GNU General Public License


The GNU General Public License (GPL) is a widely used free software license that guarantees end users the freedom to run, study, share, and modify the software. Its purpose is to declare that the software can be distributed under the terms of the license and that the license promises recipients these freedoms. It was originally designed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the GNU Project.


The phonetics of the keyword “GNU General Public License” would be: G-N-U General Public License: /ˈdʒiːˈɛnˈjuː ˈdʒɛn(ə)r(ə)l ˈpʌblɪk ˈlaɪs(ə)ns/.

Key Takeaways

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  1. The GNU General Public License is a free software license that guarantees users the freedom to run, study, share and modify the software. It’s often abbreviated as GPL.
  2. GPL is based on four main freedoms: the freedom to use the software for any purpose, the freedom to change the software to suit your needs, the freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbors, and the freedom to share the changes you make.
  3. When a program is under GPL, this means the software is licensed permissively, which is in contrast to proprietary software. Essentially, this allows the software to be free but also provides a legal framework to protect the rights of authors and users alike.

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The GNU General Public License (GPL) is a vital aspect of technology because it represents a foundation of the free software movement. As a widely used license for free software, GPL ensures that software is freely shared and improved, while also protecting original creators. This license allows anyone to use, read, modify, and distribute the software or any modifications, under the stipulation that these freedoms are preserved in derivative works. In essence, GPL encourages innovation and collaboration by allowing individuals or organizations to improve on existing software, and its concept of ‘copyleft’ ensures that these improvements are freely available to every user. This makes the GPL a crucial vehicle for technological progress and inclusivity in the software world.


The GNU General Public License (GPL) is a free software license that guarantees end users the freedom to run, study, share, and modify the licensed software. The primary purpose of GPL is to uphold the freedom of all users of a certain program and prevent any efforts to exclude people from this benefit. This is achieved by obliging those who distribute the GPL licensed software, to disclose the source code and grant these four freedoms.GPL is utilized to license numerous software programs, including the GNU Operating System and the Linux kernel. The license ensures that derivative works of a software are also free, thus promoting the creation and sharing of creative extensions without the fear of legal ramifications. Therefore, not only does it motivate creative enhancements, but it also encourages collaboration amidst the software programming community.


1. Linux Operating System: Perhaps the most famous example of a GNU General Public License (GPL) product is the Linux operating system. Linux OS was created under the guidelines of the GPL, allowing anyone to use, modify and distribute its source code. It has now become a standard for servers, desktops, embedded systems, and smartphones.2. WordPress: The popular content management system, WordPress, is also released under GPL. This means that the software is open source, free for anyone to use, modify, and distribute. Many powerful websites and blogs are powered by WordPress thanks to its flexibility and the big community of developers who continually innovate and share their improvements with the public.3. GIMP: This refers to the GNU Image Manipulation Program, a versatile graphics manipulation package which provides sophisticated tools for graphic designers and photographers. It is licensed under GPL, meaning it’s freely distributed and allows for modification and improvements by the larger community.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

**Q: What is the GNU General Public License?**A: The GNU General Public License (GPL) is a free software license that guarantees end users the freedom to run, study, share, and modify the software.**Q: Who developed the GNU General Public License?**A: The GNU General Public License was created by Richard Stallman for the GNU Project.**Q: What are the major versions of the GNU GPL?**A: There are three versions of the GNU GPL – Version 1, Version 2, and Version 3.**Q: What are the main requirements of the GNU General Public License?**A: The GNU GPL requires that the licensed software be freely available for further distribution and modification, provided that any derivative works are also distributed under the same terms as the original software.**Q: Can software licensed under one version of the GNU GPL be combined with software licensed under a different version of the GPL?**A: GPLv2 and GPLv3 are not compatible with each other. However, a piece of software can be dual-licensed under both GPLv2 and GPLv3, and GPLv3 has some compatibility measures for later versions.**Q: What is the ‘copyleft’ clause in the GNU General Public License?**A: ‘Copyleft’ is a unique license clause in the GNU GPL. It ensures that every person who receives a copy or derivative of a GPL-licensed program can freely use, modify, and distribute the software under the same license terms, thus preserving the software’s freedom.**Q: How does the GPL affect software that integrates or links with GPL-licensed software?**A: If a piece of software integrates or links code from a GPL-licensed software, that software itself becomes subject to the terms of the GPL.**Q: Why would a developer choose to use the GNU General Public License?**A: Developers might choose the GNU GPL for their projects if they wish to ensure that all modifications or derivative works are equally free and open, thereby promoting collaboration and free use of software.**Q: Is it mandatory for open source software to use the GNU GPL?**A: No, it is not mandatory for open source software to use the GNU GPL. There are many other open source licenses available like the MIT License, Apache License, etc., each with its own terms and conditions.

Related Tech Terms

  • Free Software Foundation: The organization that created and maintains the GNU General Public License.
  • Copyleft: The general method that allows freely distributed derivative works, but requires all modified and extended versions to be free as well.
  • Open Source: A type of software license that allows the source code to be freely available for modification and distribution.
  • GPL Compatibility: A term referring to whether a software license is compatible with the terms and conditions of the GNU General Public License.
  • Software Fork: The action of developing a new piece of software by utilizing an already existing software’s source code, an action highly intertwined with the licensing regulations of the GNU General Public License.

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