I'm writing a book and I'd like to include text that I found under the GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2

I have no problems attributing the content to the source, but I don't understand the legal implications of my actions. Thoughts?

The book I'm writing is a programming book. The code that I found is on the rosettacode.org website, if that helps.

  • 6
    If you cite the original source, it's not a problem at all, even if the original text was copyrighted: the quotation of a passage, given the proper source attribution, falls under the fair use, i.e. you can cite it to help you with your argument. To get help with the question, though, you should add more details about the purpose and nature of your book. GFDL is more for software and documentation than for "regular" books. Maybe take a look at Law SE, a better place to look for legal advice: law.stackexchange.com/?tags=copyright
    – FraEnrico
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 8:13
  • What is your source? Proper use has (pretty severe) limitations but its only needed if you use (quote) from someone else. As author you yourself automatically have rights (unless you sell those of course) see writers.stackexchange.com/questions/29237/…
    – Bookeater
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 10:13
  • 2
    This might be a better question for opensource.stackexchange.com
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 11:58
  • 1
    Did you try to contact the copyright holder (probably the author)? In the end, it is the copyright holder who gives the permission where necessary.
    – celtschk
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 21:51

1 Answer 1


Okay, I've read through the GNU Free Documentation License a couple of times now and I can say categorically that anyone who licences their work using this document is actually asking for you to reproduce their code in your book as a means of publicising their work.

The licence is not intended for people who wish to incorporate their code into software but is intended for people who wish to use a text version of their code (as you will be doing).

The important thing is to follow the instructions in the section: 'How to use this License for your documents' to ensure that you give credit where credit is due. Other than that, you're good to go.

I'm not a lawyer, but I am a smart enough guy with a couple of years in software development, a degree in Computing with Psychological Studies (so I knows my software) and half a Masters in Creative Writing (so I knows how to read and write).

Good luck with your book, GP.

  • Thank you. Personally, I'm 100% ok with someone using the code in the book.
    – gp443
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 18:44

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