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Re: [OT?] Charging for source [was: Re: lynx-dev Lynxon Win32 - wireless

From: brian j pardy
Subject: Re: [OT?] Charging for source [was: Re: lynx-dev Lynxon Win32 - wireless version]
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 1999 15:39:34 -0500

On Sat, Dec 18, 1999, Klaus Weide wrote:
> On Sat, 18 Dec 1999, brian j pardy wrote:
> > On Sat, Dec 18, 1999, Klaus Weide wrote:
> > > On Fri, 17 Dec 1999, David Woolley wrote:
> > > > 
> > > > He can also charge for the source, based on the cost of making and
> > > > sending the copy, but not based on the value of the source itself.
> > > 
> > > In which sense do you mean "He can"?
> > > 
> > > 1) he is allowed to
> > >
> > > If 1), I don't think there is anything to forbid charging for the source
> > > "based on the value of the source itself".  Whatever that [value of the
> > > source itself] means.  If you disagree, please show where it's written.
> > 
> > 3b) of the GPL:
> > 
> >   3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it,
> > under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of
> > Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:
> > 
> >     [...]
> > 
> >     b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three
> >     years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your
> >     cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete
> >     machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be
> >     distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium
> >     customarily used for software interchange; or,
> Here, it is IMO clear that the hypothetical charge is not a
> "charge for the source" at all.  The expression used is "give [...]
> copy of the [...] source [...] for a charge".  It seems obvious that
> the charge is one for the "giving", i.e., for the act of physically
> transferring.  In my understanding of English, this could not be
> correctly described as "charging for source".  Is my understanding
> wrong?

No, that's the correct understanding AFAIK.

> > IANAL.  As far as I've ever understood it -- from the following
> > paragraph:
> > 
> >   When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not
> >   price.  Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that
> >   you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and
> >   charge for this service if you wish), that you receive source code
> >   or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or
> >   use pieces of it in new free programs; and that you know you can do
> >   these things.
> > 
> > I think that says you can sell copies of free software (not sure if
> > he's deliberately being vague on source/binary, but let's call it
> > both) if you want, and at any charge.  
> Since it is unspecific regarding source or binary, it has got to apply
> to both.

Not sure if that's the legal system's view, but it's good enough for

> > *But*, in conjunction with 3b
> > above, if you're selling the binary, you can't charge an additional
> > amount for the source, other than a nominal fee for the physical
> > transference.  That's how I've always parsed it internally.
> The "you can't charge..." applies only to *that* source distribution
> which the *written offer* of 3b) is offering.  It doesn't apply at all
> to someone whose obligations under Section 3 are fulfilled by 3a) or 3c).
> Even if your choice for fulfilling Section 3 obligations is 3b), I don't
> see thats it's forbidden to have other source distributions in addition,
> with or without charge, high or low (the gold-plated special edition for
> $10000, etc).

If your obligations are fulfilled through 3a), it must be distributed
under the terms of sections 1 and 2 -- I think the key phrase is in
section 1: "You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring
a copy, and you may at your option offer warranty protection in
exchange for a fee."  Again is the physical transfer clause, but the
"warranty protection in exchange for a fee" may be the giant loophole
that says you can charge whatever you would like.  However, I don't
think you can withhold source in the event someone doesn't want to pay
the warranty fee.  Warranty might be analogous to support, as Red Hat

So, I take it back, after seeing that clause.  I don't disagree with
you.  I can sell you the Lynx source for US$10000 and say I'll provide
one 5 minute phone support session for that price.  But I don't think
I can NOT distribute the source to those who don't want to pay.

> Nitpicking?
> Yes.  But these licensing topics necessarily are, aren't they?

Yes, they most definitely are.

One monk said to the other, "The fish has flopped out of the net! How
will it live?"  The other said, "When you have gotten out of the net,
I'll tell you."

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