The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or simply GPL) is a widely used free software license, originally written by Richard Stallman for the GNU project. Ubuntu is licensed under the GNU.
The GPL is an example of a copyleft license that requires derived works to be available under the same copyleft. Under this philosophy, the GPL grants the recipients of a computer program the rights of the free software definition and uses copyleft to ensure the freedoms are preserved, even when the work is changed or added to. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD licenses are the standard examples.
The GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) is a modified, more permissive, version of the GPL, originally intended for some software libraries. There is also a GNU Free Documentation License, which was originally intended for use with documentation for GNU software, but has also been adopted for other uses, such as the Wikipedia project.
The Affero General Public License (GNU AGPL) is a similar license with a focus on networking server software. The GNU AGPL is similar to the GNU General Public License, except that it additionally covers the use of the software over a computer network, requiring that the complete source code be made available to any network user of the AGPLed work, for example a web application. The Free Software Foundation recommends that this license is considered for any software that will commonly be run over the network.
The text of the GPL is not itself under the GPL. The license's copyright disallows modification of the license. Copying and distributing the license is allowed since the GPL requires recipients get "a copy of this License along with the Program". According to the GPL FAQ, anyone can modify the license as long as they use a different name for the license, don't mention "GNU" and remove the preamble. The preamble can be used in a modified license with permission of the Free Software Foundation (FSF).