I want to provide my app under GNU GPL v3, but I would be glad if people couldn't change its name or its logo. Can I provide my app under the GNU GPL v3 licence, while the app's name and logo are under another type of licence like CC BY-NC-ND 3.0? (The logo and name is used in the app source and design.)

  • You can't put it under GPL with restrictions. GPL is basically "do whatever the hell you want; I may care, but can't do a damn thing about it" – Cole Johnson Jul 1 '12 at 23:08
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    @ColeJohnson: that is not an accurate characterization of the GPL. There are lots of things that you as the distributor of someone else's GPL licenced software cannot do legitimately. You're right that if you've licenced the software under the GPL, then you cannot readily take back that permission. However, the FSF and SFLC enforce the GPL on people who are doing whatever the hell they want that is not permitted by the GPL. – Jonathan Leffler Jul 1 '12 at 23:49
  • @JonathanLeffler yes. That is what I was thinking. I just couldn't think about how to put it. At least its not WTFPL – Cole Johnson Jul 2 '12 at 0:16
  • Not GPL specific but what you might be concerned about is what is normally represented by trademarks: Passport Without A Visa: Open Source Software Licensing and Trademarks – hakre Jul 2 '12 at 17:16
  • It's a lot easier to force users NOT to use your name/logo than to force them TO use your name and logo (the former can be accomplished by releasing the GPL version w/o your logo/name, then trademarking the logo and name). – Brian Jul 2 '12 at 17:29

Section 7 of GPLv3 states:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this License, for material you add to a covered work, you may (if authorized by the copyright holders of that material) supplement the terms of this License with terms: ... c. Prohibiting misrepresentation of the origin of that material, or requiring that modified versions of such material be marked in reasonable ways as different from the original version

I've heard this means you can add restrictions requiring someone to change the name (and logo) of your software if they make it different enough from the original (the "requiring that modified versions of such material be marked ... as different from the original version" part), and it seems that you could also require someone to preseve the name or logo when they modify our software (the "Prohibiting misrepresentation of the origin of that material" part).

As an example of the former case, cdrecord had a license restriction that required you to change the name of the software if you changed the location of the configuration file because the author didn't want to support distributions of cdrecord that he considered broken. The author's attitudes and ideas about how the GPL copyright works caused friction between him and the rest of the free software community, so eventually the Debian project forked his software and renamed it to wodim. However, if Debian felt that the naming requirement made the software non-free, they would have had legal problems distributing wodim too.

If you're too inflexible about balancing these two goals, some copyright consumers might steer clear of your software to avoid getting into legal limbo. Consider that Debian's "desert island test" would mean they'd consider your software non-free if you imposed a requirement that someone who modified the software always had to contact the original author to determine whether they were still allowed to use the original name and logo.

Additionally: The Debian project that feels there are problems with distributing non-free logos in their archives, and they will not accept the software if their users do not have a license to modify the logo as they see fit. You can write a restrictive trademark license on the unmodified logo, but you must grant the user the freedom to modify the bits so that when he modifies them to the point that they no longer infringe the trademark, his modified version of your logo (which is a derived work for copyright purposes) can be used freely. (This may be required by the GPL v3, or it may just be Debian's approach to free software, but Debian's views on copyright are definitely worth considering if you're licensing Linux software under the GPL and tackling the issues that you've asked about.)

  • Thinking about it more, forking software is somewhat common in the free software community. Copyright consumers would probably consider your license too restrictive if you didn't allow them to change the name if they forked your software and made it dramatically different from the original. – Ken Bloom Jul 2 '12 at 13:53

You can certainly keep ownership of the logo and name yourself while releasing the code under the GPL. This is essentially what the Firefox/Mozzila logo licence did. Truecrypt also have a similar requirement, you can alter the code but not call the modified version Truecrypt.

However since you have released the code under the GPL there is nothing to stop the users simply rebuilding their code under a new name and logo.

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    Neither Firefox nor Truecrypt are GPL. Firefox uses its own license the "Mozilla Public License" and Truecrypt uses the "TrueCrypt Collective License". – API-Beast Jul 2 '12 at 13:35

You can put the logo (and other non-code content) under another license, but the name is considered indivisible from the code and falls under its license.

  • Are you able to provide a link or reference to back this up? I know Mozilla separates their FF logo from their code, but they authored their own license, the MPL. – jmort253 Jul 1 '12 at 23:27

Is all the GPL code you use in that application yours? Then you can license it any way you want, you yourself aren't required to follow the terms of your own licenses, you always have all rights. (Given you don't sell your rights, like it is possible in the US, of course.)

If it is not then you can only dual license it because the GPL applies to the whole distribution, no matter what. Dual licensing is giving the choice between multiple different licenses, for example the picture could be licensed under the GPL and a custom license. This obviously doesn't work for taking rights away but only for giving additional ones.

I am not sure but the logo might be seen as trade mark, in that case additional laws might apply but I have absolutely no knowledge about that.

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