This PGP library was bought up by Network Associates and then eventually Symantec Corporation.

The source code is available and is licensed under the GPL (it was linked to from here).

They have a source code license here:


Even though this code is licensed under the GPL, are they restricting me from using it for business purposes. i.e. I am not making any modifications to the code, I am not linking the code into any other commercial or otherwise business application. I just want to run the command line and desktop applications as part of the normal day-today goings on of my business (signing and encrypting emails).

Is this permissable?


After having carefully re-read this page:


I have just noticed that the library itself is not licensed under the GPL:

Modifications to GPL Code
Although PGP® software itself is not subject to the GNU General Public License (GPL), PGP Corporation utilizes certain code subject to the GPL

However, the question and answers, had the library been fully GPL'd did help.

  • I know this is exactly a programming question, if there's another more suitable SE site then please feel free to suggest and I'll move the question there.
    – Kev
    Mar 23, 2011 at 9:18
  • Well, if you don't know .. you need to ask somebody. I'm a little bewildered that there is still so much confusion surrounding the implications of the GPL, though, but that has nothing to do with your question.
    – user131
    Mar 23, 2011 at 9:34
  • @Tim, I understand the GPL, but it's that source code license page which seems to be there to distract you from your rights.
    – Kev
    Mar 23, 2011 at 9:40
  • All the more reason to use GNUPG :)
    – user131
    Mar 23, 2011 at 16:37
  • @tim - exactly. I grabbed that instead. The only reason I looked at the NAI/Symantec one is that there's a couple of older machines here that have version 6.5.8. It's a long story. :)
    – Kev
    Mar 23, 2011 at 17:05

3 Answers 3


The GPL says you are to free to run, distribute, modify and study the library for any purpose. It does not restrict commercial usage of software. You can use any GPL code you like for any reason, as long as you comply with the license. There are no restrictions on fields of endeavor when it comes to the GPL (or any other OSI approved) free software license.

If you make changes to the library and distribute compiled versions of it, you are required to give whoever receives it a copy of the source code and scripts used to build it. This is so they have the same freedoms that you did with the library. Note, we're talking about version 2 or 3 of the GPL. Not the LGPL or AGPL. The LGPL adds an exception if you're just linking against the library, the AGPL specifically covers software that interacts with a network.

For internal use, where employees use computers that belong to the company which have been set up for work, you're under no obligation to give every user a copy of the source code. The same goes if a friend comes over to your house and uses your computer to check their e-mail, you aren't under any obligation to immediately burn them a source CD of every GPL program you use. There's a difference between conveying or distributing software and just giving people access to use a computer you own that happens to be running the software.

If you give them the library on a CD and say "Here, install this on your home machine" - the obligation kicks in.

In short, if you are just using the software, you have no responsibilities under the GPL. If you are distributing the software, your responsibilities kick in. There is also the issue of forming a combined work with the library by simply linking against it, but you're not distributing the programs that do so - which makes that a moot point for this question.

  • Tim, thanks for the clarification. So are Symantec trying to obfuscate the meaning of "free to run for any purpose" part of the GPL in that "cover license" to perhaps scare users into paying for a compiled distribution?
    – Kev
    Mar 23, 2011 at 9:38
  • @Kev - Some projects express their preference (I don't know about scare), but you are only obligated to follow the letter of the GPL, under which the project is distributed.
    – user131
    Mar 23, 2011 at 10:01

From a quick look at the license you linked to, it has nothing to do with the GPL and is not an open source license. The license is quite restrictive.

Make sure the code you are using caries the GPL license in the license.txt or similar document or a reference to it in the header of the source files.

Is this permissable?

If they own the code, then yes they can license it in any way they like. If they are distributing GPL'ed code (that they are not the copyright owner) then no they cannot re-license it. Based on the other link they are meeting their GPL requirements by making available their modifications to GPL'ed code they distribute.

For the rest of their software its a restrictive license.

IANAL, YMMV, including just to be anal ...

  • Thomas, I just noticed that. That'll teach me to skim read. Have updated the question to reflect this.
    – Kev
    Mar 23, 2011 at 12:07
  • No worries, happy to have helped :) Mar 24, 2011 at 10:46

With regard to your update, perhaps you could use GPG (GNU implementation of PGP) instead. It's certainly GPL licensed, and as Tim Post said, you're free to run GPL software without regard to personal or business purpose.

The same applies to all other GPL software. Even a multi-billion dollar corporation can run Linux and MySQL on their servers without paying any license fees.

  • Yes I've decided that the GPG PGP is the what I'm going to use instead.
    – Kev
    Mar 23, 2011 at 17:03

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