If an open source software licence requires to "preserve this notice", which usually appears within the source code file, and I'm not distributing any parts of the source code (but only binary files), does that mean that I don't have to do anything with that original licence? Or would I have to create a new file with that licence notice, or include it into some documentation or even let the application reproduce the licence notice on the screen?

Does it matter whether the original licence was embedded in the source files or distributed as a separate file?

I'm thinking about shorter licences like BSD or MIT, or even those called "public domain". AFAIK the GPL or LGPL require distributing the separate licence text file as it's quite lenghty. I don't know about other licences like Apache or CC.

  • 3
    GPL-family licenses require you to distribute the source code along with the binary anyway, so that's not the situation you're asking about here.
    – David Z
    Mar 24, 2016 at 14:03

2 Answers 2


Both BSD and MIT require you to share "the notice" even when only distributing the software in binary form. For BSD: "Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.". For MIT: "The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.".

What you need to do is to include these licenses in a "LEGAL"/"LICENSES" folder of the download package.


You should either include the source code even when it is not required to automatically pick up the notices or else create a "Legal Notices" document and copy paste the notices into it and provide it with the binary (or the device that incorporates the binary).

Depending on the open source license, failure to abide by a license condition might void the license, making you liable for copyright infringement. Some might question whether or not anyone will enforce the copyright, which is a fair question. In some cases copyright infringement is illegal, and lawyers cannot ethically counsel or assist clients in carrying out an illegal act.

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