The full form of GPL is General Public License. The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or simply GPL) is a collection of commonly used free software licenses that grant end users four freedoms: to run, study, share, and modify the software.
Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), wrote the first copyleft license for general use for the GNU Project. The license confers the Free Software Definition rights to the recipients of a computer program.
These GPL licenses are all copyleft, which means that any derivative work must be published under the same or identical license terms. It is stricter than the Lesser General Public License and even more so than the more widely used permissive software licenses BSD, MIT, and Apache.
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Richard Stallman wrote the GPL in 1989 for use with programs released as part of the GNU project. The original GPL was built on a merger of comparable licenses for early versions of GNU Emacs (1985), the GNU Debugger, and the GNU C Compiler.
These licenses featured requirements comparable to the present GPL but were tailored to each software, making them incompatible despite sharing the same license. Stallman’s purpose was to create a single license that could be used for any project, allowing many projects to share code.
The license’s second version, version 2, was released in 1991. Over the next 15 years, members of the free software movement became concerned about issues in the GPLv2 license that could allow someone to abuse GPL-licensed work in ways that were not intended by the license.
These issues included tivoization (the inclusion of GPL-licensed software in hardware that refuses to run modified versions of its software), compatibility issues similar to the Affero General Public License, and patent deals between Microsoft and distributors of free and open-source software, which some saw as an attempt to use patents against the free software community.
Version 3 was created to solve these concerns and was formally released on June 29, 2007.
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Terms and Conditions
The GPL terms and conditions must be made available to everyone who receives a copy of a work with a GPL applied to it (“the licensee”). Any licensee who follows the terms and conditions is granted permission to alter the work as well as copy and redistribute it or any derivative version. The licensee may charge a fee for this service or provide it for free.
The GPL differs from software licenses that ban commercial redistribution in this regard. The FSF contends that commercial usage of free software should not be restricted, and the GPL expressly stipulates that GPL works may be sold at any price.
A distributor may not impose “further restrictions on the rights granted by the GPL,” according to the GPL. Under a non-disclosure agreement or contract, this prohibits acts such as software distribution.
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