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Re: GPLed software with no true source. Was: Bug#402650: ITP: mozilla-foxyproxy

On Tue, 30 Jan 2007, Joey Hess wrote:
> Don Armstrong wrote:
> > Obviously we should try to figure out if the author was lying or
> > making fun of -legal first, but if it was actually true and
> > debhelper was GPLed, then we can't do anything else.
> Why?

Because it wouldn't be the prefered form for modification as the GPL

> debhelper is also developed in vim[1], I don't have to ship vim with
> it, why would I need to ship its preprocessor with it? They are both
> simply tools that let me develop the software. The fact that I
> didn't type in every character of debhelper exactly as it appears in
> the code I distribute to you is irelivant. There is no bright line
> between a program like vim inserting useful syntatic whitespace as I
> type[2], and a preprocessor expanding keywords into blocks of code.

The bright line is actually pretty straight forward: Do you modify the
file with syntactic whitespace or the file without? Is it preferable
to modify the file without the keyword expansion or with?

The answers to those questions tell you what needs to be distributed.

> The important thing is the code I distribute.

The important thing is what you actually modify to distribute what you
eventually distribute. The source code compliance in GNU GPL §3 says
nothing about the code that was distributed, only about what is the
"prefered form of the work for making modifications to it."

> > That in both of these cases it's trivial to actually modify the
> > work merely obscures the real problem: the users of the software
> > are second class citizens to the copyright holder.
> In closing, I'd like you to consider the plight of a machine
> intelligence who wrote GPLed code and was forced by the act of so
> licensing it to embed a copy of itself[4] with any code it
> distributed so that the fleshers weren't second class citisens.

A far more practical example is the case of a GPLed movie where in
you'd have to include all of the digital files etc. available to the
author which aren't available to anyone else. Yes, this is a real
problem, and is one reason why the GPL may not always be the most
appropriate license. Ignoring the legal aspects though, distributing
this information to the maximum extent possible is IMO the best thing
to do, because it enables users of the work to exercise as many of the
freedoms that the author of the work has and can convey.

Don Armstrong

Where I sleep at night, is this important compared to what I read
during the day? What do you think defines me? Where I slept or what I
did all day?
 -- Thomas Van Orden of Van Orden v. Perry

http://www.donarmstrong.com              http://rzlab.ucr.edu

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