juridical Question on software and GPL

Wim De Smet fragmeat at yucom.be
Fri Mar 26 22:49:23 UTC 2004

On Fri, 26 Mar 2004 21:32:29 +0100
Moritz Sinn <moritz at freesources.org> wrote:
> "Axel Schulz" <axel at schulz.ph> writes:
> > Hello at all!
> >
> >
> > I do think that this software does not violate the GPL. And: The
> > "distributer" on http://www.bemme.de seems to be the original author
> > of the software. So, he can do what ever he wants to do with his
> > software, right? Even selling it. ;-)
> well, yes. but if he puts it under gpl he has to follow what gpl says.

An author can always change his license for future releases. If he puts
his software under GPL though and then does not sell it alongside with
the source code, he essentially made a false promise to the customer. So
in that respect he has to follow the gpl indeed.

> > As I understand the GPL it is allowed to sell the binary file of the
> > software BUT on request the source code has to be provided for of
> > charge.
> more or less. the source code has to come with the software. so its
> not allowed to claim an extra fee for the source code.
> > And now I have an additional question to all of you: If Volker gets
> > this source code he can modify, "keep the software as it is", and
> > redistribute it as it is or modified. Right? He can do so with or
> > without to charge a fee for the re-distribution (e.g. from his
> > website). I think the GPL allows explicitly to charge for the
> > redistribution. So, he would not violate the GPL if he would do so.
> > Is this a correct interpretation of the GPL? 
> yes, that's what the part of gpl that i quoted in my last mailing
> says. and that's why you cannot earn money with programming free
> software. you have to hope on the economical side effects.

You can easily sell free software in many markets. You must not
underestimate the power of a bundled package. People will pay good money
to have something that they can use quite easily and that they know is
supported. Or to have something delivered to them as a whole without
having to worry about the itty gritty details. Microsoft would not be
selling software if it didn't look good (as opposed to working good).

> > I think this is the the real "mess" of the GPL. It is the
> > economical/commercial effect (!!!). Why should people go on and get
> > the software from http://www.bemme.de/ when they can download the
> > same piece of software from any other website (e.g. Volkers ;-)). 
> if your main goal is to earn money and not to write good software
> you've todo it the classical way: like microsoft.

The fact that they want to maximize their profits may have something to
do with bloat in their software, but on all other accounts these two
aspects are totally unrelated. One can write good software and sell it
and vice versa. I think it's pretty clear that many propietary software
companies sell good software, regardless of the fact that it is

> > What would be important for Volker to notice is: The GPL would
> > require him to publish the derived (or the same) version of the
> > software again under the GPL (see: the broad discussed viral affect
> > of the GPL ([1])).
> exactly. else someone could steal free software, close it and earn
> lots of money with the work of others. exploit the free software
> programmers.
> > I hope I am correct with my assumptions about GPL'ed software. I
> > really hope so, because I argued in this way in my MA thesis ;-))
> >
> > That's why only selling a GPL'ed software doesn't make (ECONOMICAL)
> > sense. You have to sell services (like support etc.) in addition to
> > really get money out of it. Or you have to publish the software
> > under two licenses (like MySQL AB, Sweden [2]). But this is only
> > efficient when you are going to build up giant enterprises where the
> > "free riders" are a valuable part of your business model.
> afaik it is not allowed to publish gpl software under a second
> license. i don't know how mysql does that.

AFAIK The mysql group consists of the copyright holders on the software.
They are allowed to choose their own license and if they want to double
license why not?


More information about the Discussion mailing list