Can I sell a service that is provided using software licensed under GNU GLP?

Additionally, this service involves the use and modification of other modules under Apache and other free software licenses. Is the modification and linking of these softwares allowed, even when the licenses are not compatible? Am I under the obligation to release these modifications or can I maintain them privately and use them only to provide a service, which is sold?

  • 5
    duplicate of Can I use GPL software in a commercial application
    – gnat
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 21:08
  • Most open-source licenses are agnostic about whether or not money changes hands. The GPL concerns itself with "free as in speech," not "free as in beer." See also here, which discusses GPL compatibility with other licenses. Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 21:17

1 Answer 1


This is three questions: the first regards the use of software; the second is concerned with Apache and other free software licenses; and the third regards having to distribute the software.

  1. Yes, you can use it to provide a service. A Quick Guide to GPLv3 (www.gnu.org/licenses/quick-guide-gplv3.en.html ) says

    Nobody should be restricted by the software they use. There are four freedoms that every user should have:

    • the freedom to use the software for any purpose, [...]

    for which the most pertinent phrase in the GPL (that I could find at a quick glance, anyway), is

    This License explicitly affirms your unlimited permission to run the unmodified Program.

  2. The Apache 2 license is one-way compatible, per www.apache.org/licenses/GPL-compatibility.html

    Apache 2 software can [...] be included in GPLv3 projects, because the GPLv3 license accepts our software into GPLv3 works. However, GPLv3 software cannot be included in Apache projects. The licenses are incompatible in one direction only, and it is a result of ASF's licensing philosophy and the GPLv3 authors' interpretation of copyright law.

    and other licenses are compatible, per en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_General_Public_License#Compatibility_and_multi-licensing , but it would depend on which other licenses we're talking about.

  3. No, you don't have to distribute it for free, but your customers are at liberty to do so.

    If I distribute GPL'd software for a fee, am I required to also make it available to the public without a charge? (#DoesTheGPLRequireAvailabilityToPublic)

    No. However, if someone pays your fee and gets a copy, the GPL gives them the freedom to release it to the public, with or without a fee. For example, someone could pay your fee, and then put her copy on a web site for the general public.

  • Most of your point 1 is irrelevant; the OP didn't ask about program output. Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 22:29
  • Can a more-priviliged user turn those two links into links for me? I've got limited privileges, as I lack rep on this site. Thanks!
    – Mathieu K.
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 23:21
  • @RobertHarvey, I agree that that wording is different. Amending my answer...
    – Mathieu K.
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 23:43

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