I'm uploading to GitHub for the first time and I am facing all sort of doubts about licensing. I did not know that topic was that uncovered in the net! But even it is complex, my situation is so typical that I guess most people using Github knows already about this.

I just want to upload publicly an app which is referencing third-party libs on my POM for Maven (package & build Java manager), and calling them in the code obviously. Some of them are GPL, other Apache, other multiple licensing...

Do you all usually have to worry about all this stuff? I am not distributing any binary nor third-party library, I am not modifying them, I am not using anything commercially... Do I have to make "explicit mention of them"? In what file? Is it necessary that I use for my own lib the GPL license?

What it makes me wonder about how literal is the info on internet is that I never saw anyone with NOTICEs referencing the use of Spring, JUnit and so on...

  • 1
    tldrlegal is really good to get a short overview about a license. Maybe this can help you
    – Brettetete
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 3:44

3 Answers 3


If you are putting source code available to the public, then yes, you do need to be aware of the licenses that your third-party libraries are released under. Even if you don't put them into your GitHub repository, the licenses of those libraries may force you to license your project under certain licenses simply because you are using the other third-party software. Exactly what you need to do depends specifically on all the licenses of the third-party software that you are using and how you are using them.

You should do some research on what the different licenses mean. There are plenty of other questions here on Programmers about the different open source licenses, and there's also an Open Source Stack Exchange site.

  • I did the research, but there are a lot of what ifs that make you having to be an expert, which I guess most github users aren't and they go ahead. Nice reference, I did not know the Open Source site!!!
    – Whimusical
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 17:05
  • 1
    Indeed, it is my understanding, too, that most people seem to go ahead and don't care about licensing. This doesn't mean it is the right thing to do or even legal, however. If you want to spare the users of your library the trouble, be sure to use a standard license that is commonly used in the field and will be compatible to the other libraries your users might be interested in.
    – 5gon12eder
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 17:30

You mention that your code uses other libraries that are covered by the Apache and the GPL license, among others. Between Apache and GPL, GPL is the more restrictive. The general rule of thumb is, if your code uses GPL-licensed libraries, you should make your code also GPL licensed. There are ways to avoid this, but you can only share your code and you just shift the burden to consumers of your code to adopt the GPL if they want to distribute anything.

  • But the thing is I am not distributing anything binarily, just referencing the libs in Maven and in the code, Github only exposes the source.
    – Whimusical
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 16:39
  • @Whimusical Because you have used GPL-licensed libraries, the simplest thing in your scenario is to just adopt the GPL for your code. If you do not like the GPL, then you should try to find some non-GPL alternatives or be more careful with your next project. Avoiding the GPL license for your code just means it will be limited in use to people who are comfortable assembling all the necessary prerequisites themselves and either don't mind distirbuting their stuff with the GPL or don't plan on distributing it.
    – Eric
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 19:12
  • Can I license my project as GPL while using some third-party libs not-GPL? I saw the one library that is GPL contains both GPL and LGPL licenses. Does it mean I can choose LGPL and so license my project as Apache or MIT? Take into account my project is a playground public thing, its just I want to learn the proper and serious way
    – Whimusical
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 21:44
  • @Whimusical It's usually fine for a project with a more restrictive license (e.g. GPL) to use libraries with less restrictive licenses (LGPL, MIT, BSD, etc). The reverse is usually not true. You can search for GPL compatible licenses to find more in depth discussion on this topic.
    – Eric
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 16:16

See Jacobsen v Katzer et al., No. 2009-1221 : Ruling on summary judgment motions : Open source licenses are legally enforceable as copyright(s) licenses. Here the artistic license [sic] was tested in California, while the case was dismissed upon settlement settlement terms weighed strongly in favor of the license holder.

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