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Re: One unclear point in the Vim license

On Wed, Jan 02, 2002 at 04:02:51PM -0800, Thomas Bushnell, BSG wrote:
> Yep, that's the GPL.  Of course, the person you give the binary to can
> say "you don't need to give me the source", and then you're off the
> hook.  

Er, I don't think that's permitted, either.

If I don't give someone the source code simultaneously with the binary,
fulfilling 3a) of the GPL, then all I have to fall back on is 3b), the
written offer, or 3c) where I can only transfer -- not originate -- the
written offer I myself received under 3b).

It's easy for me to see why the GPL doesn't let me "get off the hook" in
that scenario.  If it didn't, then I as Big Evil Proprietary Software
Company would just sell binary-only CD's in exchange for cash plus a
signed declaration that "I hereby forfeit my right to recieve source
code from you".  Because I made them the "offer" under this putative
version of 3a), I wouldn't also have to comply with 3b) or 3c).

Thus, I'd be able to lock up the sources to my (or someone else's)
GPL'ed program.

> > Sure, *programmers* would far rather swap source code than binaries
> > under most circumstances, but people shuttle binaries around by
> > themselves all the time.  Sometimes just to see if something is broken.
> > ("My /bin/ls doesn't work, can you send me yours?")
> > 
> > This practice is really forbidden by the GPL?
> I think it's quite under the radar screen and not worth worrying
> about.  

Henning said this as well, but I guess it bothers me a little bit that
the GPL prohibits this sort of sane, reasonable, and harmless activity.
While I may trust the FSF not to sue me for helping a friend out by
scp'ing various GNU/Linux binaries to him upon request, to help
troubleshoot his own GNU/Linux system, it bothers me that such an
activity is considered infringing at all.

RMS, can this subject be explored in more depth for GPL v3?  I realize
that any effort to craft a loophole to permit the above scenario will
see extremely aggressive "legal reading" and exploitation attempts by
propriteers, and Henning Makholm came up with a very legitimate scenario
of abuse, but I'd like to think that it is possible to make the behvaior
described non-infringing without permitting other behaviors that are
substantively damaging to Free Software.

G. Branden Robinson                |      "To be is to do"   -- Plato
Debian GNU/Linux                   |      "To do is to be"   -- Aristotle
branden@debian.org                 |      "Do be do be do"   -- Sinatra
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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