GNU General Public Licence (GPL)


To ensure Users who create and distribute any modifications or works based on the code must make their entire source code of the modification or work available to all third parties on the terms of the GPL.

Key features

  • Reportedly the most widely used Open Source license
  • Designed to make sure there is freedom to distribute copies of free software (this means freedom, not price, so persons can charge for this service if they wish), to receive source code or obtain it and to change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs
  • Allows redistribution of modified sources provided the modified files bear prominent notices
  • Requires that any program containing parts that are under GPL be wholly GPLed. making the GPL more restrictive than other commonly used licenses.

Although the GPL is widely used, it is a licence that must be carefully considered because it contains provisions that are broad reaching and very limiting in nature. For example, if GPL licensed material is used in your research and the output of the research is intended to be commercialised, then the ability to commercialise that research may be severely limited because you may have an obligation to release the final material or software under the GPL.

When should GPL licensed materials be used?

GPL licensed materials will restrict or limit you if you decide to use those materials in your work. You should check the conditions and requirements of the GPL to ensure that they can be complied with before using any MPL licensed materials. In particular, careful consideration will need to be given to the use of any GPL licensed materials as it contains broad reaching limitations that can inadvertently limit the subsequent commercialisation of your work.

When should materials be released under a GPL License?

The GPL is suitable for more complicated and complex software or materials that you have developed, but can potentially limit the ability for you or the University to commercialise the software or materials. As the GPL is very complex, its suitability for your use will have to be assessed on a case by case basis to ensure that each party receives the benefit it requires (eg to meet industry requirement or fulfil commitments or contractual obligations that you or the University may have).