I'm looking at plupload for some upload features on a website I'm developing. Now plupload is GNU GPLv2 licensed and that implies that all derivative software should also be GPL licensed (right?). Therefore I run the plupload through my minifier, the single minified js file will violate the license, and upon request, I must make all the sources of my page available (right?).

I'm curious about:

  • can I use the plupload API without having to open source my code?
  • does the license exclude minified code somehow?

See also: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/3213767/minified-javascript-and-bsd-license


2 Answers 2


Disclaimer: IANAL

Short answers:

  • yes, you can use plupload without open sourcing your code
  • no, minifying is not excluded by the license

Rationale based on my understanding to the GNU GPL 2.0 license is this:

  1. as long as your code is not a derivative work of the GPL'ed work, you are fine. In this case, your code does not extend, modify or otherwise depend on plupload other than using it over well published interfaces, so it can hardly be argued to derive form it. Please note this interpretation is debated and untested in court (as per comment by @apsillers).
  2. minifying the GPL'ed work is fine, as the minified version is really a binary (executable) version of the source code. This is permitted.
  3. you have to offer to provide the GPL'ed code, that is plupload, on request to anyone using your website.

BTW: To be on the safe side, you may want to consider buying one of their commercial license. And no, I am not in any way affiliated to plupload.

** Updates

  • noted emphasis on GPL 2.0
  • added link to further information on derivate work interpretation
  • 2
    Yeah 15 bucks vs effort, really a no brainer. Shill out the cash and relax :), use the newly gained time to develop more
    – BeardedO
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 15:12
  • 6
    +1. You second and third points are quite correct. However, your first point (while very well-reasoned) is slightly dubious from a practical legal standpoint. Whether GPL linking creates a derivative work has remained untested in court and is a highly-opinionated question. Still, good answer.
    – apsillers
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 15:32
  • 4
    Point 1 in this answer is much too definite. Lawyers don't agree about this, and it hasn't been tested in court. For example the Free Software Foundation, who wrote the GPL license, take the opposite view.
    – MarkJ
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 17:11
  • Yeah, giving some OSS developers a round isn't going to kill me, sure. Still interesting to figure this out though. I'm still curious wether minifying all libs into a single ..min.js would have different implications than just minifying one lib. I guess nobody is ever going to waste money on court to find out :)
    – iwein
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 17:29
  • 3
    The fact they have a commercial license option should mean something. Theoretically you should not be able to use their GPL v2 code in your closed source system. These types of questions come up time and time again and people attempt to rationalize using GPL code in their closed source system. Buy the license. Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 23:46

Yes, you may use GPL licensed javascript on a commercial page. You simply have to meet the distribution requirements. The license does not exclude using minified code, but you will have to make the non-minified version available as well. The easiest way to do this would be to include a comment with a link to the non-minified sources hosted on your site at the top of the minified code.

If you modify the GPL code in any way, your modifications will have to be GPL as well, so they should be included in the non-minified sources that you provide.

  • 4
    @AndrewFinnell that is completely wrong and misses the whole point of the free and open source software movements. The creators are happy for their products to be used in commercial software for profit, as long as the software remains open-source. This does prevent some business models for monetizing the software (selling shrink-wrap licenses becomes much less effective), but it absolutely does not prevent all commercial use. Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 18:07
  • 1
    @AndrewFinnell "Commercial" and "respecting the four freedoms" are hardly mutually exclusive. You mention the FSF motto -- isn't the latter half of Stallman's motto "not free as in free beer"? How did you come to believe the motto says the exact opposite of what it does? Or are we thinking of different mottoes?
    – apsillers
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 19:28
  • 3
    @AndrewFinnell The motto is "Free as in freedom, not free as in free beer", to acknowledge the distinction between libre and gratis and demonstrate that FSF-approved free software can also be commercial. To say that the FSF "does not want their products used in commercial software" is patently false. You are conflating "proprietary" with "commercial" -- you can make money with free software without resorting to a dual proprietary license.
    – apsillers
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 23:35
  • 2
    @AndrewFinnell Furthermore, it is a philosophical truism to say that there can be no perfect freedom. Every freedom granted must naturally impose some corresponding restriction. The FSF has selected what freedoms are most important to them, as enumerated in the four freedoms, and enacted the necessary restrictions to ensure that those freedoms are maintained in their software. In that regard, yes, it is not perfectly free (since there is no such thing) -- it adheres to a well-specified definition of freedom.
    – apsillers
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 23:36
  • 2
    It doesn't change the fact you cannot use GPL code in a closed source system. I don't see many Apache license lawyers but we have a GPL lawyer ourselves. Yes you are correct I should of said proprietary not commercial. I see very few examples of the commercial GPL though where the "product" isn't support. Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 23:41

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