Let me describe a hypothetical scenario, I wish to know if my reasoning is correct.

I use source code X, licensed by author Y under the BSD-3 license, in my source code. I intend to adhere to their BSD-3 license.

Then I sell my product under my custom closed source license. My product does not include any source code. My product's license does not contain any part of Y's license. My product has a warranty and that is stated in my license. Y's copyright notice, the list of conditions, and the disclaimer (i.e. the entire text of their BSD-3 license), is included in the every copy of documentation of my product, as per the second condition of BSD-3.

Are those two statements valid while at the same time not violating Y's license:

  1. My product is licensed under my license only.

  2. The disclaimer (written in UPPERCASE) of BSD-3 license is only relevant so that it absolves author Y of any liability, and doesn't have any effect on my license.

  • You could also have asked here: opensource.stackexchange.com
    – assylias
    Nov 27, 2015 at 7:52
  • @assylias I didn't know that existed. Can I post a duplicate question there?
    – this
    Nov 27, 2015 at 12:40
  • It is generally not recommended to cross post questions across sites. You could flag your question (flag link below question), select "in need of moderator intervention" and ask if your question can be migrated. The fact that is has a bounty may delay that migration... Or you could ask on meta what the right course of action is.
    – assylias
    Nov 27, 2015 at 13:13
  • @assylias Then it should stay here. This subexchange has a explicit tag for such questions.
    – this
    Nov 27, 2015 at 13:14

2 Answers 2


1) Yes, if you put license L1 on your program P1, then P1 is licensed under L1, and that's it.

However, it is possible that you are not legally allowed to use license L1. In particular, if one of your dependencies has a license L2, it may state that L1 must meet some specific conditions, or perhaps that L1 must be L2 and nothing else. When people talk about licenses being "compatible" with each other, this is the sort of issue they're talking about. In this case, L2 is the BSD-3 license, which imposes no restrictions at all on what license you use for L1.

In practice, assuming your license is super-restrictive, this means that anyone who downloads your program may not take out that dependency from your program and use it in their own work. They would have to go get that dependency from a distribution with a more permissive license before they could use it in their own work.

2) Yes, the disclaimer is merely saying that you cannot sue the library author for anything. It's not imposing any additional conditions on what you can do with the software, much less what license you may use for derivative works.

P.S. Like everyone else is saying, you need to include a full copy of the BSD-3 license in your distribution of your program, no matter what license you choose for your program. I think the other answers are assuming that "documentation" is not distributed with the program and thus including the license in your documentation isn't good enough; hopefully you meant documentation that comes with the program.

  • Well, it does pose a requirement: Attribution. You finally acknowledge it in your last paragraph, but that's a bit late after previously stating no requirements at all. Nov 22, 2015 at 22:15

Y's license needs to be reproduced in every copy of your product, whether your product is distributed in source code form or in compiled binary form, not just in every copy of documentation of your product.

From http://opensource.org/licenses/BSD-3-Clause:

Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

This means that if you don't supply documentation with your binary-based distribution, that distribution still must contain a reproduction of Y's license. By reproducing Y's license along side your license, your product is licensed to your users with multiple licenses that apply in conjunction.

--- Edit --- Because the license must be reproduced (not just "documented") whenever Y's intellectual property is redistributed, this further means that it is binding on your users. As such it applies particularly if your users redistribute your binary (say as a derivative work that has different purpose and documentation). One thing you could consult legal advice about is whether your users could reference your binary instead of redistributing it, and thus not be bound to reproduce Y's BSD license since they would not redistributing your binary.

  • My statement about documentation is assuming that every product comes with documentation. I think that is a reasonable assumption.
    – this
    Nov 22, 2015 at 21:28
  • Is your last sentence relating to the previous sentence?
    – this
    Nov 22, 2015 at 21:31
  • To your first: I see. In that case, you could use the BSD terminology of "distribution" instead of "copy of documentation", but no matter I think I get your point.
    – Erik Eidt
    Nov 22, 2015 at 21:32
  • You're going to supply your own license. It seems to me you're also going to have to reiterate the BSD 3-clause, as per its requirements regarding (derivative) distributions. Thus, your users are going to be bound by both licenses, no? (At least by the terms of both licenses, even if you call it only one license.)
    – Erik Eidt
    Nov 22, 2015 at 21:37
  • Well that is what my question is hinting at. I don't see any reason why would they be bound by both licenses. I'm bound by Y's license and that is listed in the documentation as per Y's license. Y's license doesn't impose anything on my license. For example, It doesn't say that it has to be included in the new license, only in the documentation.
    – this
    Nov 22, 2015 at 21:42

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