GPL and server appliances

Samuel Liddicott sam at
Tue Jul 27 13:41:07 UTC 2004

Stefano Maffulli wrote:

>On Mon, 2004-07-26 at 22:22, Jerome Alet wrote:
>>say some company (A) enhances your software, install the new 
>>combined product on a server appliance, and put the server appliance 
>>at a third party company (B, its client), but DOESN'T SELL the 
>>server appliance to B. Instead of selling it, A is still the full 
>>owner of server appliance, which is installed at B's location only 
>>as part of a support contract. 
>This counts as distribution, in both copyright and droit d'auteur
I think you are mistaken. If I install software on my machine and then 
co-locate my machine I am hardly distributing the software.
I haven't seen Microsoft trying to charge extra when people move the PC 
that contains MS windows, or when I take my laptop into someone elses 
offices or plug it into someone elses network.

>>Question : does company A violate the GPL or not by not distributing 
>>full source code under the terms of the GPL to B ?
>Yes, A violates the GNU GPL.  If you believe that a company is violating
>the GNU licenses please follow instructions reported at 
I'm going to say it again, that "distribution" needs clarification. 
Either I am wrong or Stefano is, but it needs clarifying by more than 
folk contradicting eachother.

Can I suggest that FSF lawyers produce some sample scenarios by way of 
I will donate time to produce a web-based wizard where folk can tick 
boxes to show what they want to do with the software and the wizard 
explains the subsequent obligations they will be under.  We all know 
that don't distribute means practically no further obligations but there 
is no common understanding of "distribute".


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