GPL vs LGPL: Difference and Comparison

LGPL and GPL are open source software licences that safeguard users’ ability to distribute and modify open-source software.

Most software licences limit users when it comes to changes and dissemination, while the GPL and LGPL remove those restrictions, providing users more flexibility. These two are the most common open-source licences currently available.

Key Takeaways

  1. GPL (General Public License) requires that any derivative work or modification be licensed under GPL, while LGPL (Lesser General Public License) allows for more flexibility in licensing derivative works.
  2. LGPL permits linking with non-LGPL licensed code, which is not allowed under GPL.
  3. GPL is used for standalone applications, whereas LGPL is more common for libraries and frameworks.


GPL (GNU General Public License) requires that any software that links to GPL-licensed code must also be licensed under the GPL and be made available to users in its source code form. LGPL (GNU Lesser General Public License) allows derived works to be distributed under different license terms.


The General Public License, or GPL, is the most commonly used free software licence, with hundreds of projects using it, including the GNU utilities and Linux.

The GPL is the cornerstone of open source software for programmers. It is a consistent way of gaining a competitive advantage in software education and application.

The LGPL is comparable to the GPL, but it is geared at software libraries that enable non-GPL programmes to link to and use them.

You must still return the source code if you alter the programme, but you can connect it with proprietary software without returning the source code.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonGPLLGPL
DescriptionThe GPL is used by many free software projects, including Linux. It assures that all users have access to the application under this licence, allowing them to edit, modify and redistribute the source code.LGPL is essentially a modified version of GPL. The scope of this licence is restricted to software libraries.
Protection Users of the software are better protected under GPL than LGPL.Under the LGPL, software users are less protected than GPL.
Stands forGeneral Public License is the complete form of GPL.Lesser General Public License is the complete form of LGPL.
Modification requestGPL does not allow users to modify and return the source code.LPGL is a software library that allows users to modify and return the source code.
Convert toThe GPL cannot be translated into LGPL terms.The LGPL can be translated into GPL terms.
Used forFor execution files, the GPL is utilised.For software libraries, the LGPL is utilised.

What is GPL?

The GPL, or General Public License, is a stipulation used for most open-source software. It has many restrictions and conditions attached to it, but it is also essential for free software development.

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The GPL protects users’ rights by forbidding anybody from denying their rights. This prevents proprietary software from becoming completely closed source without a fight from the open-source community.

The GPL does not prevent other types of licences from being used with the software; it just means that any code derived from open-source software must be released under the same licence.

The GPL can be viewed as a licence agreement that restricts free software, but it also protects users’ rights, so that greedy developers do not exploit them.

The restrictions imposed by the GPL are only there to protect users’ rights. The GPL forbids anybody from denying or surrendering a user’s rights.

The GPL also ensures that all users can obtain any source code for a program at no cost; this includes any tools or libraries used by said program.

In addition, if a user decides to compile their binaries from source code, they must make sure that all recipients of these new binaries receive the corresponding source code for free under the terms of the license.

What is LGPL?

The LGPL was designed to provide a middle ground between the GNU GPL and proprietary licenses, such as the BSD license.

You can choose which parts you want to use under LGPL or whether you want to use it at all. The LGPL is essentially a “you can use me” statement for developers of libraries.

If you are releasing a program that links to an LGPL library, your program must also be released under the LGPL. The point of the LGPL is that you can modify an application to suit your needs and then distribute it to others.

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No one is restricted from using it in any way. 

The source code must be provided along with the application so that anyone can see how it works and make any changes they want. However, if someone does make changes, those changes are not automatically covered by the terms of the licence.*

The Lesser General Public License was explicitly designed for works meant to be used in other programs. It is not as restrictive as the GNU Public License (GPL), but it does not offer many protections.

As long as there are no restrictions on using a work created by someone else, you can use it in any way you like under this licence.

Main Differences Between GPL and LGPL 

  1. Many free software projects, including Linux, utilise the GPL as their licence. It guarantees that all users access the programme under this licence, allowing them to edit, modify, and redistribute the source code. While LGPL is simply a modified version of the GPL, This license’s scope is limited to software libraries.
  2. The GPL does not enable users to make changes to the source code and then return it, but the LPGL is a software library that allows users to make changes and then return the source code.
  3. Software users are better protected under the GPL than under the LGPL; yet, software users are less protected under the LGPL than under the GPL.
  4. The GPL cannot be converted to LGPL terms, while the LGPL can be converted to GPL terms.
  5. The GPL is used for execution files, whereas the LGPL is used for software libraries.
  6. GPL stands for General Public License as its whole, whereas LGPL stands for Lesser General Public License.

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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