my distribution scheme for GPLed software

Alex Hudson home at
Tue Mar 4 12:43:48 UTC 2003

On Tue, Mar 04, 2003 at 12:18:02PM +0000, Ciaran O'Riordan wrote:
> I don't see any GPL violations but I don't think this experiment
> will work.

Surely the restriction on naming is a "violation"? Although an author
cannot really violate the license on his own work :)

> The "Official Version" idea is a trademarks issue, not a copyright
> issue so the GPL doesn't cover it.

The GPL probably ought to address it though, in much the same way that it
addresses the matter of software patents. A trademark can be used to make
a piece of software effectively non-free: if a trademark prevents you
copying a piece of software, then you end up in with the problem people
who want to distribute RedHat have.

> The reason I don't think this will work is on accout of it's hairyness.
> I also think it goes against the some of the technical benefits of
> Free software.

I agree with this. I would propose a slightly different solution:

- people register to receive an official code
- code allows people to access (for example) technical support on the
website, etc., and possibly could be used to tie the extra services you
offer into the software itself

You don't force people to register, you distribute the same version of the
code all the time, and you give benefits to those people who do pay you
for your work. Tieing those benefits into the software is a nice touch, 
I think - like issueing automatic notices of security fixes, etc. 

I don't think you need to resort to trademarks to do this, which I think
is slightly dodgy anyway. I don't think that there's anything wrong with
providing benefits to your users via free software though - so long as you
aren't required to sign up for a subscription, so long as it's optional, I
think that's okay. In a way, it's a bit about building up relationships
with your customers, I guess.



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