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I'm a volunteer for a non-profit organization and am helping them develop a free open source Android application that will be licensed under GPLv3.

We are going to use the logo and some other graphics files from the organization and are wanting to use licensing of this artistic work to protect ourselves from anyone doing damage to the reputation of the organization.

What license would you suggest us using for our artistic work? Thinking outside of the box, is there another approach that would be better for us? Any thoughts more in general about what we can do to protect the organization?

  • The GPL and other software licenses only pertain to the code (in source or binary form), and generally have no effect on the input and output of that code (which includes resources files like images and sounds). You can use whatever license you want for those other files, or none at all; with software there's generally a benefit to having an explicit license on everything but I don't think that's really the case for anything else, and I can't remember ever seeing a license for images other than "nothing" or some member of the Creative Commons family. – Ixrec Sep 12 '15 at 18:45
  • @lxrec Alright, thank you! So very concretely since we are developing an Android app anything we put in the /res directory can have any license we want? – sunyata Sep 12 '15 at 18:53
  • I'm not a lawyer, but I'm fairly sure that yes, you can use any license you want for the assets (including no license at all) alongside using the GPL for your code. – Ixrec Sep 12 '15 at 18:55
  • @Ixrec You can use GPL to license artistic works, or artistic components of software works. However, FSF recommend you use a free documentation license instead because it has different wording which has stronger legal force for that usage, making it more appropriate. – user22815 Sep 12 '15 at 19:35
  • @Snowman Right, I should've phrased that as "the fact that you used it on the code does not make it apply to anything other than the code". And the OP didn't appear to be asking if GPL was a good license to use on the assets so I just assumed that didn't need to be addressed. Legal stuff is hard... – Ixrec Sep 12 '15 at 19:37
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I have gotten help from FSF licensing and they suggest using the GPLv3 to license the art as well as the code.

After asking this question:

i'm a volunteer for a non-profit organization and am helping them develop a free open source Android app that i hope will be licensed under GPLv3

We are going to use the logo and some other graphics files from the organization and are wanting to use licensing of this artistic work to protect ourselves from anyone doing damage to the reputation of the organization

What license would you suggest us using for our artistic work and also the code itself? (Any thoughts more in general about what we can do to protect the organization?)

I got this response back:

GPLv3 is an excellent choice here for both the code and the art. Section 7 of GPLv3 permits that your organization place additional terms which will help protect the work:

Section 7.b allows your organization to add terms "... Requiring preservation of specified reasonable legal notices or author attributions in that material or in the Appropriate Legal Notices displayed by works containing it ..."

Section 7.c allows your organization to add terms "... 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 ..."

Section 7.d allows your organization to add terms "... Limiting the use for publicity purposes of names of licensors or authors of the material ..."

And section 7.e allows your organization to add terms "... Declining to grant rights under trademark law for use of some trade names, trademarks, or service marks ..."

I hope this is of help. Please feel free to write back with further questions.

I'm grateful for the service that they provide at the FSF (Free Software Foundation) and i hope me posting this help someone else too

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For copyright purposes, the code of an application and the resources (images, sounds, etc.) used by the application are considered to be separate works. This means that they can have completely separate license terms.
For your Android app, you can license the code under GPLv3 and the logos under a non-free license that disallows inappropriate use.

However, writing up a copyright license that allows only certain uses of a protected work is very hard to get right, even for a specialized lawyer. Another path, and possibly an easier one, to protect the image of the organisation is to register the logo (and possibly other graphics) as a trademark for the organisation.
Under trademark law, you can put more restrictions on how the logo gets used and it is completely separated from the copyright on the logo/artwork.

  • Thank you for this info, do you also know if we need to add a text to the GPLv3 license to make clear the separation of the image resources and the code? Right now we are using the standard GPLv3 license given by GitHub: link – sunyata Sep 13 '15 at 8:59
  • You should not modify the text of the GPL license itself, but you should mention somewhere (for example, in a README document) that the resources have their own license. Then add a separate LICENSE document with the correct license terms to your res folder. You could use, for example, the CC-BY-ND license for the resources. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Sep 13 '15 at 9:11
  • Thank you again for your help, can i ask for another favor, could you give references/sources as well? The answer you have is different from the other one given here and i'm unsure which to go with – sunyata Sep 15 '15 at 10:24
  • If you modify the GPL license text, then you can't call it the GPL anymore (gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#ModifyGPL). See also the copyright statement on the license itself (gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html) – Bart van Ingen Schenau Sep 15 '15 at 15:48
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You can make it clear in the license included with the application that the artistic assets are not covered by the GPL.

Additionally, I suggest removing the artistic assets from the source code you distribute and include placeholder assets instead. That way a build from the public GPL source will not include your assets.

  • Thank you for this! Right now there are different opinions so can i ask what the sources are for these suggestions? As someone said in a comment to the question above this can be really boring, i'm just a careful person who want to protect the organization i'm volunteering for – sunyata Sep 14 '15 at 19:36
  • @sunyata The source is the GPL license itself. You can read what you're obligated to do by distributing software based on GPL. Under the GPL anyone who you distribute your software to has a right to ask you for the source code. If you already set up a source tree which you're willing to distribute (i.e. one which includes only dummy assets), you can save yourself work. If complying with the license is too "boring" you can also contact the authors of the GPLed softwae and ask for other license arrangements (e.g. for a fee). – Brandin Sep 15 '15 at 11:54

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