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I am making a video in which I would like to use pictures of some Linux Kernel code. I am looking to release the finished product under the CC 3.0 BY license, but the Kernel is released under the GPL, which would not allow this if the code is in text format. However, since it will be in low-resolution, incredibly incomplete, non-usable, non-compilable, non-editable (at least without lots of finagling) format, would this constitute fair use or find another loophole to slip through?

Thanks for the help, I will understand if this is considered off topic.

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closed as off topic by quack quixote, Troggy Mar 25 '10 at 14:58

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unfortunately it is rather offtopic. – quack quixote Mar 23 '10 at 21:25
up vote 0 down vote accepted

I'm not sure you really need to even worry about this. You can probably feel safe that the copyright holders of the Linux kernel (Linus, et al) aren't going to sue you for copyright infringement.

You won't be changing the code, expecting it to be typed in and compiled, or used in any way other than as a visual effect. Everyone is free to download that copy of the code from the usual sources if they want to. Although this isn't legally binding, you're certainly not violating the spirit of the GPL and I'm reasonably certain it's not worth anyone's time to sue you over this sort of thing.

(And no, I'm not a lawyer.)

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Thanks for that viewpoint, looks like things are going to work out fine (the code used will probably not even be recognisable anyway). I'm going to accept this unless/until something more even more logical comes along. – marcusw Feb 26 '10 at 1:32


You said that it will be low quality, incomplete etc... do you even need to use it? You would probably be much better off substituting the source code for a hell world/basic free application.

That being said, I have seen Linux code on a few TV shows and never seen a GPL or anything, so by that, either they are also braking the licence, or you are safe - again - IANAL.

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I had considered using just some random public domain stuff, but that didn't seem very accurate. I may just want to ask on a Linux or Gnu mailing list... – marcusw Feb 26 '10 at 1:13

It's most likely fair use: ask a lawyer to be sure. I think the fine folks at the SFLC can help.

If you are making sources available of your work, you might want to indicate the license of the source (even if you're making an image of it, not a binary) to be on the safe side.

You are free to use the code for any purpose. Derivative works are an interesting area.

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In the end, I decided to just use compilation output. Thanks for everyone's answers! – marcusw Mar 24 '10 at 0:07

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