Can I redistribute the FLAC command line tool as part of my closed-source, free software?

| | August 6, 2015

I’ve spent the past hour trying to research this but I just can’t understand it. I understand that this a software development forum, but I have a feeling someone here is more likely to have a better understanding of this than me.

I would like to use the FLAC command line tool as part of free closed-source software that may eventually be backed by advertising (on a website and or in the app).

Would I be right in thinking I can freely include this tool as an external binary file that will be called from my software as long as I somehow include its source code and licenses?

From the README:

 This file is part the FLAC project.  FLAC is comprised of several
 components distributed under difference licenses.  The codec libraries
 are distributed under Xiph.Org's BSD-like license (see the file
 COPYING.Xiph in this distribution).  All other programs, libraries, and
 plugins are distributed under the LGPL or GPL (see COPYING.LGPL and
 COPYING.GPL).  The documentation is distributed under the Gnu FDL (see
 COPYING.FDL).  Each file in the FLAC distribution contains at the top the
 terms under which it may be distributed.

 Since this particular file is relevant to all components of FLAC,
 it may be distributed under the Xiph.Org license, which is the least
 restrictive of those mentioned above.  See the file COPYING.Xiph in this

One Response to “Can I redistribute the FLAC command line tool as part of my closed-source, free software?”

  1. The GPL is the only relevant license in this case (it’s fine to do this with BSD or LGPL code). The GPL FAQ has the following to say on the topic.

    […] if the program uses only simple fork and exec to invoke and communicate with plug-ins, then the plug-ins are separate programs, so the license of the plug-in makes no requirements about the main program.

    The “plug-in” in this case would be the FLAC binary. So you should be fine.

    Note though, that you are redistributing the FLAC binary and thus need to abide by the GPL (and other license) terms for that binary. That basically means that you need to include the FLAC license terms somewhere in your application and provide the FLAC source code if a user of your application requests it (or just provide it for download).

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