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Web licenses

Whether you’re agreeing to iTunes or writing a node module, you are working with licenses. You might think that open source software doesn’t need licensing as it’s free and part or the community. However, that’s not entirely true. For most open source software you will see the GPL license used, but you may add a library to your site which carries a different license.

Let’s start off with a good question. “Can Open Source software be used for commercial purposes”. The answer is Yes. 100%.

What is the license for drupal?

Drupal and all contributed files hosted on Drupal.org are licensed under the GNU General Public License, version 2 or later. Meaning you are free to download, reuse, modify and distribute any files hosted in Drupal.ors Git repositories under the GPL version 2 or 3 terms. You are also free to run it in combination with any code that also uses these licenses.

Highlights of the Drupal GPL License

Drupal requires that all files hosted on Drupal.org (That means contributed modules and core) be under the GPL. If the the code is in Git, then it will fall under the same license, so automatically there is no confusion. The GPL license covers everything, PHP, Javascript etc).

Contributed code copyright is retained by the contributor but agree to release it under the same license Drupal uses. Any contributed code cannot carry a different license. If you write a module or theme for Drupal, it has to be licensed under GPL version 2 or later.

Content on Drupal.org itself is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share license 2.0.

Drupal, Drupal modules and themes can be sold but it must be distributed under the GPL Version 2 or later.

This is only relevant to the code you will work with directly from Drupal.org, as mentioned above, other libraries you add may use their own, different licenses.

Common Licenses and their highlights.

A drupal website will use many different libraries which can also carry their own licenses, for example a javascript library you have purchased. Here are some common licenses and their some highlights. There are lots of licenses in the software world but there are some common ones you will come across more than others.

GPL - General Public License

This is a widely used free software license. It guarantees the user freedom to run, study, share and modify the software. Historically the GPL license family has been one of the most popular software licenses in the open source world. In other words, anything with the GPL license you can use. Like most open source licenses, there is no warranty.


Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:


Similar to GPL, this license carries a patent license from the contributors of the code. You can use software with this use for Commercial use, you can modify, distribute, sublicense and place your own warranty.

WTFPI - Do Whatever the Fu** You Want to Public License - (my favourite)

The WTFPL is a very permissive license for software and other scientific or artistic works that offers a great degree of freedom. Obviously this doesn’t carry a warranty.

A few more noteworthy  licenses

  1. The Sleepycat license (very little to do with cats, but chances are if you’re a fan of one source, you’re a fan of cats)
  2. The iTunes license (Just because it’s vast and full of very obscure agreements).
  3. Minecraft End User License Agreement - Because of this: ‘If you break the rules, we may keep you from playing Minecraft.

Some interesting points.

Open source software will usually carry a GPL license with or something similar. However it’s always worth checking. For example, Ubuntu (an open source distribution of Linux) is made up of thousands of programs which means there won’t be just one hail mary license saying ‘Everything is Free!’ Certain programs will carry extra/more specific licensing.

MySQL - A real world example.

In the open source world, MySQL is widely used. A few years ago there were licensing changes by oracle which were not well received by the community. It’s because of this, MariaDB was born.

mariadb.org - The MariaDB Foundation – Ensuring continuity and open collaboration in the MariaDB ecosystem. This ‘fork’ of MySQL was possible because of MySQL’s existing license and the open source community taking the initiative to keep an open source solution available.

Further Reading




Editor's note:

Our standard services contract wraps all the licenses required for your site into one easy to read clause. We do not charge license fees by default, but if you require something special that does attract a fee, we'll always let you know in advance.

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