Free software, as in speech, without Makefile

Sam Liddicott sam at
Fri Mar 20 16:58:16 UTC 2015

"If this single developer is the sole copyright owner" then this single
developer is distributing by right and not by license.

The copyright owner doesn't need a license. The license gives permission to
those who otherwise have no right.

More interesting is whether or not those who receive the code from the
developer (by his right) are able to distribute it (by the granted license)
as they don't have the full source according to the license.

If they can build without the Makefile then I guess they can distribute
what they build and it's source, but they need to include what they used to
build it.

Otherwise they can perhaps at least see how it works and fix any bugs.


On Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 4:40 PM, Simon Hornbachner <lfodh at> wrote:

> Ahoy hoy,
> On 2015-03-20 15:50, Paul van der Vlis wrote:
>> The source is available but the Makefile is missing. The developer says
>>>> it's to make it a bit more difficult to build it yourself. Eventually
>>>> for removing the registration.
>>>> It's a complex Java program what depends on many third party components
>>>> (all free), so maybe it's not so easy to make such a Makefile, no idea.
>>>> What's your opinion?
>>> It's up to developer whether to supply a Makefile with the source code
>>> or not.
>> I'm pretty sure that this is not the case. Depending on which version of
> the AGPL has been used, the wording might be different, but AGPLv3
> clearly states.
> „The "Corresponding Source" for a work in object code form means all the
> source code needed to generate, install, and (for an executable work) run
> the object code and to modify the work, including scripts to control those
> activities.“
> As far as I know, the intention of this paragraph was specifically to
> cover Makefiles and the like.
>> 1. If you, as a supporter, can get the Makefile from the main developer,
>>> everyone else should be able to get it too.
>> He would give me the Makefile, and some other interested developers. But
>> I would not publish it when he does not want that. You will understand.
> I'm pretty sure that not publishing the Makefile constitutes a violation
> of the AGPL. Depending on what you intend to do about it, you might want to
> get in touch with FSFE's legal team. If this single developer is the sole
> copyright owner, trying to enforce the publication of the Makefile might
> just result in him changing the license, so you might want to be careful
> about what you do.
> Still, I believe not publishing a Makefile isn't just "bad practice" but a
> violation of the license.
> Regards,
> Simon
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