Richard Best Publishes Human Readable Version of the GPLv2 License

WordPress is licensed under the GPLv2 and the four freedoms it allows is considered to be its Bill of Rights. The four freedoms are:

  1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
  4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions, giving the community a chance to benefit from your changes.

There is a lot more to the GPL than the four freedoms listed above however, the license details can be difficult to read and decipher. Richard Best, a qualified lawyer in New Zealand, England, and Wales, has published a human readable summary of the GPL license.

Inspired by how Creative Commons offers a human readable version of its licenses, the summary explains the core concepts of the GPL and outlines the position in relation to copying, distribution, fees, modifications/derivative works, distributing non-source forms, termination, and downstream licensing.

It’s important to note that the document is not endorsed by the Free Software Foundation nor a substitute for the full license text.

Sample of the human readable summary of the GPL
Sample of the human readable summary of the GPL

I encourage everyone participating in the WordPress ecosystem to read the full license text at least once. However, the summary does a good job explaining the core components of the GPL without having to dig into the license.

If you have questions concerning the GPL, I suggest seeking legal council with a lawyer familiar with software licensing.


  1. Nice job, Richard! Any plans for a GPLv3 version too? Or even better, a human readable diff of v2 and v3! :-)


  2. It would seem that if this summary is accurate then the WordPress foundation would be in violation of its own license. Each new release is necessarily a derivative of the original, and subject to the terms of the original license. As such, it would seem that every file would need to include a notice that it is modified from the original and the days of all those changes, which is to say it should include its own commit history


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