Re: [debian-knoppix] Knoppix source and the GPL
Valentijn Sessink wrote on Thu, 3 Apr 2003
at 13:25:04 +0200:
> Hello List,
> I have the following problem.
> As some of you might have noticed, I'm working
> on a changed version of Knoppix - as many of you
> are. This goes well.
> However, as lots of the software included is GPL'ed,
> I need to be able to provide sources for this CD.
Valentijn & others:
Please be reassured. When I downloaded section 3c
of the GPL just now, it said this (slightly
different from your text) ---
"3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a
work based on it, under Section 2) in object code
or executable form under the terms of Sections 1
and 2 above provided that you also do one of the
c) Accompany it with the information you received
as to the offer to distribute corresponding source
code. (This alternative is allowed only for
noncommercial distribution and only if you received
the program in object code or executable form with
such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)"
As I read 3c, it allows you to hand onwards any GPL'd
binary/executables that you obtained from others when
you also hand on, with them, the information that you
yourself received about the offer for distribution of
their source code.
It does _not at all_ say that you have to personally
guarantee the usability of that information.
I think it is clear enough from the agreement that
the intent was to try and make sure that no-one has
the right to cut off information about how to get
the source code.
But probably the GPL drafting lawyer did not fully
imagine the risk that information about how to get
the source code might become outdated or unusable
in course of time. The GPL seems to lack provision
for this risk.
The GPL also seems to set a puzzle in the event that
the binary/executable accidentally becomes separated
from information about how to get the source -- did
the GPL really mean to 'freeze' the binary, and
prohibit its further circulation in that event?
But I am confident that you need not worry about
these puzzles from the point of view of your own
legal responsibilities: if you do just what 3c
asks, (which you can easily do by passing onwards
just the information that you yourself get), that
must be enough to satisfy your obligation.
It's a separate and interesting question whether
the FSF or GNU org or the community at large
could need to do anything to preserve GPL'd
source code against loss and decay ....
(Albeit I am a patent attorney, this posting is
only intended to constitute a general expression
of scholarly comment or personal opinion, and
certainly not legal advice nor any basis for
any client relationship!)
Terry Stancliffe, Cambridge
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