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Re: Ubuntu CDs contain no sources

On Tue, Nov 08, 2005 at 11:57:05AM -0200, cascardo@minaslivre.org wrote:
> What do you people in debian-legal think about people who distribute
> ISO images on their websites but no ISO with sources nor a written
> promise? Should we consider there is an implicit offer and just ask
> for the sources?
> --
> Thadeu Cascardo

I will reply my own message in response to Olive and Joey Hess.

That's also my non-lawyer's opinion. What I will say is some reasoning
about requiring the same terms for copying binaries and source. Not
following them by the word may be mere toleration by the copyright
holder or because the distributor makes sure source distribution
occurs when it is requested.

But why? Why should the offer for copying the source be made in the
same terms as the copying of the binaries? Because a distributor may
make it difficult for someone to get the sources. It may put the
sources on a machine with low bandwidth, which would take a thousand
times the time to download the binary. Or else it may put the source
behind a proprietary protocol, which would require the installation of
some software under some unreasonable license (imagine one which only
allows its use if you do not develop software for the same purposes).

The following situation is a good example:

The author of a popular software decides to stop distribution of
binaries, since it is GPL-licensed and contains other people's
contributions. He decides using some SCM software which uses a
non-documented proprietary protocol and does not allow its
redistribution and would require you to pay a $1000 fee. The author
also stops making releases of tarballs, saying the SCM is a wonderful
piece of software and does not require releases any more. And that any
one can buy the SCM software and get the sources. He is allowed to do
all of that.

Some redistributor gets the source, makes no modification to it and
puts a compiled version so everybody can download it without paying
for the download itself or the SCM software so he can get the sources
and build it itself.

Now, you get the binaries from this distributor, asks him for the
sources and he tells you it is freely available on the net by the
author's SCM repository. Is this reasonable? Then imagine the author
and the distributor are the same person (and perhaps, not the original
author, but someone who makes modifications to the software.)

That's why you should offer an *equivalent* access to the sources in
the *same* place.

Any disagreements and comments are welcome. Remember I have the
opinion that it is reasonable if you put the sources under a different
place but with equivalent access (similar bandwidth and availability
and such) or under some different protocols or formats as long as they
are pretty standard and there are plenty of popular and free software
available to get them. However, it's better to play safe and do not
count with an author and a judge that do not agree with this.

Thadeu Cascardo.

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