This is somewhat related to my other question, but is actually different.

I would like to license a Windows Phone application under the GPL. All other Windows Phone Marketplace issues aside (I'll ask those on the forums), I'd like to include icons that ship with the SDK in my application. While this is common practice (documentation points to the icons' location), I'm not sure if I'd be forcing GPL on the icons (a move expressly forbidden by the Application Provider Agreement).

How is this usually handled in GPL or am I simply out of luck?


The icons in question are copied into the project's source tree and distributed with the application.

The license that ships with the SDK states that you may not:

modify or distribute the source code of any Distributable Code [incl. the icons] so that any part of it becomes subject to an Excluded License. An Excluded License is one that requires, as a condition of use, modification or distribution, that

  • the code be disclosed or distributed in source code form; or
  • others have the right to modify it.

My question now becomes: can I distribute the icons with my GPL'd application in any way (for example, by including provisions in my license text) that would not violate either the GPL or the SDK agreement?

2 Answers 2


First off, you can't 'force' GPL on the icons - they aren't yours, so you can't decide their licensing. They remain someone else's property, no matter what you say. The worst you can do is release your program in violation of the GPL, and create legal headaches for yourself and for anyone who later tries to work with your code.

Second, remember that we're not lawyers, just opinionated people who've read some things.

What's the documentation specify as the license for the icons, or the SDK itself? I'm kind of presuming first off that it's OK to use them for building apps for Windows Phone, and second off that there's nothing in the SDK license that precludes using the GPL on applications.

Are the icons referenced from the SDK, or do you copy them into your project? If they are referenced from the SDK at build time, then they won't be part of your source code distribution. They'll probably be compiled into your app at build time, but there's probably several library stubs and chunks that are compiled in at build or link time, so I don't think the icons would be any different.

  • Correct on all points. You can't "force" the GPL on anyone, nor can you force someone to open their source because they included a GPL component. All you can do is compel them to correct the violation, which they can do by removing the GPL'd component. The GPL is a license, not a contract, and you can't impose its terms on those who have not agreed to it. Dec 4, 2012 at 20:42
  • 1
    @Michael - These particular icons are copied into the project. In one case, they're modified (I've "baked" a foreground icon onto the common background icon) Dec 4, 2012 at 21:47
  • Even if you released your own program in violation of the GPL, who would have standing to sue you? The problem is however that nobody can legally redistribute your code, because you failed to properly license the whole package.
    – MSalters
    Dec 18, 2014 at 17:14

Yes, this violates the license. The SDK doesn't spell out the GPL by name, but there's no doubt that the GPL is one of those Excluded Licenses. Hence, the SDK specifically bans you from distributing Distributable Code [incl. the icons] as part of your GPL application. As you have no other right to do so, regular copyright law kicks in and forbids you to distribute those icons.

As the original author of your own code, you could effectively eliminate all the clauses that cause the GPL to be an Excluded License, but you cannot claim that the resulting license is still GPL. Also, you would end with a license that's no longer OSF recognized.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.