GNU GPL and Open Source Definition

Nick Moffitt nick at
Wed Apr 28 05:21:35 UTC 1999

28Apr1999 03:03AM (+0000) From [jalami at] jalami [Jeff Alami]
> AT, in Article 3, the GPL
> states that you may sell binaries and executable code at any price
> you see fit, without corresponding source code. If you do so, you're
> required to provide source code at a subsequent request. However,
> unlike what's said in the Open Source Definition, you may also
> charge for the source code (to a reasonable extent, of course). The
> Open Source Definition Article 2 states that "there must be a
> well-publicized means of downloading the source code, without
> charge, via the Internet."

        You are correct in that this does not meet the letter of the
OSD.  However, the FSF appears to have taken a "genie out of the
bottle" approach to this issue.  

        After all, if I charge $1000 for my CD of source code (perhaps
the companion to the $5 binary CD that I sold you last week), all you
need do is take up a collection and then buy it as a group.  Then you
can burn your own CDs and put it up on the Internet for free.  Once
the genie is out of the bottle, it's impossible to put it back in.  I
think that prohibitive pricing is easy to spot, and likely defensible.

        I believe that Bruce Perens did this with a geological survey
CD, yes?

        I also think that the mention of the Internet dates the OSD.
I can imagine my grandchildren chuckling at me and saying "You open
source geeks were so caught up in your own world.  You thought that
the Internet would be around forever, didn't you?"  Maybe it will, but
it is worth noting that the preferred means of software distribution
has gone from well-maintained FTP sites to sloppily-written web sites
in as little as three years.  LSM files, anyone?

"The software is intended to be as unobtrusive, unintrusive and
unconstraining as possible.  In software as elsewhere, good
engineering is whatever gets the job done without calling attention to
itself." -- Cynbe ru Taren, on Citadel (

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