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Re: Distributing GPL software.

Daniel, et. al.:

Referring to the PREAMBLE section of the GPL :: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html#SEC4 , the below excerpts (quoted portions herein) seem to imply that you only have to point the reciepient to one site where he COULD get it if he so choose. I use the preamble, as it attempts to encapsulate the intent of the license.

And that you can charge whatever you wish, or the market will bear, for either the finished cd, or the source code. If your overhead demands $20/copy, that is your overhead and right to recover. If you wish to make it available as a subsidized effort, or $0, that is also your option. You need not charge any fixed amount. YOU MUST however, let the receiver know of their legal rights, and the GPL legal position.. ie., include the GPL license on the distributed media. The directly downloaded, from OpenOffice.org, v2.0, for windoz, for example already has the LGLP, placed into the directory of installation, and shows up in the Start menu lists, as License, which points to file:///C:/Program%20Files/OpenOffice.org%202.0/license.html, on a win machine.
Thus, following that model is reasonable, and sufficient.

To be more specific, look at the following excepts of the gpl.html#SEC4 noted in the lead in paragraph of this email.
"When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price. Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for this service if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs; and that you know you can do these things."
So, it seems that you would only need to have the url of the major resource for distribution of the software:: "or can get it if you want it", being the operational phrase. Note particularly the "OR" , which contrasts the need to distribute the source yourself, if it is available elsewhere. To me (check with FSF legal to be sure), this means you must inform the receiver that he/she "CAN", ie have full permission and legal right to get it, but he/she will have to take the steps necessary to do so. That is you can refer to some resource for the source code, it is up to the recipient to then obtain it at whatever cost to reproduce it that the market bears. Thus they have the right, BUT the exercise of the right is vested in the receiver, the provider need only make the receiver aware of that right, and give them first contact information, necessary to begin the process of aquisition.

"To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the rights. These restrictions translate to certain responsibilities for you if you distribute copies of the software, or if you modify it.

For example, if you distribute copies of such a program, whether gratis or for a fee, you must give the recipients all the rights that you have. You must make sure that they, too, receive or can get the source code. And you must show them these terms so they know their rights. "

The key words above are "to protect your rights". So you MUST ensure that the distributed media conforms to:

"We protect your rights with two steps: (1) copyright the software, and (2) offer you this license which gives you legal permission to copy, distribute and/or modify the software."

So you must ensure that you have properly annotated the distribution media, top level directory, and/or lable, the former being more reliable.

The other operational key words in the above are "all the rights that you have". So there only needs to be some path to get the source, to which you refer, you do not have to establish the only path. Refering to mirrors url's would be a good strategy, as one or more will probably survive.

Furthermore, "or can get", is the alternative to you providing everything, and you do so to the best of your ability, wrt common and standard practices in the industry. Again, " you must show" , would be covered by including the GPL license and a referering URL, or written on the cd cover, or handout, but on the actual media would be preferred, as it is implicit proof that you intended to comply.

By publishing the code and source, as GPL, the OpenOffice.org, implicitly guarentees that they will make the same source available for the legal duration. Thus you could rely upon that commitment, and I would guess implicitly on the supporters of OpenOffice.org, namely Sun, as the ultimate underwriters. I also believe that since there are many distributors (hosts, educational institurions, retailier...offering such software online, that, at least one of them will be in business and/or existance or legal protection, for a period of 3 years after your distribution date, especially since your stuff is leading edge.

I am not authorized to offer a legal opinion, but the above is a "common sense", practitioner oriented reading of the terms of the GPL. That should suffice.

I would like to see anyone specifically, legally refute the above interpretation, as it would be a service to the general community.
Sam Riffle

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