What is GPL? (General Public License)

The General Public License (GPL) is a widely used software license that grants users the freedom to use, modify, and distribute software. It was created by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) in 1989 as part of their mission to promote and protect software freedom.

Key Principles of the GPL

The GPL is based on a set of key principles that ensure the freedom and openness of software:

  1. Free to Use: The GPL allows anyone to use the software for any purpose, without any restrictions.
  2. Free to Modify: Users are free to modify the software to suit their needs, and the modified versions must also be released under the GPL.
  3. Free to Distribute: The GPL permits users to distribute copies of the software to others, either for free or for a fee.
  4. Source Code Availability: The GPL requires that the source code of the software be made available to users, ensuring transparency and enabling further development.
  5. Copyleft: The GPL uses a copyleft mechanism, which means that any derivative works or modifications of the software must also be licensed under the GPL.

GPL Versions

Over the years, the GPL has evolved and different versions have been released to address changing needs and challenges in the software industry. The most commonly used versions of the GPL are:

  1. GPLv1: The original version of the GPL, released in 1989.
  2. GPLv2: Released in 1991, this version introduced several improvements and clarifications over the original GPL.
  3. GPLv3: The latest version of the GPL, released in 2007, which incorporates new provisions to address emerging issues such as software patents and digital rights management (DRM).

Advantages of Using the GPL

The GPL offers several advantages for both developers and users of software:

  1. Freedom: The GPL ensures that users have the freedom to use, modify, and distribute software without any restrictions.
  2. Community Collaboration: By requiring the release of source code, the GPL encourages collaboration and sharing among developers, leading to the creation of vibrant and active communities around software projects.
  3. Protection of Software Freedom: The copyleft mechanism of the GPL ensures that derivative works and modifications of GPL-licensed software also remain free and open.
  4. Legal Certainty: The GPL provides a clear legal framework for the use, modification, and distribution of software, giving developers and users confidence in their rights and obligations.

GPL and Open Source Software

The GPL is often associated with the open source software movement, which promotes the development and distribution of software with open source code. Many popular open source projects, such as the Linux operating system and the GNU software tools, are licensed under the GPL.

It’s important to note that the GPL is not the only open source license available. There are several other licenses, each with its own set of terms and conditions. However, the GPL is widely regarded as one of the most robust and comprehensive open source licenses, offering strong protections for software freedom.


The General Public License (GPL) is a powerful software license that promotes software freedom and openness. It allows users to use, modify, and distribute software freely, while ensuring that derivative works also remain free and open. The GPL has played a significant role in the growth of the open source software movement and continues to be an important tool for fostering innovation and collaboration in the software industry.

  16 December 2023   Technology


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