Open Source License for Excel Macros (Was: Creative Commons)

Cinly Ooi cinly.ooi at
Fri Aug 8 18:53:53 UTC 2008

2008/8/8 Somik Raha <somik.raha at>

> Thank you for the responses. The typical scenario for usage of the macros
> would be a consultant using them to create a model and providing the results
> to his client. The results would also include the open-source macro in it.
> It is important that the consultant not be required to distribute their
> models (in the Excel workbook) to the general public. I want to make doubly
> sure that the Excel workbook is not considered derivative work of the macro
> or corresponding source.

IANAL, but assuming the results is a another spreadsheet containing values
and NO macros whatsoever, there is no copyright issues here. It is like
using a text editor to create a plain text file. The text editor programmer
has no claim to the plain text.

However, if he pass on the models to others, then the licensing terms for
the macro will kick in.

> Here is the template I am considering, using GPL v3:
> If you modify this Program, or any covered work, by linking or combining it
> with *libraries provided in *Microsoft Excel (or a modified version of
> those libraries), containing parts covered by the terms of the *Microsoft
> End-User License Agreement*, the licensors of this Program grant you
> additional permission to convey the resulting work. {Corresponding Source
> for a non-source form of such a combination shall include the source code
> for the parts of Microsoft Excel used as well as that of the covered
> work.}
Frankly, I don't understand this text. There seems to be contradictory terms
used. I cannot see how you grant me "additional permission". The
corresponding source clause suggest to me that you are giving me permission
to convey Microsoft Excel source code (which you cannot).

See Trolltech GPL Exception on how to phrase this properly (

Paraphasing TrollTech's Exception clause, this is what I will write:

"As a special exception to the terms and conditions of GPL version 2.0 or
GPL version 3.0, Somik Raha hereby grants you the rights to link the macros
to functions calls that normally comes with the standard built-in provided
by your office application programs."

This give me exception to not only combine it with Excel's built-in and its's equivalent, Lotus 1-2-3 or any spreadsheet program everyone
can think of.

I will also give the option of LGPL to those who don't mind their libraries
> being used in closed systems, but for those who would like to prevent such
> usage, I want to make sure I interpret the terms of the GPL appropriately.
> Unfortunately, IANAL, and I appreciate all the guidance I have been
> receiving thus far.*
> *

If your purpose is to build a collection of macros (for a professional
bodies or society), then something like Eclipse license may be better. Or
quite simply, just tell them they can use any open source license.

> Cinly wrote: *
> *I think we should not focus on the actual mechanics of the templates
> delivery, i.e., Microsoft Office or OpenOffice format. The key is the
> content, i.e., the arrangement of stuff you see on screen. Make sure that
> recipient has the rights to do what you want them to be able to, and this
> should include file format shifting.
> *
> I am assuming that nothing in the Creative Commons licensing prevents
> changing of the file format, and I don't need to explicitly mention it
> anywhere.

Good point. I think we can generalize this to format shifting.  For example,
converting a novel into a play. Of course we have to assume the
no-derivative clause is not chosen by the original creator.

One other point is that copyright violation in your case is likely to be a
civil offense, not a criminal one. So if you say format shifting is OK and
therefore not pursuing anyone who actually format-shift it, whether CC
allows format-shifting does not in reality matters.

Best Regards,
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