I recently purchased a product (a website template, licensed by GNU GPL 2.0). My product, which is a web software, coded in PHP, uses that web template as its appearance.

The question is: How can I sell a software which includes some parts of a GNU GPL 2.0 commercial website template? Do I have to pay a license for the website template each time I sell mine?



Purchasing GPL'ed software is fine. The fact that the software is GPL'ed means that you are free to redistribute the GPL'ed software without any restrictions. You can, for example, make it freely available on your website. Or you can sell it to someone else; you just can't prevent them from selling it, and you can't sell just the binary code (although that may not be an issue in your case.)

You are welcome to sell software that contains GPL'ed software, but the software that you sell is GPL'ed as well. Typically, organizations will sell the software with customization, consulting, or support services. You can't legally prevent the people who purchase it from you from reselling it (or giving it away), but there is typically no incentive for them to do so because what they have is customized for their own application.

This is the business model that Red Hat uses.

  • Thanks a lot for your reply, it's really good to know that. Unfortunately GPL license is not suitable for my business, so I have to think deeply on this matter. Maybe, as you say, I should charge users for maintenance & updates instead of the software itself. Thanks a lot, it was really useful for me. – gabriel.a Dec 8 '13 at 15:56

It is fine to buy GPL licensed software, many developers sell their own GPL licensed software which they are perfectly entitled to do. You are entitled to incorporate GPL licensed software within your own software and redistribute it, provided that your own software is also GPL licensed. You should not have to pay a license fee.

However, one very important thing to be careful about is that the GPL license may only apply to the PHP code, it may not apply to any images or other file types, which may well be copyrighted. You should check the license under which they are available otherwise you could face legal action for using these without permission.

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    Note that everything that is under the GPL is copyrighted. Things that aren't copyrighted are public domain and you don't need a license for them. – RemcoGerlich Mar 25 '14 at 12:40

It is improbable that you have bought a Website template that is licensed to you, in its entirety under the GPL 2.0. Their business, and their livelihood would depend entirely on their first customer not republishing their work on the internet.

However, It is very probable that you have bought a website template that has some components that are covered by the GPL 2.0, with other parts that they have provided that are under a more commercial license.

Your best solution is to talk to the team that produced the template, explain that you have written a product that is improved by their template, and would like to bundle the two together and see if you can come up with a sensible commercial relationship.

Your next best option is to still release your product, but without the template, and point out to your customers that it requires this third party template to look as intended.

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