Do programs compiled with a GNU compiler have to be open source?

Andrew J Bromage Andrew.Bromage at
Mon Oct 30 01:53:01 UTC 2000

G'day all.

On Sat, Oct 28, 2000 at 11:24:30AM -0400, nathan_gundlach at wrote:

> Do programs compiled with a GNU compiler have to be open 
> source?

The short answer is "not usually".

The longer answer:

I would think that it would be exceedingly hard to argue that the output
of a compiler is a derivative work of (or "work based on") the compiler
or any standard libraries that must be provided as part of a conforming
language implementation, especially if the language has at least one
other sufficiently conforming implementation.  IANAL, but I know that I
wouldn't like my chances defending that position in court.  A possible
exception might be if the compiled output is mostly boilerplate (e.g. as
is the case with the output of yacc/bison or lex/flex).

You will almost always find, though, that compiler writers that use a
GNU licence _their_ work protected by it, not yours.  The Free Software
Foundation is particularly nice about this.  You will invariably see in
the documentation a disclaimer that using this GPL'd compiler does not
in and of itself make your programs covered by the GPL.

You should naturally check your own compiler's documentation for details.

Andrew Bromage

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