Understanding General Public License v1

\"GPL\"The GNU General Public License (GPL) is one of the most commonly used open source license. The GPL ensures that the software is free for all its users and it allows further distribution and modification of the software. The GPL was first drafted by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation (FSF).

The preamble of the GPL v1 clearly states that the main purpose of this license is to guarantee the freedom to share and change free software to everyone. The user of the software under this license should have the freedom to receive source code, copy or distribute the source code or sell, change or use the free software in new free programs.

Copy, Distribution & Modification         

The users have been authorized to copy, distribute and modify the source code of the free software under certain conditions.  The Section 2 of the GPL v1 states that the modification of the software and its distribution is allowed only subject to the fulfillment of the following conditions:-

  • The user making such modifications should give proper notice about the changes in the files and also the date.
  • Also it should ensure that any work that containing the software or any part which will be subsequently distributed or published should be available with no charge to all the third parties.
  • Further, it should mandatorily contain an appropriate notice and a notice of Non – existence of warranty.
  • The users are also allowed to charge fee for physical transfer of a copy and they may give warranty for such transfer in exchange.

Further, this license excludes mere addition of another independent work with the free software on a volume of a storage or distribution medium from its purview.

Again, while distributing the software, in case the user gives the program of the software in object code or executable form, then it should provide the complete corresponding machine readable source code, or a written offer to give any third party a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code for free that is valid for at least 3 yrs., or give the proper information to obtain the source code.


The users are strictly prohibited from copying, modifying, sublicensing, distributing the software under any terms and conditions except that is expressly provided in the license. Any violation to this condition will accordingly terminate the rights under the license.

In the event of re-distribution, a license from the original author will automatically be received by the recipient.

Further, the user has to take permission from the author so as to use or incorporate the program into any other free software, whose distribution conditions are different.


The license contains clear warranty and liability clause under Section 9 & 10. The warranty clause clearly states that as the software licensed is free of cost, hence no warranty is given as to the quality and performance of the program. Further, the author or person who modified and redistributed the software will not be liable any damages as to the usage of the program.

Even though the GPL license has been introduced to free software and makes it available to all, it includes certain restrictions. Later, the version 1 which was released in 1989 was modified and revised by introducing two new versions.

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by Ms. Madhu