Recently, I was in a situation where I wanted to release a simple piece of JavaScript software under an open source license.

However, I withdrew from it because the software contained several open source components that were released under different licenses.

Under what license should the bundled software be released (given that various third party components are mixed into the software at code level)?

  • 1
    This depends entirely on what licenses are used by those 3rd party components. You can then research whether compatible licenses exist.
    – amon
    Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 8:47
  • 2
    Take a look at the 'About...' box of a popular product such as iTunes or Kindle's software: There are as many licenses as various 3rd party components.
    – mouviciel
    Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 9:27

2 Answers 2


If parts of the bundle are under licenses that don't allow sublicensing (which is true for the majority of licenses), then you can't distribute that bundle under a single license.

The best option in that case is to explicitly state that different parts of the software are distributed under different licenses and to clearly indicate which parts fall under which license (down to identifying individual function if needed).
This can also be used if a single file contains parts that are under different licenses.

This is under the assumption that the licenses are compatible with each other and that you are thus allowed to distribute the software and that the bundle form one piece of software (it is not just a convenient collection of independent pieces of software).

If you have a bundle of independent pieces of software, then that bundle is not considered a work under copyright law and thus doesn't have a copyright of its own.


It depends on the license.

There are licenses like MIT or BSD, which allow you to include them in software licensed under different terms as long as you just include their copyright message somewhere where the user can read it.

On the other hand, there are licenses like the GPL which make it impossible to use a library for a software not also licensed under GPL.

Somewhere in between is the LGPL which you can use in a non-GPL project, but only as long as the library itself isn't changed and remains under GPL.

For more details, refer to the exact license terms of the libraries you are using.

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