The GPLv2 header states:

Copyright (C) 1989, 1991 Free Software Foundation, Inc. 51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301, USA

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

Would a partial copy/paste into questions/answers on this site constitute a violation of the document's copyright?

I consider this might be a OS main site question? But I feel a bit safer here as it applies to posting on this site.

1 Answer 1


This isn't a license thing, this is a copyright thing. It is perfectly fine to quote any copyrighted work as long as

  • the quote is reasonably small, as determined by the context for which the quote is used
  • the quote is used as part of a larger work (here: answer)
  • the quote is subject to commentary from the surrounding text, or is used to illustrate/clarify some subject matter
  • the quote is not modified (unless such modifications are marked as per common custom)
  • the source is properly attributed.

The specific conditions for citations depend on your jurisdiction. In the US, this would be part of fair use. In my jurisdiction (Germany) there is an explicit right to cite. In the Netherlands, there is also an explicit citaatrecht for scientific works or similar works, which would seem apply to a Stack Exchange answer as well.

  • 1
    "the quote is reasonably small" that's not entirely true even in the US, where fair use protections are quite strong; see eg Salinger v. Random House, which developed the concept of the expressive heart of a work, and established that 'Even short quotes may infringe copyright if they are what "makes the book worth reading"'. But generally, I agree, your point is fair, and in the context of thing like a license, which is hardly an emotional work, very fair. +1 from me.
    – MadHatter Mod
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 7:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .