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This webpage,, and many others explicitly state that ConTeXt must not be used for some purposes; e.g. competing with Pragma ADE. However, the source code is GPL(ed), which explicitly states the exact opposite! What is the real usage policy of ConTeXt, or isn't there one?

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IANAL. This is really confusing. The ConTeXt readme claims the code is licensed under the "Creative Commons GNU GPL." But there is no such thing! Creative Commons has several licenses, none have anything to do with GNU's GPL. Then they claim that ConTeXt can be distributed under the "LaTeX project license." Presumably, they mean the LPPL which is incompatible with the GPL. Then there's a parenthetical about BSD, Ruby, and Apache licenses which makes no sense. Some versions of the BSD and Apache licenses are incompatible with the GPL as well. Then the authors point out they haven't even read... – TH. Mar 1 '11 at 20:53
I recall there were a cc-gpl thing once, see – Khaled Hosny Mar 1 '11 at 20:59
About other points, Hans simply hats licenses and licensing, but I'd understand that as multiple licensing i.e. the code can be used under any of these licenses (dual and triple licensing is not uncommon, see Mozilla or even the new LibreOffice). – Khaled Hosny Mar 1 '11 at 21:01
@TH: Unfortunately, public domain does not always work in all countries. Using LPPL for ConTeXt code does not sound right. (I wish LPPL were named TPPL ...). – Aditya Mar 1 '11 at 21:52
I suspect that in practice ConTeXt is using the No problem Bugroff licence :-). – user3913 Mar 1 '11 at 21:59

1 Answer 1

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Here is the ConTeXt license status (according to Hans Hagen of Pragma ADE):

The ConTeXt source code is released under: GNU GPL version 2.


The ConTeXt manuals that are created by Pragma ADE are (unless stated otherwise in the actual document): Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike.

and finally:

The koeielogos and koeieletters fonts are: Creative Commons Attribution No Derivative Works.

Some other remarks:

The only correct website for information about ConTeXt (and especially licensing) is Anything else you may find on the web is not to be trusted.

On the 'Creative Commons' GNU GPL: Creative Commons used to have a special page to explain the GPL in simpler terms than the actual legal text. This is what mreadme.pdf refers to, but it seems that that page has now (sadly) been removed from the CC site. I'll make a note to update mreadme.pdf at some point (but as the link inside mreadme.pdf still works and correctly points to GPLv2, this is not the highest priority).

On the possibility of alternative licensing: I can understand that the relevant sentence in mreadme.pdf is potentially confusing, I'll get Hans to chance it into something like this: 'For alternative licensing options, please contact Pragma ADE.'

About the disclaimer in mreadme.pdf: it is a disclaimer, the statement in mreadme.pdf that the actual text is in fact taken from a license does not make any difference in its interpretation. Hans and I find the BSD disclaimer a lot easier to understand than the GPL disclaimer, and that is why it is there.

On using ConTeXt to create a system that competes with Pragma ADE: it follows from the above that doing so is perfectly legal. But don't be surprised if neither Hans nor me is willing to offer support to you unless you offer us a billing option.

On using the LaTeX project public license: now seriously, do you really think so? Simply because of its name, that license is politically unacceptable, full stop.

Having hopefully answered all questions, can we now forget about this again for half a decade or so? :)

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"On using the LaTeX project public license: now seriously, do you really think so?" Yes, for the reasons I mentioned in my comment. "Simply because of its name, that license is politically unacceptable, full stop." That's your choice. I merely pointed out that it had some stability advantages by requiring people who modify code to call it something else. – TH. Mar 2 '11 at 11:14
Politically? I'm baffled, really, at that explanation. But that's not me trying to argue for its use. Just curious why it would automatically be ruled out. – Will Robertson Mar 2 '11 at 12:18
@Will: simple, really: all mention of LaTeX where it is not actually needed nor relevant reinforce the uninformed opinion that "TeX equals LaTeX". Many people assume that because a program mentions X, it must be connected to X. – Taco Hoekwater Mar 2 '11 at 12:28
yeah okay, i can see your point here. Ta. – Will Robertson Mar 2 '11 at 13:13

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