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Re: Bug#383481: Must source code be easy to understand to fall under DFSG?

Markus Laire wrote:
> What if a person downloads a GPLed binary and then modifies that
> binary directly?

If that person can truly say he prefers to hack binaries over
C code, then yes he can distribute just the binary. That makes
sense because there *is no other form* of the software in that
modified state. 

> If yes, then GPL seems to have a severe loophere here, as anyone who
> wants to distribute GPLed binaries without the original source can
> just do some (trivial) modifications to the binary, and then
> distribute this binary as the source.

Not really. Just changing one static string in the binary is
not sufficient to show that you prefer to modify binaries over
source code. It's very unusual to hack binaries as compared to
source, so a judge (if it ever came to that) would want to see
some serious arguments why you think it's preferred.

If you are a hardcore assembly hacker or you have a very constrained
platform, then it's reasonable to say you prefer to work on binaries.

> An additional question to consider (in addition to "preferred by
> whom") might be "preferred for what reason". Quite many people might
> prefer to modify the actual binary if it allows them to distribute the
> binary as the source.

A judge would look at the intent of the licensor when he
wrote (adopted) that clause. The intent of the GPL is to make
meaningful source available. So "I wanted to avoid publishing
useful source" is not going to fly. But "on my 4-bit platform
with 16kB of memory I need to hack the binary a lot or it won't fit"
would be a reasonable argument, and then there's no need to
provide C versions of the modifications. 

(There even won't *be* a C version in that case. Perhaps that is
a better yardstick?)


Arnoud Engelfriet, Dutch & European patent attorney - Speaking only for myself
Patents, copyright and IPR explained for techies: http://www.iusmentis.com/

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