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Difference Between GPLV2 and GPLV3


GPLV2 and GPLV3 are versions of the GNU Public Licenses (GPL), a well-known license for free software. The GPL is also liked with the Free Software Foundation (FSF). The main author of both licenses is Richard Stallman.

GPL’s main purpose is to promote the free availability and use of software for any purpose and for any user’s needs. Any user of free software can also change the software and share it with friends and colleagues.

It is the most important and widespread open source license where approximately 60 per cent of open source software use this license like Linux and Busybox. It has a clause called “copyleft” which compels any user who creates and distributes modified versions to have the revisions subject to GPL and disclose the source of the modified version. The copyleft ensures that the modified versions are under the GPL and its source code is disclosed.

The GPL is the template for all succeeding GPL versions (the GPLV2 and GPLV3).

The GPLV2 is the predecessor of the GPLV3 which makes the GPLV3 the newest version. The GPLV2 was introduced in 1991 while the GPLV3 was launched in 2007.

Since the GPLV2 is an older version of the GPLV3, there are differences between the licenses. The GPLV2 has a library exclusion that the GPLV3 doesn’t have.

There are also prominent differences between the two versions: The new GPLV3 is double in length compared to the GPLV2 and touches upon subjects of improvement and clarification in the former version. These include patent indemnity, internalization, and remedies for license infringement.

Another characteristic of the GPLV3 code is its attempt in providing more clarity on patent licenses. It tries to clarify what is meant by distribution and derivative work, revoking the immediate termination of a license clause in favor of license opportunities, and the additional terms which permit users to choose from a fixed set of alternative terms to modify the standard GPLV3.

GPLV3 is more compatible with more licenses compared to GPLV2. The new license allows users to make combinations with code that have additional requirements that are not in the license itself.

In terms of license violators, the GPLV3 provide extra cure periods for first-time license violators.

To conclude, GPLV2 and GPLV3 are not compatible to use with each other. The latest license has some requirements like installation information that do not exist in the former. Combining codes from both licenses will violate the Section 6 of the GPLV2.


1.GPLV2 and GPLV3 are both licenses released under GPL. The GPLV2 was the former licenses released in 1991 while the most recent, the GPLV3, was released in 2007.
2.GPLV3 is longer compared to the GPLV2 since it almost tried to cover the same issues with the former license.
3.GPLV3 has more clarity on patent licenses, mostly on the wording of the license as it cannot be interpreted as “too broad.” It also applies to the protection of the patents unlike the GPLV2.
4.The GPLV2 has loopholes that the GPLV3 is trying to fix. The loophole has acquired the term Tivoization which is derived from a digital video recorder which captures television programming and saves the data into an internal hard drive storage for future viewing.
5.GPLV2 has a new section that has been added to the license called Protecting Users’ Legal Rights from Anti-Circumvention Law. The section’s intention is to prevent the GPVL3 from being included in technology or products that would be used to enforce the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA).
6.GPLV3 code is more compatible with more licenses compared to the former license.

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