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Re: Ubuntu CDs contain no sources

cascardo@minaslivre.org wrote:
> 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.

The GPL (not the only copyleft license, but by far the most common one) says the following:

   3 You may ... distribute the Program... provided that you also do one
     of the following (redaction and emphasis mine):

      a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable
         source code, which must be distributed under the terms of
         Sections 1 and 2 above *on a medium customarily used for
         software interchange*; or,

      b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three
         years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your
         cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete
         machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be
         distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above *on a
         medium customarily used for software interchange*

As we can see from the text, any method at all can be used to distribute the source code, even one completely different from how the binary is distributed, provided it is a 'medium customarily used for software interchange'. Thus, you can distribute your binaries on CD yet your source on a website, or vice versa. A few years ago, you could probably have distributed your source by BBS (and you still could if such a thing is customary where you are). Offering your source by CVS would also fulfil the obligation: CVS is customarily used to interchange software.

We can also see from the text that offering your source over a contrived SCM no-one uses does not discharge this obligation (it's not 'customarily used' to exchange software). If you don't also offer source over a customary medium, the GPL grants you no rights to distribute the software, and so the copyright holder may sue you.

Aside: the paragraph "If distribution of executable or object code is made by ... along with the object code." is not saying that you must offer the source in the same place, it's saying that by offering your source in the same place, you can discharge your source obligation under 3a instead of 3b; this is why Debian does not have to keep source archives available for three years.

Lewis Jardine

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