I'm developing a JavaScript application that uses several open source JavaScript projects. All their licenses have a phrase like "You must give any other recipients of the Work or Derivative Works a copy of this License". Does this mean I need to make a massive HTML comment at the top of my webpage with all the licences of the software that I use?

I ask this question because I've never seen the source code of a webpage that does this.


Typically, open source licenses require you to give a copy to anyone you distribute the software to. The interesting part of a website is that the software doesn't actually belong to them, so since you didn't distribute the software to someone who visits your webpage, they are not an owner of the software, so no license needs to be distributed along with it. If, however, you were to make a change to an open source website template and post it on your site for download as "Rich's super awesome website", then you would need to redistribute the license along with it, as you are distributing the software itself.

This is ALWAYS subject to the license, so read it carefully.

Note: I am not a lawyer. For legal advise, consult a lawyer.

  • 1
    I'd argue that serving code files through a browser is almost certainly distributing.
    – Mark H
    Jan 30 '11 at 23:27
  • @sparkie: Absolutely, like I said, if you package it up in a zip file or something as a download, that is distributing. If you use an open source web application (like wordpress, for example), then you don't need to put a big comment about the license on you web page (unless explicitly stated in the license). Generally, there is a "do not remove this" area somewhere in the source. It depends and varies from license to license.
    – Ryan Hayes
    Jan 31 '11 at 0:06
  • In the cases of WordPress, or jQuery like nealmcb has mentioned below, user's can ignore the need to distribute the license, because someone else is distributing the code. If however, you host the code on your own server, and server it to your users through <script> tags - you are distributing and are required to comply with the license terms. You don't need to zip up the files to be distributing them - serving them through a HTTP server is distributing.
    – Mark H
    Jan 31 '11 at 0:09
  • 1
    In regards to distributing the license, it's normally at the top of the code file anyway (or a summary of it, stating where the original license can be found). The requirement isn't necessarily for you to distribute the license with the file all the time - but that you must make available the license file (and any other files required by that license) to the people you're distributing to. In other words, the requirement isn't there to force you to serve extra bytes, but is purely a measure to make sure you do not restrict anyone from gaining access to the license, should they request it.
    – Mark H
    Jan 31 '11 at 0:12
  • What if you add a cache manifest and your web app has offline support?
    – panzi
    Mar 15 '13 at 0:22

IANAL, but it seems to me that referring to an open source script from your web page does not constitute distributing it - the user's browser gets it straight from wherever the link points to. E.g. this StackExchange page points to JQuery at http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.4.4/jquery.min.js

If you link to copies of the script which you've put on your site, then the copy you distribute from your site should have all the right licensing info. But that is probably simple since it should already be there, as it is in this case.

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