Understanding the GNU General Public License (GPL)


The GNU General Public License (GPL) is a widely used software license that allows users to freely use, modify, and distribute software. It was created by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to promote the principles of free software and protect the rights of users.

What is the GPL?

The GPL is a copyleft license, which means that any software released under this license must also be distributed under the same terms. This ensures that the software remains free and open-source, even if it is modified or incorporated into other projects.

Under the GPL, users have the freedom to run, study, modify, and distribute the software. This includes the freedom to make changes to the source code, as well as the freedom to distribute modified versions of the software.

Key Features of the GPL

There are several key features of the GPL that make it unique:

  • Copyleft: The copyleft provision of the GPL ensures that any derivative works or modifications of the software must also be licensed under the GPL.
  • Source Code Availability: The GPL requires that the source code of the software be made available to users, allowing them to understand and modify the software.
  • No Discrimination: The GPL prohibits any restrictions on who can use the software or the purposes for which it can be used.
  • Compatibility: The GPL is compatible with many other open-source licenses, allowing for collaboration and sharing of code.

Benefits of Using the GPL

Using the GPL for your software has several benefits:

  • Freedom: The GPL ensures that users have the freedom to use, modify, and distribute the software, promoting a culture of collaboration and innovation.
  • Protection: The GPL protects the rights of users and ensures that the software remains free and open-source, even if it is incorporated into other projects.
  • Community: The GPL encourages the formation of a community of users and developers who can collaborate and contribute to the improvement of the software.


The GNU General Public License (GPL) is an important software license that promotes the principles of free software. By using the GPL for your software, you can ensure that it remains free and open-source, while also benefiting from the contributions of a vibrant community of users and developers.