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Re: GPLv3 source code with license check for some build configuration, DFSG ok?

> Let's restate the facts for the -legal crowd.

Interesting question.  Still no any response?  May some input from a passer-by (IANAL, IANADD) be helpful?

> I'm packaging ultracopier which is under GPLv3 license. The source 
> code supports several build configuration, one of them being the ultimate 
> build. The ultimate build comes with a license check which terminates the 
> software if no key is input (ie. one hits the cancel button). For that reason, 
> I'm not building that configuration so that the binary program that is being 
> built is free from any usage restriction. There is no mention of any 
> restriction in the COPYING, README.sources or README file, even for the 
> ultimate edition.

It is worth mentioning, that no closed list of places, where legal terms might be put, exists.

COPYING in sources’ root is just a canonical text of a model licence, which is usually  a ‘headless’ one, where the essential condition is still missed: *what* is licensed.

That part indeed might be in README, though in fact many free programs do not have any single specific agreement attached to them at all.  Instead each source file has its own: “This file is free software...” and so on.

Debian, by the way, reflects that style much more thoroughly than some other GNU distributions; you know, of course, ‘copyright’ file in packages is based on per-file analysis of sources rather than some general statements in documentation.

Despite the README, as you said, does state a licence for the whole program (GPLv3), the file that contains that key-checker might be still a place of special interest.  Are there some ‘overrides’?  Or anything else, that suggests that you are not free to simply remove it at all?

Webpage, where sources are downloaded from, is also important in my opinion.

I did a brief check of both these places:
— Key-checker is in ‘EventDispatcher.cpp’, as far as I can see; and this file explicitly mentions third GPL and nothing else, which does return you such a right.
— Download page is [0] — and I did not notice any further restrictions to GNU GPL there either.

[0] https://ultracopier.first-world.info/download-all.html

> The questions I was asking in the original thread on -mentors are:
> - Is a non-ultimate build DFSG ok?
> - Does the ultimate build respect the GPLv3?

I will raise slightly more questions, if you permit:

— Are sources of Ultracopier, as downloaded from [1], are free?  Are they under GNU GPL?

Given all the said, I cannot imagine a reason to say ‘no’ to either question.

The fact, that you are able to build something useless from them, should not alter it a bit.  Indeed, it might be quite hard sometimes to build anything useful from sources, and nonetheless them remains free.  :-)

[1] http://files.first-world.info/ultracopier/

— Are builds (‘ultimate’ or whatever), as downloaded from the same site, free?

No idea.  Sorry, I just do not want to download and run them to study the case, since I see no practical value in doing that — you are not going to go redistribute these very builds, but make your own.

— Are non-‘ultimate’ builds made from sources [1] free?

I did not build them, but if I understand right what you’ve said, non-‘ultimate’ versions show self-advertisement to users.  That should not make them nonfree.  Firefox does something similar, am I remember right?

— Are ‘ultimate’ builds made from sources [0] are free?

You said, that your are not going to build them for Debian either, yet it might be interesting to share some thoughts on the question as it might eventually help to understand other questions better.

You said, you have concerns regarding the no-further-restrictions clause of the GNU GPL:

| You may not impose any further restrictions on the exercise of the
| rights granted or affirmed under this License.  For example, you may
| not impose a license fee, royalty, or other charge for exercise of
| rights granted under this License, and you may not initiate
| litigation (including a cross-claim or counterclaim in a lawsuit)
| alleging that any patent claim is infringed by making, using,
| selling, offering for sale, or importing the Program or any portion
| of it.

Let we compare it with another practice that is common for builds of free software for nonfree systems — they require you to read and accept a licence agreement to install and use the program.  That is despite the fact that none of GNU licenses requires that.  Quite the opposite: they explicitly release a user from that.

This is a obvious further restriction, is not it?  Here’s what FSF thinks on this [2]:

| Can software installers ask people to click to agree to the GPL? If
| I get some software under the GPL, do I have to agree to anything?
| (#ClickThrough)
|    Some software packaging systems have a place which requires you
|    to click through or otherwise indicate assent to the terms of the
|    GPL. This is neither required nor forbidden. With or without a
|    click through, the GPL's rules remain the same.
|    Merely agreeing to the GPL doesn't place any obligations on
|    you. You are not required to agree to anything to merely use
|    software which is licensed under the GPL. You only have
|    obligations if you modify or distribute the software. If it
|    really bothers you to click through the GPL, nothing stops you
|    from hacking the GPLed software to bypass this.

You might found these examples incomparable: checkbox is a mere checkbox, while key is a substantial obstacle — you have to get it somewhere.

Yet, one might say quite the otherwise: key is a mere key, just find it somewhere, while a screen with a text of an agreement and a checkbox demands a legally binding action from you, an action which most people on this planet are not able to understand properly — their skills in English are even worse than mine.  :-)

[2] https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#ClickThrough

— Does Ultracopier conform to DFSG?

Unless: (a) there are some non-copyright issues (trademark, for instance?) or (b) a piece of software, that is distributed under terms of GNU GPL in sources buildable with free tools, that does not conform could exist; the answer should be yes, I guess.

— Is Ultracopier suitable for Debian?

Given all the said, from a legal point of view, probably, yes.

However, if I recall correctly, there was at least one case — namely, ‘imapsync’ package — when a free program was even removed from Debian by request of its author that was willing sold it rather than let anyone download it gratis; and that was done as a mere act of a good will, without any legal grounds.

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