How "free" is GNU?
May 25, 2007 10:37 AM   Subscribe

GNUFilter: Building a for-profit website that needs forums. Don't feel like writing them from scratch. Can I safely use something like this, released under GNU?

Or am I going to end up in a heap o' trouble down the line? Should I just write my own forums? If I should buy, any suggestions?
posted by GatorDavid to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As I understand it, the GPL protects against distribution of derivative code without continuation of the license and the source of the distributed derivative. However, simply using—or altering and use—a GPLed project, without distributing the software, is implicitly fine.

So if you're building an in-house tool for said website—say, modified forum software running on the site—but not intending to distribute that tool to others, you should have no issue whatsoever. For that matter, you can distribute and even sell the original or the modified code, so long as you make the source freely available and properly include the GPL according to the stipulations included in the license. However, if you (or your employer) would object to respecting that, you could have a problem.
posted by cortex at 10:47 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Using GPL code for that is fine. As cortex mentioned, the GPL is all about distribution of the program and it's code.

I'd take a look at for a good place to see what sites run what. But as the site title suggests, some of those forums are enormous. (actually, might make for an interesting fpp...)
posted by alikins at 11:03 AM on May 25, 2007

Yes, use it and abuse it. You can rewrite the code if you want to, without any obligation to release that code. The only obligation to share your changes comes if you want to redistribute the code to others. Of course, it's good practice to share your code, especially if it's a bug fix. But you're under no legal obligation to.
posted by humblepigeon at 11:05 AM on May 25, 2007

I love Vanilla. I am not sure what license it is released under, but I know it is free. Check it out.
posted by blueplasticfish at 11:17 AM on May 25, 2007

The short answer is that, yes, that's allowed. For a more definitive explanation, see the GPL FAQ, particularly these two questions:
posted by gsteff at 11:40 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

phpBB is also a popular choice. It's GPL'd, but as other people have explained, that isn't a problem.
posted by wireless at 4:38 PM on May 25, 2007

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