does a free license make software free?

Sam Liddicott sam at
Tue Oct 16 18:47:25 UTC 2007

Alex Hudson wrote:
>> The GPL will only be part of the contract if it is ACTUALLY part of
>> the contract (read the contract).
>> As the sole-owner licensor does not need GPL permissions in order to
>> distribute and so is not bound by GPL constraints for so distributing.
> I think you're missing my point.
> I'm not saying the original author is distributing under the terms of
> GPL, just that if they claim to do that but fail to perform, recipients
> may have some kind of recourse.
Thanks for clarifying that, it certainly is an interesting point.

I wonder if sometimes (as folk are often careless with documents) they 
may unintentionally appear to claim to be distributing under the GPL 
when in fact they are distributing under their ownership rights - or 
even (if it came to that) if it would take a court to make a decision. I 
say appear to claim because if they were not aware of the apparent claim 
then it will be a hard case to make that they actually did claim.

I think a strong argument for the licensee would be that the GPL under 
which they are licensed to distribute is useless until they receive the 
source and they could perhaps use that to show there was a commitment to 
provide the source in order to make the licensee's license effective. I 
note that the only provision to rescind a license under the GPL (or to 
loose rights)(not the same as remove power to exercise the retained 
rights, such as patent restricions) is for the licensee to fail to 
follow the terms of the license - i.e. the licensor cannot otherwise 
rescind the license, it seems to me. This point would be of interest here.

This may help convince the licensor to cough up the source but could not 
put the licensor under any other obligations other than those required 
to permit the licensee to fulfil their obligations; i.e. the licensor 
could still make non-GPL distributions as well (hopefully without the 
GPL license attached as well!)


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