This was reason why I wrote:
This might be a bit ambiguous and in the end it depends on a court decision (if it goes so far that you need a court to resolve such case).
In depends on the meaning of the word „distribute“ or „convey“ and on whether you see the whole company (employer + employees) as a single entity. If you say that the employer distributed the software to particular employees, than the employees should get also the source code. Or if you say that the developer (employee 1) distributed the software to the administrator (employee 2), the administrator should also get the source code. But if you say that the company develops the software for its internal purposes, the software is developed and used by the same legal entity and there is no actual distribution.
The GNU GPLv3 contains this definition:
To “convey” a work means any kind of propagation that enables other parties to make or receive copies. Mere interaction with a user through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not conveying.
So if it is an intranet application running on a company’s server, it is not conveyed to particular employees. It is questionable whether it was conveyed to the administrator of given server… But even if the software is installed on „employee’s“ computer, actually it is a company’s computer – owned by the employer and the employee is just allowed to work on it but does not own it.
If we look at habitual practices in the industry: the software from the third-party vendors is usually licensed to the company, not to particular employees (however employees work on computers where such software is installed). The court might be looking for an analogy between proprietary and free software licenses this way. But even in the case of the proprietary software, there are sometimes employees names in the software or in the license key or the employee is even forced to have an account at the software vendor or have to agree with EULA or other conditions when running the software for the first time.
I basically tend to this reading: the software is developed and used by a single entity (the company) and it is not distributed/conveyed to any other entity. The software stays on the computers owned by the company.
But it is still bit unclear – this might happen:
- An employee takes the software from the company and publishes it somewhere else. The software had GPL license headers, so he thought that it is OK to (re)distribute it. The company might sue him for breaking the employment contract or internal rules of the company. And then the (third-party) author of the software/library might sue the company for breaking the GPL license (because „You may not impose any further restrictions“).
- An employee is using a software (on a company’s computer) and sees in the about dialog, that given software is licensed under GPL. So he asks the employee for the source codes, and if he do not get them, he will sue the employee.
Everything depends on: was the software distributed from one legal entity (employer) to another (employee) or is it used by a single legal entity (the company as a whole)?
Do you know about any legal cases? Was this question ever resolved at a court?