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I am sure this has been answered somewhere, and I did read the licensing faq but it wasn't 100% clear to me so I thought I'd ask. I was curious as to the licensing/legal requirements of, well, using Drupal to make money.

Example 1: You are a free lance web designer. Business contacts you to have you build them a site. You meet with the client, discuss their needs, and eventually decide that their best option would be to make a Drupal site for them. You want to charge them for the initial setup and design, as well as possibly hosting it.

Example 2: You set yourself up more as a SaaS provider. People come to your site, click a big "Launch your site" button, pick their monthly plan and then a Drupal instance is generated for them that they can log into and edit just like any other Drupal site. Possibly includes some custom modules and themes pre-installed. You provide support and such for these instances. Kind of like Drupal Gardens.

What are the licensing/legal implications of those two situations? I.e., can you use them? And if so, are there legal restrictions you should be aware of (for example, do you have to put a giant 'Powered by Drupal' on the site, etc)?

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  • What's your question?
    – Randell
    Mar 13, 2014 at 4:05
  • 2
    What are the licensing/legal implications of those two situations? IE, can do them and if so, are there legal restrictions you should be aware of (for example, do you have to put a giant 'Powered by Drupal' on the site, etc). Mar 13, 2014 at 4:09
  • Basically, doesn't matter. In both situations, you aren't selling Drupal, you're selling the hosting/development/design/etc. You can even sell Drupal itself as long as you maintain that they can modify and redistribute it as well. Mar 13, 2014 at 6:48

3 Answers 3

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The short answer is: Yes, both your examples are OK to use as a business model with Drupal. There is also no advertising requirement.

For a longer and more comprehensive answer, including the fine print, you'll find it all answered authoritatively in the Drupal licensing faq. I understand that you've read that, but didn't find it clear enough. I shall try to expand on it somewhat.

The most important bit is this:

Drupal and all contributed files hosted on Drupal.org are licensed under the GNU General Public License, version 2 [GPLv2] or later. That means you are free to download, reuse, modify, and distribute any files hosted in Drupal.org's Git repositories under the terms of either the GPL version 2 or version 3, and to run Drupal in combination with any code with any license that is compatible with either versions 2 or 3, such as the Affero General Public License (AGPL) version 3.

GPLv2 basically says that you've free to use the licenced material in any way you like, including commercial use (i.e. where you make money). Unlike some other free software licences (e.g. the BSD license), there is no "advertising" clause, so you don't have to put up any "Powered by Drupal" signs.

However, there is one important legal restriction tied in with GPLv2 you need to be aware of: GPLv2 or later is a so-called "Copyleft" license.

"Copyleft", in brief, means that if you make any materials (i.e. the Drupal core and any custom development you've done to make it a fully functional website) available to a client, the materials must be made available to the client in source form, and under the same [Copyleft] terms (i.e. GPLv2 or later).

However, the requirement that any material you give your client has to be licensed under the same terms may in some situations be a problem. This means that your client is free to use the licenced material in any way your client like, including modifying and reselling it (also reselling it without giving you a cut of the proceeds).

I should add that usually, this is not a problem. Your client is probably not a Drupal developer (that's why they hired you), so they if they resold it, they would not have the skills to maintain it. But it is a real legal implication of GPLv2 or later you should be aware of.

Also, note at GPLv2 or later doesn't say you have to give you client access to the material. If you include hosting in the package you sell. And in particular, if you sell it as SaaS (your example 2), then no material changes hands and your client don't have access to anything they can resell.

Providing a website as SaaS without giving access to the material is permitted under GPLv2 or later.

Note that the Gnu Affero General Public License version 3 (AGPLv3) requires SaaS providers to give clients access to, and permission to resell, any material the service is based upon.

(AGPLv3 in not used by the Drupal core, but may be used by some contributed modules offered by third parties as it is upstream compatible with GPLv2 or later. However Drupal.org does not permit contributed modules that is under APGLv3 only to be hosted on Drupal.org)

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It is free to use as per both of your examples.

You don't have to display the powered by drupal logo if you don't want to.

You may have already read it but check out the licencing FAQ

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There is an excellent source of information on the legalities of using Drupal under a Saas model - you can find it here.

This legal analysis ( written by Theresa Gue, a Judicial law clerk with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania) addresses most of the issues around what circumstances trigger copyleft, but the most succinct answer it provides is probably this:

"GPLv3 explicitly and unconditionally grants users permission to freely provide software as a service, with no trigger of copyleft. As a result, ASPs can freely modify GPL-covered software, provide the modified software as a service, and refuse to share the source code or license the new work under the GPL without fearing a lawsuit."

Hope this helps.

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  • Drupal is licensed as GPLv2.
    – apaderno
    Apr 18, 2014 at 4:27

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