I am in the process of a creating a small web portal for the department I'm working in. For this is need to present some data, and have found the following: http://www.pchart.net/, which could seem to be of great help to me.

The above is licensed under GNU GPLv3, and my question is whether it would be allowed for me to use the above, for free.

To clarify, the portal that I'm creating will in no way be sold or generate money, but will purely be for internal informational purposes.

I have read through the terms and conditions of the GPLv3, and as far as i can make out, my situation is legal, but i want to be absolutely sure that I'm not using the software illegally.

  • 3
    See gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#InternalDistribution: ...a company or other organization can develop a modified version and install that version through its own facilities, without giving the staff permission to release that modified version to outsiders.
    – apsillers
    Jan 15, 2013 at 14:33
  • I would recommend consulting with your company's lawyer. Jan 15, 2013 at 17:34

2 Answers 2


GPL does not restrict usage in any way. Even making money is OK. Only further distribution is subject to the license terms.

  • Not true in case of GPLv3 with Affero clause. Luckily the license for this software is just plain GPLv3, and besides it's internal use only.
    – vartec
    Jan 15, 2013 at 16:55
  • @vartec which is called AGPL, not the GPL. Which also isn't the LGPL, the lesser GNU public license.
    – Philip
    Jan 15, 2013 at 19:59

It's trickier than you have put it.

According to pChart license page, GPLv3 only applies to non-commercial use.

The pChart library is released under two different licenses. If your application is not a commercial one (eg: you make no money by redistributing it) then the GNU GPLv3 license (General Public License) applies.


If your application can't meet the GPL license or is a commercial one (eg: the library is integrated in a software or an appliance you're selling) then you'll have to buy a commercial license.

It's not immediately obvious that internal use in commercial entity can be considered non-commerical use. Even though the examples given would suggest that if you're not distributing commercial software with that library, you're in the clear. Still, if you want to be 100% sure, you'd actually have to contact authors.

Obviously, if GPLv3 indeed applies, than it's considered internal distribution, and not subject to the license's restrictions.

  • 1
    Can they do that? If they release it under the GPL3 then it's under the GPL - which does allow commercial (or any other use). I suspect they mean that if you can't meet GPL3 then they ALSO offer a commercial license. The OP's use would be perfectly OK under GPL3 Jan 15, 2013 at 17:54
  • @MartinBeckett Agreed. While the pChart developers are free to restrict distribution of GPLv3-licensed code to non-commercial users only (they may freely choose not to distribute their code to any particular person via technical/physical means), a non-commerical user who has received a GPL-licensed copy is fully free to share the code with a commercial user. If that commercial user is not free to do so, then the pChart developers themselves are in the wrong by pretending their custom non-free licensing terms are somehow "GPLv3".
    – apsillers
    Jan 15, 2013 at 18:06
  • @apsillers - good point. I can still use pChart in sharks+laserbeams project so long as I get it via another downloader. Jan 15, 2013 at 18:16
  • @vartec I assume the pChart developers are mistakenly conflating "GPLv3-incompatible use" and "commercial use". However, it's troubling that this wording exists on their site at all -- it's still a very good idea for the OP to contact them and confirm that GPL-compatible commercial use is okay (and to request that they update the wording on their licening page).
    – apsillers
    Jan 15, 2013 at 18:19
  • I would argue that @apsillers argument is weaker than legally possible. The GPL, especially in v3, is one of the least ambiguous licenses in the world. The intent of the pChart developers would matter when resolving ambiguities, but as it stands now any ambiguity is solely their problem. In the very worst case the OP can still claim estoppel (relied in good faith on a reasonable promise ).
    – MSalters
    Jan 17, 2013 at 9:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.