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Re: GPL and software I have written

On Wed, Nov 01, 2000 at 09:17:13AM -0600, Brooks R. Robinson wrote:
> Greetings!
> 	I have a dilemma, and I expect this to end in a flame war, but here goes...
> I am a computer science student, and I also work as a system administrator.
> For one of my classes, I have written an e-commerce package.  It is written
> in C using GCC, it uses Mini-SQL, and runs on Apache as a CGI program.  My
> employer has expressed interest it this particular piece of software (my
> e-commerce package).
> 	I have issues with my employer that cause me to not want to merely hand
> over my work.  I have never released/published any software that I have
> written, so I am treading into new territory.  Therefore, I have read
> through the GPL, and I think I understand, but I would like confirmation.
> Since I am not modifying any existing software, I am creating new software,
> I can charge for the new software.  This could be a license fee or
> something.
> 	I, of course, cannot and would not charge them for GCC, Apache, or for that
> matter Linux in general, except to the extent that I provide them a
> distribution (I burn a CD for them and/or install it on a computer).

You can charge them whatever you want for all that.  You can say that it
costs a thousand dollars for a copy of gcc or Apache.  (Of course, they
may very well go download it for free, but that's their right, too.)

The only requirement (for the GPL'd stuff, anyway -- Apache isn't GPL'd)
is that you give them the source or at least 'make it available'.  May
as well burn it on the CD to get it out of the way.

The 'Free' in DFSG or Free Software is about freedom, and that includes
the freedom to charge whatever you feel like for software, as long as
you don't forbid others from doing the same.

> Mini-SQL has it's own license (NON GPL) that they would have to purchase
> separately (I developed this as a student, so I am not require to pay money
> for a license, but they would as a commercial site/use).

> In essence, I am providing them C code, which they can compile and
> execute.  Am I in the ballpark or have I gone off the deep end?

Well, on your own work, you don't have to give them source (unless, of
course, it's not all yours -- if you decide you liked a GPLd 'foo'
program so you used some functions from it, your program would have to
be GPL'd as well).  Merely compiling with gcc isn't enough to make your
program fall under any specific license requirement.

That said, you -should- give them source.   It will make them a lot
happier (what happens if you get hit by a truck two days before a
critical security problem is found in your program?) and give them a
guarantee that future support, even past your demise, is conceivable.
If all they had was a binary, the cost of supporting it would be far too
high and they will at some point find themselves abandoned.

If you're not Microsoft, this can be a selling point.  (Heck, it could
be a selling point if you -were- Microsoft.)  Customers don't like being
stuck in an upgrade path.  They don't like hearing the product they use
is no longer maintainable.  With source, they can always retake the
reins of control even if the vendor disappears or abandons the program.

CueCat decoder .signature by Larry Wall:
#!/usr/bin/perl -n
printf "Serial: %s Type: %s Code: %s\n", map { tr/a-zA-Z0-9+-/ -_/; $_ = unpack
'u', chr(32 + length()*3/4) . $_; s/\0+$//; $_ ^= "C" x length; } /\.([^.]+)/g; 

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