does not.
    – MSalters
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 12:35
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    They sued, but that doesn't mean they win. They've lost some stronger cases before.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 15:32
  • On the other hand, it seems that in Germany the GPL is actually a contract. However, one side doesn't ask for any evidence that the other side actually agreed to the contract, so in the worst case in court you could be asked if you agreed to the contract - if not, then it's the same as say GPL in the USA, if you agreed, you are bound by the contract.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 22:42

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