Spin-off (software development)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A chronological overview of the spin-offs in Linux distributions

A cleavage (also Fork ; English fork , fork ', usually in the masculine used) is in the software development , a development branch after the splitting of a project in two or more subsequent projects; the source texts or parts of them are further developed independently of the original parent project. Often, especially with regard to copyright, the term derivative (derivative, Latin derivare , to derive) is used in this context .


Spin-offs take place predominantly in free software projects, since with these the right to further develop and change is usually possible in terms of licensing. In closed source projects, spin-offs can occur if several companies work together and share the - possibly new - rights to the product. The opposite of a spin-off also occasionally occurs, for example when a split-off project is reunited with the parent project.

Project examples

(Examples of projects that arose from splits.)

Version control systems

In version control systems , a spin-off is generally not the result of disputes among the developers or of inactivity of a project, but rather a regular tool within the framework of branches to contribute innovations to a project. In the case of distributed version management systems, there is also the option of being able to create branches without writing authorization to the original version management system. For Linus Torvalds ' Linux operating system kernel, there are more than 14,000 spin-offs on the software developer platform GitHub alone , most of which are not designed to be further developed on their own, but rather that their individual innovations can be incorporated into the original project - or more precisely into the original sources (or repositories ). Such branches are accordingly more internal forks.


In copyright law, which also applies to software, the term derivative has exactly the same meaning as in all other areas. This means, for example, that a derivative of software, as long as there is no authorization by the rights holder of the software, is only created under certain conditions (e.g. error correction) (depending on the country, e.g. regulated by EU directives ) and in particular may not be disseminated. I.e. as long as the software license does not explicitly allow derivatives to be generated or distributed, this is prohibited. This also plays an important role in the case of SCO against Linux , because SCO has declared AIX and the Linux kernel with system software to be unauthorized Unix derivatives . Although it is controversial whether SCO has these rights at all, SCO can, as long as no copyrighted source code is found in the GNU / Linux system, no guilty verdict, e.g. B. for a Linux distributor , based on copyright.

Individual evidence

  1. coin.ink: Hard fork and tax: Hard fork of the Bitcoin blockchain. coin.ink, accessed June 11, 2019 .
  2. Network Graph · torvalds / linux (English) - page at GitHub ; As of March 8, 2015.