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Re: Do web applications disable GPL obligations?

Mark Tyler <mtyler70@yahoo.com> writes:

> Dear all,
> I hope this is the right list to discuss GPL related issues. (Or where
> would be a better place to get help with the following question?)

Your question doesn't relate to Debian, so strictly speaking it is
off-topic here.

> A friend and I have developed a web application for an online shop
> with some pretty advanced features that were requested by our
> customers. We included GPL sources into the application and for that
> reason distributed the application according to the same license
> (GPLv3).
> Now one of the customers has modified large parts of our shop without
> mentioning the origin, the GPL license or the authors, and without
> publishing the modified sources. Program icons and dialog boxes where
> copied identically.
> When we asked him to comply with the GPL he only replied that web
> applications are not affected, because the application is only used,
> but not distributed. It is true, that the application is installed on
> the server side, but parts of it, namely java classes, are distributed
> to the clients (=the shop visitors) in binary form.
> We are really annoyed because we spent months fulfilling our
> customers' wishes at an almost negligible price (assuming that we were
> contributing to open source software), and now our work as well as the
> original authors' work is exploited to generate large turnovers.
> Can you judge from this information, whether we are right or the
> customer who claims to have the right to publish our java classes and
> icons within the web application as if he owned the copyright?

It is my understanding that source is only required to be supplied to
those who receive binaries.  In your case, it seems pretty clear that
the Java classes should be accompanied with source (or instructions
how to obtain it).  However, source for software that only runs on the
server need not be supplied to users of the service.

There were early plans to have the GPLv3 require source distribution
with web services and similar, but these requirements were dropped
from the final version.

Disclaimers: IANAL, TINLA.

Måns Rullgård

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