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Re: Knoppix and GPL

Klaus Knopper <legal@knopper.net> wrote:
> On Mon, Apr 28, 2003 at 01:37:15PM -0700, Walter Landry wrote:
> > Klaus Knopper <legal@knopper.net> wrote:
> > > On Mon, Apr 28, 2003 at 11:30:43AM -0700, Walter Landry wrote:
> > > > > Technically, I'm not even actively distributing any software at any time.
> > > > > The mirrors are downloading and distributing it without any action
> > > > > initiated by me. Or magazines publish Knoppix, in some cases even
> > > > > without asking me.
> > > > 
> > > > Well, in that case you are distributing Knoppix.
> > > 
> > > That is your interpretation. You may call it a "passive distribution",
> > > if you like.
> > 
> > If I understand the situation correctly, you are directly providing
> > copies to other people.
> No.
> > If you burned a CD and gave it to a friend,
> > who then posted it, then you would only be providing copies to your
> > friend.
> Yes.
> > Your friend could then pass on the three year offer.
> If you interpret the GPL literally, it does not demand that the written
> offer must be transferable to third persons. So, in your example,
> it would be the friend's responsibility to make sure he/she can comply
> with the GPL if chosing to redistribute the software. But I for my part
> am not a hardliner or literal interpreter of the GPL, and will
> provide the sources to third persons as well, as long as I can handle
> the effort.

GPL 3b says:

  b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three
     years, to give any third party ...

So you either distribute the sources or you provide an offer, valid
for any third party.

> > But I don't think that is what is happening.  Please let me know if
> > I'm mistaken, because if I am, then the whole problem is moot.
> I'm not distributing KNOPPIX-CDs myself, only in very rare occasions
> (talks or meetings).

So you don't operate the master mirror?

> Most people get Knoppix-CDs by downloading them
> from mirrors that operate independently.
> So, if you absolutely want to interpret the GPL literally, at maximum my
> responsibility would be to provide access to the source for the primary
> mirrors for 3 years, and not to people who download from them.

If you give the master mirror a copy of the source when you distribute
the software, then you don't have any obligations.  But you're a nice
guy, and you provide the 3 year offer so that no other non-commercial
entities have to provide source either.  That offer must be available
to any third party.

> > > And all mirrors would immediately stop mirroring Knoppix because of
> > > space and traffic reasons
> > 
> > Is one CD of source going to break the bank for your mirrors?
> It's 3 CDs of source for 1 CD of binary. The GPL has demands for
> dependencies, so, you also have to provide compilers and the complete
> development environment, which also covers "related" sources and
> possibly different versions if the build process depends on them.

Ah.  Ok.

<snip the rest>

To summarize, it seems like you don't give the software to anyone but
the master mirror maintainer.  You use section 3b) which the mirror
maintainers pass along.  In that case, everything seems fine.

Sorry for the trouble.

Walter Landry

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