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Re: Debian/GNU Freebsd

On Fri, Feb 19, 1999 at 03:17:57PM -0500, Phillip R. Jaenke wrote:

> Put yourself in a different developer's shoes, for a moment. You've
> spent over 2 years working on a program, that you licensed under the
> GPL. Now it's stable, and everyone loves it. Now a company comes
> along, picks it up, puts their name on it, makes some modifications
> and improvements, and sells it. You wouldn't be very happy, would you?
> Oh, sure, you can get the code with their improvements! When you buy
> the product. And not a second sooner.

the GPL allows that.

and btw, you *can* get the source code with their improvements without
buying it. all you have to do is find someone who has the source and
ask them for a copy. the GPL entitles them to redistribute source to
anyone they like. the GPL explicitly forbids placing any restrictions on
redistribution and sharing.

in any case, most companies would have enough decency to give a copy of
their patches to the original author without having to go through a 3rd

> I very truly hope that I'm not the only one seeing something wrong
> with that picture.

if i had a problem with that, i would use a license other than the GPL
which forbade commercial exploitation. and then my software would not be
DFSG free and couldn't be included in debian.

i don't care if anyone sells any software i write (although i would
appreciate it if it got a free CD or a t-shirt or some other token
reward). i care that anyone who modifies and/or distributes my software
*MUST* release the source code under the GPL along with any binary.

here's what i get out of it:

1. commercial sale of my software generally means more users. more users
means more potential developers. more developers means more patches,
more improvements.

2. fame and enhanced reputation. this doesn't benefit my bank account
directly but it makes me more employable, which tends to increase the
size of my salary. it also makes it easier for me to find another job if
i happen to dislike or get bored with my current one, or feel that i'm
not being paid what i deserve.

3. a buzz out of knowing that lots of people use my software and think
it's good/cool/useful/whatever.

> My point (not yours;), is that the GPL only forces the companies to
> include the source code.  It does nothing to stop them from charging
> any ungodly amount they choose for it.

it requires them to make it available for a reasonable amount - copying
and handling costs. it allows anyone who obtains a copy to redistribute
it too - which places an upper limit on what the market will bear.

what this means is that if a Evil Company, Inc. (ECI) tries to sell the
GPL-ed source of their version of your software for $5000, then it is
hard to believe that they would get away with it.

firstly, $5000 is NOT a reasonable copying charge.  

even if a court somehow manages to accept ECI's argument that it IS a
reasonable copying charge, then all it takes is one person to organise
500 people to put in $10 each and buy a copy of the source. then they
give it away for free....and they'd only have to pay the $5000 if they
couldn't find a customer of ECI who was willing to give them a copy.

i really can't see this happening. any company who tried it would
quickly find themselves competing against people giving it away for
free, AND they'd have an enormous PR backlash when their customers found
out that they were ripping off (morally if not legally) the original
author of the program.

> And it does not make them give back to the community without making
> profit.

The GPL isn't concerned with profit.  it is concerned with freedom (liberty)
of the source code.

it's about free speech, not free beer.

> They are under no obligation to simply give away their source or
> modifications. And they won't. They'll charge you for it.

they can only charge a reasonable copying fee. they can't prevent you
(or anyone else who buys a copy) from giving it away.

in the unlikely event of any problem here, it is entirely


craig sanders

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