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Re: Lost sources [was: Re: scientific paper in package only in postscript form non-free?]

On Wed, Mar 16, 2011 at 01:25:57PM -0700, Don Armstrong wrote:
> On Wed, 16 Mar 2011, Mark Weyer wrote:
> > I always thought that such distribution would be in breach of the
> > GPL, or more generally of copyleft. After all, it is impossible to
> > distinguish, from the outside, between lost and secret sources.
> [...]
> > And if the I-want-my-sources-secret person does not care about later
> > modifications, he might even really delete the sources.
> In such a case, the author of the modifications isn't in a privileged
> position.

I am sorry but I don't quite understand this comment.

Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding, let me rephrase my scenario:
Someone modifies a GPLed work, say a program written in C. Between compiling
and distributing, he deliberately deletes the C files. Then he distributes
the compiled binary. By the "if the source does not exist any more, what is
left is source" rule, the compiled binary now is its own source because it
is the (only and thus) prefered form for making further changes.
I feel that this is against the spirit of copyleft, so I am surprised that
it is claimed not to be against the letter of the GPL.
I do not understand what it has to do with privileged positions.

Best regards,

  Mark Weyer

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