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GPL vs. LGPL — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 23, 2024
GPL (General Public License) is a free software license that ensures end users can run, study, share, and modify. LGPL (Lesser General Public License) is free software license that allows developers to link open-source libraries with proprietary software.
GPL vs. LGPL — What's the Difference?

Difference Between GPL and LGPL


Key Differences

GPL, standing for General Public License, is a free software license created by the Free Software Foundation. It is used for guaranteeing end users' freedom to use, modify, and redistribute software. LGPL, or Lesser General Public License, is a variant of GPL that offers more flexibility in terms of linking open-source code with proprietary code.
Software released under GPL requires any derivative work or modifications to also be distributed under the GPL. LGPL, however, allows proprietary software to link to libraries licensed under LGPL without requiring the proprietary software to be released under the same license.
GPL is often used for complete applications, ensuring that the entire application remains free and open-source. LGPL is more commonly used for libraries, allowing them to be used within proprietary software while keeping the library itself open-source.
The intent behind GPL is to promote and protect software freedom, often described as “copyleft,” which means any derived work must also be distributed under the same license. LGPL is somewhat more permissive, allowing for more commercial flexibility while still supporting open-source principles.
GPL is ideal for developers who want to ensure that their software and any derivatives remain completely open-source. LGPL is suitable for those who want their libraries to be widely used, even in commercial, proprietary software.

Comparison Chart

Full Name

General Public License
Lesser General Public License


Complete applications


Derivatives must also be GPL
Allows linking with proprietary software


To keep software and derivatives open-source
To allow broader use of open-source libraries


For ensuring complete software freedom
For flexibility in open-source use

Compare with Definitions


Promotes software freedom and sharing.
GPL is about promoting and protecting software freedom.


Commonly used for software libraries.
This library is released under LGPL to encourage its wide usage.


A license for free software that ensures user freedoms.
This software is licensed under the GPL, ensuring it remains free for all users.


A more permissive license compared to GPL.
We chose LGPL to allow our library to be used in proprietary software.


Ensures modifications and derivatives also remain free.
Any modifications to this GPL software must also be released under the GPL.


Allows linking with proprietary software.
LGPL lets us link our open-source library with closed-source applications.


Often described as “copyleft.”
The GPL's copyleft term ensures freedom for future users.


Maintains library's open-source nature while allowing commercial use.
LGPL ensures our library stays open-source even when used in commercial projects.


Ideal for developers committed to open source.
We use GPL for our project to commit to the open-source community.


Suitable for developers seeking broader utilization of their work.
By licensing under LGPL, we aim to make our code more accessible to developers.

Common Curiosities

Can I use LGPL-licensed libraries in commercial software?

Yes, LGPL allows its libraries to be used in proprietary, commercial software.

Do I have to open-source my entire application under GPL?

If your application uses GPL-licensed code, the entire application must also be GPL-licensed.

What is the GPL?

GPL is a license that ensures software and its derivatives remain free and open-source.

What is the LGPL?

LGPL is a more permissive version of GPL, mainly used for libraries in proprietary software.

Is LGPL suitable for standalone applications?

LGPL is typically used for libraries rather than complete applications.

What's a major advantage of using LGPL?

LGPL allows open-source libraries to be used in closed-source software without licensing the entire software as open-source.

Does GPL allow linking with proprietary code?

No, GPL requires that any combined work be released under GPL.

Can I charge for GPL-licensed software?

You can charge for GPL-licensed software, but recipients must also be given the freedom to use, modify, and redistribute it.

Can I convert GPL software to a proprietary license?

No, once software is released under GPL, it and its derivatives must remain under GPL.

What happens if I violate the GPL?

Violating GPL can lead to legal consequences and the loss of license rights.

Can I modify LGPL-licensed code?

Yes, you can modify it, and if you distribute the modified version, you must also distribute the changes under LGPL.

Can I use both GPL and LGPL-licensed code in my project?

Yes, but the project must comply with the terms of both licenses.

Are there any restrictions on selling LGPL-licensed software?

You can sell it, but you must provide the source code under LGPL terms.

How does GPL benefit the open-source community?

GPL ensures software freedom, encouraging sharing and collaborative improvement.

Is LGPL more business-friendly than GPL?

Yes, LGPL is generally considered more business-friendly due to its flexibility.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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