[mythtv-users] Re: New user and question about GPL

Lane Schwartz dowobeha at gmail.com
Thu Dec 9 20:45:25 UTC 2004


On Thu, 9 Dec 2004 18:01:01 +0000 (UTC), Gavin Hurlbut
<gjhurlbu+mythtv-users at beirdo.ca> wrote:
> Lane Schwartz <dowobeha at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Short answer: The company is correct.
> 
> Short answer: no they aren't

I may be wrong on this - I am not a lawyer. But I'm pretty sure that
they are right. I'm basing this on my reading of the GNU GPL FAQ
section:

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html


> > If a company sells GPL software in binary form, they are obligated to
> > provide the source code, upon request, to anyone who purchased the
> > software from them. They are under this obligation for a minimum of 3
> > years after each sale.
> 
> No, it's to "ANY THIRD-PARTY" (emphasis mine of course).

Yes, and "ANY THIRD PARTY" means anyone who gets the binary software
from them, plus anyone who gets the binary software second-hand from
one of their customers, or third-hand from someone who got the
binaries second-hand, etc...

"ANY THIRD PARTY" doesn't mean any random person who asks the company
for the source code.

See these sections of the FAQ:
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#TOCWhatDoesWrittenOfferValid
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#TOCTheGPLSaysModifiedVersions

> >>From the GPL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html)
> 
> > 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:
> 
> >     a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable
> > source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1
> > and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
> 
> i.e. source on the distribution CD, etc.

Here we agree.

> >     b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three
> > years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of
> > physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable
> > copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the
> > terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for
> > software interchange; or,
> 
> Notice that this is to *any* third party, not to just customers.  This is what
> should force said company to give anyone the source on request.  You will
> notice it doesn't say only to those that purchased from them.

As I said above, see section this section of the FAQ:
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#TOCWhatDoesWrittenOfferValid

This section is also sort of relevant:
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#TOCCanIDemandACopy


> >     c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer
> > to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed
> > only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the
> > program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in
> > accord with Subsection b above.)
> 
> This doesn't apply to the company directly, but rather to its customers
> redistributing GPL'd source code.

Again, here we agree.

> I am not a lawyer (would be interesting to hear from Wendy on this one) but
> as I read it, if you distribute binary only you *MUST* provide source to
> anyone who requests it.  I did not see any type of stipulation that it must
> be to paying customers only.  As a matter of fact, using part c) above, if I
> get a copy from you (who did pay), I can get a copy of the offer for source
> code given to you by the company via part b) and they'd have to honor it.

I'm not a lawyer either. I'm just giving my interpretation of the GPL,
using the GPL FAQ as a guide.

You're right about part c. If I buy GPL'd product XYZ from company
ABC, and I get a binary copy only, I can turn around and give you a
copy of product XYZ and the accompanying GPL license. You can then
demand the source from company ABC.

If, on the other hand, I buy product XYZ, and then don't give you a
copy, you have no right to the source. Unless of course you also
bought a copy of the binary from XYZ or someone else gave you a copy.


> Short answer: they have to give the source code to anyone who asks.  If they
> don't they seem to be in violation of the GPL, talk to a lawyer. :)

Again, this is where we disagree. I guess I'll just paste the section
of the GPL FAQ that I linked to above:

" What does this "written offer valid for any third party" mean? Does
that mean everyone in the world can get the source to any GPL'ed
program no matter what?

'Valid for any third party' means that anyone who has the offer is
entitled to take you up on it.

If you commercially distribute binaries not accompanied with source
code, the GPL says you must provide a written offer to distribute the
source code later. When users non-commercially redistribute the
binaries they received from you, they must pass along a copy of this
written offer. This means that people who did not get the binaries
directly from you can still receive copies of the source code, along
with the written offer.

The reason we require the offer to be valid for any third party is so
that people who receive the binaries indirectly in that way can order
the source code from you. "


As I said before, I may be wrong in my interpretation. You can always
email the gnu folks for a definitive answer.

Cheers,
Lane

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