GNU General Public License is a ‘Viral License”. If an organisation is using Linux and MySQL which come under this license, is it dangerous to the organisation in terms of exposure of its intellectual property? As this license will demand the software that is linked to or that incorporates a GPL program to also be made available in source form under the same license when it is “distributed.”

  • 1
    The consequences of the GPL license have been discussed before. The best thing is to actually READ the license. It's language is somewhat annoying, but it's readable enough. Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 16:43

2 Answers 2


The GPL cannot compel you to release your source code!

The GPL is a license, not a contract. If you are found in violation of the GPL license, all the copyright holder can compel you to do is to remedy the violation. This can be done by either:

  1. Releasing your source code, or
  2. Discontinuing your use of the GPL code.

There may also possibly be damages levied, but since I'm not a lawyer I can't really speak to that.

Linux and MySQL

Linux is an operating system. Suffice it to say that, unless you're writing some sort of kernel-specific code, using Linux does not create a derived work, and therefore you can license your program that runs on Linux any way you wish, without worrying about GPL violations.

MySQL has a dual-licensing model. You can use it in your application for free under the GPL (which requires you to open your source), or you can buy a commercial license and license your code any way you want.

Further Reading
The GPL is a License, not a Contract.
How Scary are GPL Violations?
Violations of the GNU Licenses
When are you required to have a commercial MySQL license?


The answer is no. The GPL is a licence, not a contract, so it has no enforcement terms. Your organisation's intellectual property is not at risk, at least not directly.

But is that the end of it? Unfortunately no. If you breach the terms of a GPL licence by distributing something containing it ('merged with it') and fail to distribute the source code you may have infringed the licence. The consequence of that is you may have lost any rights to use the software. if you don't do what the GPL says, you can't use the GPL.

Now you are in breach of copyright law, which can be serious. The holder of the copyright in the software (whoever that may be) can sue you for using their software without their permission.

So the final situation is that your organisation could be at risk of court action and substantial penalties, which it might only be able to avoid by complying with the GPL, which means distributing source code. To that extent you could say there is a risk, although quite indirect.

Your Answer

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

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