Cohabitation with the GPL license of NodeBB ?


  • Hello,

    If I didn't say stupidity, the GPL does not allow to use a software (or lib) under this license with an another lib or in an app that is not GPL compatible.

    if I develop software for a customer who does not want to share parts of its program, the GPL seems to me inappropriate.

    NodeBB uses GPLv3, the GPL is viral, so it is impossible to use NodeBB with some non-GPL project or use NodeBB in a non-GPL compatible app ?

    Happy New Year !

    PS sorry for my bad english

  • GNU/Linux Admin

    Hi @Nicolab,

    The relevant portion of the GPLv3 license, in layman's terms, is as follows :

    In purely private (or internal) use โ€”with no sales and no distributionโ€” the software code may be modified and parts reused without requiring the source code to be released. For sales or distribution, the entire source code need to be made available to end users, including any code changes and additionsโ€” in that case, copyleft is applied to ensure that end users retain the freedoms defined above.

    This clause generally means that those using NodeBB for their own private use are not required to disclose the source code, while those who are generating sales from the product (or a derived version) would be obligated to include the source or provide it upon request.

    It is a bit of a legal grey area. On the one hand, since you are creating a (possibly modified) NodeBB for a client, this would constitute a sale, and the source would be required to stay open.

    However, if you are not planning to distribute further copies of that derivative of NodeBB, then it would be no different from had I created the NodeBB myself for your client, in which case it is a matter of personal usage.

    USE of a NodeBB is allowed under the GPLv3, at any price.

    Keep in mind I am not a lawyer. You would be wise to look for a second opinion on the matter ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Thanks for your reply Julien.

    Effectively the GPL is not obvious as regards development of some customers orders. This is why I privileged BSD, MIT, Apache, ... licence without hard copyleft

    So it's ok for customizing a customer website.

    To be sure limits, license NodeBB does not allow to create or adapt a paid plugin for NodeBB ?

    I do not sell software but I want to know if one day a customer that sells an application ask me to integrate with other app, if I can add NodeBB in its software (or lib) or add its software (or lib) in NodeBB.

  • GNU/Linux Admin

    In my opinion (and again, I could be wrong), creating a paid plugin is no different from a free one. I view it not as a "derivative" of NodeBB, but rather just an additional functionality add-on, which would be entirely separate.

    Now, on the other hand, if you were to sell your version of NodeBB with that plugin pre-installed, then that would run afoul of the GPLv3.


  • I also think.

    Thank you (I reread me I realize that it should not easy to decipher my English).

  • GNU/Linux Admin

    @nicolab

    Your english is not as bad as you make it out to be. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Ok, good ๐Ÿ™‚


  • @julian said:

    Keep in mind I am not a lawyer. You would be wise to look for a second opinion on the matter

    Would there be any restriction if I use NodeBB in a paid-for Web Application? The forum functionality is one of the modules in this application. As a SaaS vendor, we would host a modified version of NodeBB in our own environment. We would have no problem sharing the parts of NodeBB that are modified.

  • GNU/Linux Admin

    @jhui, according to the GPL, the entire project's source code must be released under the GPL license, if you are intending to redistribute the software, which you are.

    There is no restriction on you combining the software for personal use, but redistribution is where the GPL comes into full effect.


  • Strictly speaking though, I was talking about hosting this in the Cloud for people to use, no software is distributed to the user. They don't get any files for the software.



  • DISCLAIMER: I'm not a lawyer...

    @Nicolab

    There is a difference within GPL when it comes to compiled software vs non-compiled software. Do some reading up in that regard. I believe what you are mentioning has to do with compiled software not something like nodebb or other javascript apps. I would guess several of the modules that nodebb depends on aren't GPL and probably several of the modules those modules use.

  • GNU/Linux Admin

    Yes things get tougher when we get into the specifics of the licensing all of our dependent packages use. To make things easier, we use the GPLv3, which co-habitates well with other free/open-source licenses, but does preclude the use of it in a commecial/resold context.

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