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Re: [gNewSense-users] Questions about the GPL

From: Yoni Rabkin Katzenell
Subject: Re: [gNewSense-users] Questions about the GPL
Date: Fri, 04 May 2007 11:09:20 +0300
User-agent: Gnus/5.110006 (No Gnus v0.6) Emacs/22.0.98 (gnu/linux)

I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advise:

Guy Johnston <address@hidden> writes:

> Hi, I've got some questions about the GPL and its source code requirements 
> which I was hoping
> someone might be able to answer. If I give out regular binary gNewSense CDs 
> to people, without
> offering them the source code, does that mean I'm violating the GPL for the 
> GPL-licensed software
> included, or are the appropriate offers or links for the source code
> included on the CD? 

The kind of distribution you are talking about sounds like the kind
described in section 3 of the GPL:

"3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it,
under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of
Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:"

In my opinion, a common misconception is that relying on upstream source
code is good enough. I don't think that it is since that allows people
to say "Giving you the source is not my problem if the upstream source
went dead.". 

I think that the community relies on the fact that
sourceforge/Savannah/apt work so well that you are almost never in
danger of being left without the source.

I would recommend either entering an agreement with the upstream
provider (the gNewSense people, who might agree to be the upstream) or
offering the source on request as per section 3.b of the GPL.

We all know about apt-get, but it is incidental that it exists in the
GPLed software you are distributing, and there is no GPL clause which
says: if the software includes a functioning apt-get, you can forget
about your obligations to provide source code.

> If that does mean I'm violating it, can I just ask them if they want
> the source code, so if they say no (which they usually would), I don't
> have to give them the written offer to supply them with it later? I
> expect these issues also apply to the software which is under the

This is true for the LGPL as well, but note that the section which
governs object-code distribution of LGPLed software is different from
the GPL (section 4 of the LGPL).

Note also that when you are distributing a CD with gNewSense, you are
distributing a lot of free software not licensed under either the GPL or
LGPL, with different licenses and different terms. So the above is
important, but not enough to ensure you comply with *all* those

So my (non legal) advise would be to simply have a copy of the source
code for gNewSense lying around *as you received it* and including a
written offer to transfer source code from that. If you neither add or
subtract from the source as you received it, and offer that to your
downstream users, I don't see how you could induce a violation where one
does not already exist.

   "Cut your own wood and it will warm you twice"

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