GPLv3 Commercial Use, the OOS license that allows 3rd party commercial use of GPLv3-licensed code, is finally here. The FSF first published a draft version of this license in 2010, and many in the community submitted comments, which ultimately resulted in a major rewrite. This license was designed after long discussions with lawyers who are familiar with copyright law and software licenses, as well as over a year of public commentary on the earlier drafts.
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Grant of Patent Rights
Like the popular permissive license Apache License 2.0, GPL v3 includes an explicit grant of patent rights. What does that mean, exactly? It means that the creator or contributor to the original licensed code essentially “gives away” their patent rights with regard to any subsequent reuse of the software. Normally, if you have a patent on something you created and someone manufactures, uses, sells, or imports it, you could challenge them in court. That’s not the case if you have explicitly granted patent rights to other users, as all contributors do when licensing their code under GPL v3.
While the GPL v2 license does discuss patent rights, it does so more generally and without an explicit grant by code contributors. GPL v3 addresses this by clearly stating the patent grant in the full text of the license.
You can license your commercial application under the GPLv3 license as long as you comply with the terms of the GPLv3 license. You may discover, however that these terms do not work so well in your favor, since one of the terms prevents you from adding restrictions to the license. Another requires you to make your code available to the licencor.
Compatibility With Apache 2.0
Let’s say a developer uses components from two different OSS libraries under two different licenses to build a piece of software. If the licenses are compatible — in other words, software components with different licenses can legally be distributed together — all is well and good, and the developer can distribute the aggregate work under the conditions of the stronger license. If they’re not, that can pose problems.
Unlike GPL v2, GPL v3 is compatible with the frequently used Apache License 2.0. This compatibility only works one way, however. Code licensed under Apache 2.0 may be combined with GPL 3-licensed code with the resulting work being licensed under GPL 3. The opposite — incorporating GPL 3 code into a larger work that is then licensed under Apache 2.0 — is not permitted.
What are the GPL license terms and conditions?
If you have used a GPL component in your software, then your entire software is considered a ‘work based on’ a GPL and, therefore:
- You are not allowed to claim patents or copyright on the software. Moreover, you are obligated to display a copyright notice, disclaimer of warranty, intact GPL notices, and a copy of the GPL.
- You are not allowed to change the license or introduce additional terms and conditions.
- You are under the reciprocity obligation, which means you are obligated to release the source code and all of the rights to modify and distribute the entire code.
GPL v3 Use Cases
Both GPL v3 and GPL v2 are still in use today, with some OSS projects staying with the earlier version and others adopting the most recent one. Below, we’ll go through a few reasons why developers and software companies might select the GPL v3 license for their open source work.
Is GPL enforceable?
GPL is enforceable as it’s essentially a copyright license. The copyright holders of the GPL software can choose to enforce the GPL on the distributed or derivative works of the software.
For example, the FSF holds the copyrights on many pieces of the GNU system, such as the GNU Compiler Collection. As the copyright holder, it can enforce the copyleft requirements of the GNU General Public License (GPL) if copyright infringement occurs on that software.
Research indicates that open source software contributors are motivated more by a desire to learn and be part of the OSS community than by financial rewards. And many OSS developers believe in the philosophy that software should be free and accessible to everyone, which makes copyleft licenses like GPL v2 and GPL v3 particularly attractive.
GPL v3 might be the better option for developers who are either based abroad or gearing their project for a global audience, as it includes improvements with regard to internationalization. And, if a developer is planning to incorporate Apache 2.0’d components into their work, they must select GPL v3 instead of GPL v2.
If you can’t decide which to choose, you can also use GPL v2 or any later version, which at this time includes GPL v2 or GPLv3.
Can you sell GPL software/code?
Yes, the GPL license allows users to sell the original as well as the modified software. It may be confusing, but free software is referred to as free in terms of freedom and not in terms of price. As Richard Stallman explains it, free software means free as in “free speech,” not free as in “free beer.”
However, if someone buys your program for a fee, GPL gives him/her the liberty to release it to the public, with or without a fee.
The GPLv3 is a user-focused license, meant to afford maximum freedoms to the people who use your code-based product. Blender itself is licensed as GPL, which is what allows you to create and sell add-ons for it as freely as you are able to. It is also what requires you to make freely available (liberty, not price) any products that stem from Blender’s code.
The primary benefit of this license to you, as a Creator, is that the GPLv3 requires that all the released improved versions of your work be free (liberty, not price) software. “This means you can avoid the risk of having to compete with a proprietary modified version of your own work.”
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