I'm planning on providing some GPL software to visitors after they interact with an advertisement. This advertisement will generate revenue for our company, so this would fall under commercial usage. I understand the GPL requires us to either provide the source or a written promise to provide the source upon request when distributing the software commercially.

I'd like to know if providing a link to the the software creator's website, with instructions on getting the source, would be sufficient to satisfy this clause in the GPL?

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    It's not about "commercially", it's about "distributing", at all. At least if I recall the GPL, in pretty much any version, correctly.
    – Vatine
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 1:31
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    Commercial or non commercial makes no difference. GPLv2 or GPLv3? In general a link is fine but if it is v2 you probably need to mail it if someone asks.
    – Elin
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 1:43
  • Are you sure commercial makes no difference? I read it here: gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html - just search for commercial EDIT - commercial-ness doesn't matter in v3, but seems to in v2/v1 - so you're right.
    – Paul B
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 2:06
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    Related (if not a dup) Can I use GPL software in a commercial application.
    – user40980
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 4:02
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    You should be fine since your revenue generation is for distribution. It does not preclude the software and source being hosted elsewhere including for free. Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 14:26

1 Answer 1


There is a big difference between GPLv2 and GPLv3 here.


When distributing GPLv2-licensed programs/libraries (in executable form), you must

  • provide a download link to the same server as where the executables are downloaded from (to satisfy the clause below), or

    If distribution of executable or object code is made by offering access to copy from a designated place, then offering equivalent access to copy the source code from the same place counts as distribution of the source code, [...].

  • provide a written offer to deliver the source code to the asker. This option seems to be intended for use with physical products that contain embedded software, but might work for downloadable software as well.


Compared to GPLv2, you are now officially allowed to separate the locations where the binaries and the source can be obtained from, but you are still responsible for providing access to the source. This means that you can link to the original site to get the source from, but you need to have a fall-back scenario in place for when that site goes down.

Additionally, the 'written offer' option is only available if the software is part of a physical product.

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