I'm confused I've seen a lot of softwares with GPL License but those specific softwares don't allow sharing the software or remove backlinks for example... (some devs charge 100$ more for the same software to remove their backlink)

Isn't GPL supposed to be 100% free as in freedom software that you can run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software?

  • No GPL software may not be free. But source must come free with software.
    – AgA
    Aug 12, 2013 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


My answer is in no way any sort of legal advice. I am not a lawyer and have actually no idea how copyright and licences may or may not work in your country.

The GNU.org website pretty much covers it all. I quote (emphasises by me):

If a program P is released under the GPL that means any and every part of it can be used under the GPL. If you integrate module Q, and release the combined program P+Q under the GPL, that means any part of P+Q can be used under the GPL. One part of P+Q is Q. So releasing P+Q under the GPL says that Q any part of it can be used under the GPL. Putting it in other words, a user who obtains P+Q under the GPL can delete P, so that just Q remains, still under the GPL. If the license of module Q permits you to give permission for that, then it is GPL-compatible. Otherwise, it is not GPL-compatible.

If the license for Q says in no uncertain terms that you must do certain things (not compatible with the GPL) when you redistribute Q on its own, then it does not permit you to distribute Q under the GPL. It follows that you can't release P+Q under the GPL either. So you cannot link or combine P with Q.

Further the GNU GPL v2 states that (emphasises by me):

You are not required to claim a copyright on your changes. In most countries, however, that happens automatically by default, so you need to place your changes explicitly in the public domain if you do not want them to be copyrighted. Whether you claim a copyright on your changes or not, either way you must release the modified version, as a whole, under the GPL. (if you release your modified version at all)

Source: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0-faq.html#TOCRequiredToClaimCopyright

In my country, the GNU GPL in any version is more or less invalid, even the public domain. The copyright laws of my country prohibits me to take, reuse, redistribute, change, sell or in any way alter anything that was not done entirely by myself and remove the original copyright claims (or alter them to display myself as the copyright owner) without a PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION by the true copyright owner. These do, however expire for certain things. For example artwork copyright expires after 70 years of the original person's death, even if the copyright was transfered to the authors relatives.

De-facto I may use the GNU GPL as a written permission and do whatever I please, unless the author states that I may not do this or that with the code (then that would have preference before the licence agreement by the GNU GPL).

This may be different in your and the copyright's original authors country though.

  • So the GPL license restricts the user depending on the country copyright law or it also can be restricted by the author even if its GPL? I think That's an attack to our freedom.
    – ananas
    Jun 13, 2013 at 12:18
  • 1
    Actually I don't know. The GPL is not a paragraph in my law books. It's just a licence which should enable lots of transferable freedoms, but as I already said, in my country (a european country) that is nill. Copyright is copyright and is not transferable, no matter what a licence says. This may be different in your country though. Still, copyright law is super-complicated and depends on many factors. Giving you absolution in what you want to do, Pro Webmasters is the wrong place. Only a lawyer may be able to sort this out for you...
    – David K.
    Jun 13, 2013 at 12:23
  • Oh wait. The GPL cannot be restricted by the author, by definition of the GPL itself! The only thing that can restrict it is the legislature of your country you reside in!
    – David K.
    Jun 13, 2013 at 12:25
  • Thanks for the detailed answer. One note though, checking the copyright expiration date for your country is important as they are different in most countries and even never expire in other countries.
    – dvnkiss
    Jun 13, 2013 at 16:55

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