I'm developing a commercial closed-source application that will have a user-interface, and the back-end will be generating C++ code that needs to be compiled to produce a final end result.

When I distribute this application to the end-users, do I distribute the compiler as a component of the installation or will users need to install the compiler separately? Ideally, I would want users to have an entire package with very little setup to do on their end.

This is probably edging (if not entirely involved with) legalities.

2 Answers 2


A C++ compiler isn't different from any other 3rd party software component: it usually comes with certain license terms, and for using, redistributing or reselling the compiler one needs to obey them.

So now you have to choose among commercial and non commercial compilers for the platform(s) you want to support and check if their licenses will allow redistribution / reselling, and under which conditions. Maybe you need to buy a special license, or simply buy one compiler license per license of your own product (specifically for commercial compilers).

Alternatively, you could let the end user find and install a C++ compiler on their machines, within the range of certain products and versions. For lots of Linux distributions, this is quite simple. For example, when your C++ code targets for the GCC C++ compiler, which is under "GPLv3+", this avoids your own program to become subject of the viral nature of the GPL family (which would otherwise force you to put your own program under GPL as well).

If you have further questions about the license terms of FOSS C++ compilers, I recommend you ask them on opensource.stackexchange.com. If you have questions questions about the license terms of certain commercial C++ compilers, do not ask in the SE network, but in a vendor specific forum.


An alternative is to split the backend between code generator and binary generator. While code generator can be distributed to the users, the binary generator can be served as an API which takes in code and returns binaries (after compilation) to your application.

This way you would avoid shipping any compiler.

  • 1
    When you write "API", you probably mean "web service API"? Making binary generation available by some API (in the literal meaning of that term) would not solve the redistribution issue.
    – Doc Brown
    May 26, 2022 at 7:07
  • The delivery of binary over api can be via various means e.g. streamed output, base64 encoded text, or link to another resource. My route would be to make it async to manage any unpredictability of compilation time due to concurrent load, or other reasons.
    – S2L
    May 27, 2022 at 18:30
  • I think you did not get my point. By API, you mean a self-hosted service, right? That's not clear from your answer,
    – Doc Brown
    May 27, 2022 at 18:34

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