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defining "distribution" (Re: A few more LPPL concerns)

> > Note that in the above, `distribution' of a file means making the file
> > available to others by any means.  This includes, for instance,
> > installing the file on any machine in such a way that the file is
> > accessible by users other than yourself.

> > From: Mark Rafn <dagon@dagon.net>
> > Did this bother anyone else, or am I out in left field again? 

On Sun, 21 Jul 2002, Boris Veytsman wrote:
> I think this requirement is compatible with the copyright.

I think that it's compatible with copyright in cases where it's already 
covered without saying, and a large step beyond in others.  I can't think 
of an example where this clause isn't either unnecessary or overreaching.

And in the overreaching case (like covering execution as opposed to 
copying), a different word than "distribute" should be chosen.

> Suppose I take a GPL'ed program, change it and put the closed version
> (sans sources) on my own machine. I did not violate GPL yet. Now
> suppose that I make the drive NFS-exportable and encourage my paying
> customers to mount it and access the program from there. Would I
> violate GPL? I think yes.

Absolutely.  This is distribution in the classic sense.  No additional 
definition of "distribution" is necessary.

> I think that distribution is precisely this: making something
> available to others.

I believe it takes more than this.  It means giving things to others, and 
intent is an important factor.  IANAL, so someone please correct me if 
there's a better legal definition.

Putting something on an NFS server specifically for customers to download 
is clearly distribution, as there is intent for someone to acquire a copy.  
Putting it on an NFS server so you can copy it to another machine may not 
be distribution, if you don't expect that people will make copies from 

Specifially, it's not distribution if something is "available" but you
haven't given any indication that it should be taken.  Putting something
on a server that is normally used for such distribution is such

> Giving other people the right to my access files counts as distribution
> in my book.

I disagree, unless you do it in such a way that a reasonable person 
would expect you want them to do so.   If you have an account on a shared 
unix system, you're not distributing things in your homedir unless you 
tell people to copy them.

It's not distribution if they're just stored in a directory that happens
to be readable by others, nor if they're on a CD on your desk that a
coworker could borrow without asking.  The way this paragraph is written,
distribution includes any storage on a system that is not completely
secured from all other people.

Also, "access" is a confusing word.  I presume you're not trying to
limit execution in addition to copying, but the word doesn't distinguish.  
And because it's a scripting language, most OS permissions can't prevent 
copying and allow execution.  This is where intent comes in.

It's not distribution for me to install a package on a system I administer
(or just have an account) and allow others to execute it.  They can
"access" it in terms of execution, but if they copy it, they do so without
my permission (and without yours).
Mark Rafn    dagon@dagon.net    <http://www.dagon.net/>  

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