I've noticed that the GNU GPL version 3 uses the word "convey" where version 2 used "distriubte":


To “convey” a work means any kind of propagation that enables other parties to make or receive copies. Mere interaction with a user through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not conveying.


To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the rights. These restrictions translate to certain responsibilities for you if you distribute copies of the software, or if you modify it.

Is “convey” in GPLv3 the same thing as what GPLv2 means by “distribute”?

  • 6
    This is covered by the GPL FAQ (gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#ConveyVsDistribute). The answer is: Yes. Jul 8, 2015 at 9:40
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    @ArtOfCode From the licensing tag description: "Only use this tag if your question concerns the application of a license to an area of interest." Are you sure this is the case?
    – user490
    Jul 8, 2015 at 10:41
  • Yes, because the use of terms heavily affects the application of the license.
    – ArtOfCode
    Jul 8, 2015 at 10:43
  • @EricGärtner That's a pretty confusing tag wiki, it should probably be fixed :/ Jul 8, 2015 at 11:47

1 Answer 1


The GPL FAQ states:

Is “convey” in GPLv3 the same thing as what GPLv2 means by “distribute”?

Yes, more or less. During the course of enforcing GPLv2, we learned that some jurisdictions used the word “distribute” in their own copyright laws, but gave it different meanings. We invented a new term to make our intent clear and avoid any problems that could be caused by these differences.

So yes, they mean basically the same.

  • Link you posted leads to language autodetect site. Use english-enforced address: gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#ConveyVsDistribute or the anchor to specific question won't work for people identified to use another language.
    – Mołot
    Jul 8, 2015 at 20:33
  • @Mołot The anchor has the same ID for other languages. The link appears to work, even when I set my browser language to Spanish.
    – Max Nanasy
    Jul 8, 2015 at 21:21
  • @Mołot: I agree with Max, the anchor is working in german too. I think the guys at gnu knew what they were doing.
    – Mnementh
    Jul 8, 2015 at 22:56
  • OK, maybe it's broken only for Polish, then :/
    – Mołot
    Jul 9, 2015 at 5:12
  • It's broken for Polish? In that case I should change the link.
    – Mnementh
    Jul 9, 2015 at 6:16

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