The General Public License (GPL) is a widely-used open source software license that aims to protect the user’s freedom to use, modify, and distribute the licensed software. It was created by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation in 1989, and it has been used as the license for many popular software projects, including the Linux kernel, the GNU Compiler Collection, and the Apache web server. In this article, we will take a closer look at the GPL and its provisions, as well as its significance in the world of free and open source software.

Rights and obligations under GPL

GPL gives the end user several rights that proprietary licenses typically do not, such as the ability to use, copy, distribute, and modify the software. However, it also imposes several obligations on the user. These include making the source code available to anyone who receives the software, preserving the GPL license on any copies or modifications, and providing a copy of the GPL license along with the software. Failure to comply with these obligations can result in the loss of rights to use the software and potential legal action.

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Distribution under GPL

Requires that any software being distributed under this license should be accompanied with the source code. Additionally, any modifications to the original software must also be made available under the GPL license. This means that anyone who receives the software has the right to access and modify the source code, as well as distribute their own modified versions of the software. It's important to understand and comply with these requirements to ensure proper use of GPL-licensed software.

Compatibility with other licenses

The General Public License is known for being a strong copyleft license that requires software distributed under its terms to also be licensed under the GPL. This can sometimes cause compatibility issues with other licenses, such as permissive licenses like the MIT or Apache licenses. In general, it is difficult to combine code governed by different licenses, and the compatibility between the GPL and other licenses depends on the specifics of each license. While it is possible to distribute software under multiple licenses, doing so requires careful consideration to ensure the licenses do not conflict with each other.

Enforcing GPL

Enforcing GPL involves legal action against those who violate its terms. This can be done by the copyright holder, who has the exclusive right to enforce GPL. If the violator does not comply with the terms, the copyright holder may seek injunctive relief or damages. However, some believe that the threat of legal action is not enough, and that the open source community should also be involved in enforcing GPL. This can be done through public shaming and community pressure, as well as through reporting violations to the appropriate authorities.

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