GNU General Public License, terms of use

The GNU GPL, or the GNU General Public License, is a free software license under which the developer, while retaining authorship, transfers the software for free use. It allows you to modify and distribute the software without any restrictions or mandatory payments for the licensed code.

What was the beginning of the GNU GPL?

The GNU project became the basis for the development of "free software", on the basis of which the "Free Software Foundation" was established. The main activity of the foundation is the development and maintenance of various variants of public licenses (GNU General Public License).

What is the essence of the GNU GPL?

The peculiarity of free licenses is that, unlike license agreements that allow the licensor to limit the number of persons using the IPO, free licenses, on the contrary, grant such a right to an unlimited number of users.

According to the GPL license, the user is free to use, modify or distribute the software without any restrictions. A specific set of rights, or “4 freedoms", are listed in the GPL license and represent:

  • Freedom to launch. The licensee is granted the right to run the program for absolutely any purpose.
  • Freedom of study and modification. The licensee gets the right to study the work of the program and adapt it to his user needs, including the prerequisite that the author provides access to the source codes. 
  • Freedom of distribution. The licensee has the right to distribute copies of the program.
  • Freedom to improve and publish. The licensee has the right to improve the program and publish an improved version of the software.

Thus, users have the right to launch, study, distribute, modify and improve the program.
If a developer uses any GNU GPL component in their software, then the software as a whole is subject to the terms and conditions of the GPL.

What is the difference between GPLv2 and GPLv3?

At the moment, the second and third versions of the GNU GPL are the most popular. Each of them is designed to improve the previous version. Thus, GPL2v excluded the obligation to grant a license for free use of an object containing the GNU GPL (the original version) to all third parties.

Of great importance in GPL2v is the provision “on freedom or death”, which means that if a user cannot comply with at least one of the listed freedoms, he should not use the license at all.

GPL3v was released in 2007. It contains significant improvements, for example, simplification of the procedure for reviewing technical and legal changes, for example, provisions on the exchange of international licenses.

This version is generally much easier to use than GPL2v. The early license was based on the US legal system, therefore, its application outside the US required more regulation.

GPL3v modifications also include:

  • improved license compatibility;
  • the fight against tivoization, namely the mandatory requirement for the licensor to provide the licensee with all the information necessary to interact with the software (license);
  • prohibition on restricting the rights of users in order for them to purchase patents for the remaining amount of rights;
  • the fight against the creation of software, the purpose of which is to bypass digital protection.

Accordingly, the use of both versions of the GPL is possible, since each of them involves granting users a wide range of rights, subject to the necessary conditions.