GPLv2 seems confusing and contradictory... can you give it to me in simple terms?

OK, so we all know wordpress is free and that's freedom of speech not free beer... but when it comes to really studying the license I don't feel it makes any black and white sense. For example... I demand that you send me the source code for this site... I am a paid member. Just zip it up and send it over. Now lets say I create a wordpress based website with various plugins in it and provide it to a client... do I HAVE to give them the source code? What if there is branding inside a plugin that is just spammy and horrid... can I remove it? What if I host the site and maintain it for the client on my server... is it now my site? Does that mean I don't have to disclose the source? What if they are using the site as an "editor" and it is promoting THEIR business? Whose site is it? And what about hacking... hiding certain aspects of the installation or plugins used... is that anti freedom or good sense? What if I charge a membership fee and in return give access to a site... do I have to give the source and declare every Tom, Dick and Harry that ever wrote a line of code? And what if I charge for other services and to fulfil those services I provide a website or platform that is built from GPLv2 code? I am confused... it feels like free actually means.. free to do what you are told... it is perhaps a one sided freedom. Freedom would really mean choice... and I don't see many choices only statements that twist and turn. Thanks for your help!

  • Vaughan


    thanks for the post.

    it does seem you have got confused.

    it has nothing to do with a website. you can't deman the source code to this website.

    if you buy a plugin & it's GPL which with wordpress it is anyway, it uses wp code. wp is gpl, therefore the plugin has to be licensed as gpl because it contains gpl code.

    with it being PHP you have the source code unless its encrypted. if it's encrypted but contains gpl code, then you can demand the open-source code in unencrypted form. though actually under gpl you have to provide the source code whenever you distribute it.

    the gpl is about software not websites. nobody can demand the source code (ie php script) or any custom modifications to your website & if they do demand it, tell them politely to kiss your ***

    now if you were distributing your entire website so others can install it on their servers, then anything you distribute has to contain the open-source code along with it if it's GPL.

    the free is basicly, once you have the source code you can do what you like with it, sell it, give it away, modify it.

    if you modify it before you sell it, you have to provide the source code. if your modification uses gpl, which because it uses any wp functions or classes then that becomes gpl, so you provide that source code too.

    hope that clears it up.


  • Vaughan


    not exactly. the website itself isn't GPL. the software it is powered by is GPL. but you are under no obligation to give anyone your plugins or whatever theme you use at all. it's your site.

    the GPL covers the software distribution & copyrights of the code. it gives you the freedom to use it however you want, distribute it however you want even to sell it. but you must provide the source code in open-source (not encrypted) PHP is open-source so when you download wordpress or a plugin you do actually have the source code.


  • Dev4

    I think the key distinction that Vaughan is pointing out here is that you are required to do certain things with GPL IF you distribute the software or plug in etc.
    There are no rules to limit what you do with it UNLESS you distribute it.

    If you use it on a web site you own, you are not distributing it. Even if you charge for it

    If you create a site for a client and put the code on their server then you did distribute it, and they would already have the source code on their server.

    If you put the code on your server and use domain mapping etc, to let them use the web site without owning the code... you have not distributed it..

    Some people want to make even publishing a web site with a GPL framework fall under GPL but it does not. Those people invented a new license called AGPL

    AGPL would require publishing your own private edits, but GPL does not.

    The above are my opinions, not legal advice..:slight_smile:

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