GNU GPL and Open Source Definition

bruce at bruce at
Wed Apr 28 16:04:10 UTC 1999

From: Jeff Alami <jalami at>
> 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).

You may charge no more than the cost of physically performing source

> Theoretically, a commercial software product licenced exclusively under the
> GPL could violate Article 2 of the OSD.

You missed the fact that this applies to _all_ of the OSD-compliant licenses,
not just the GPL. For example, the BSD license does not compel you to
distribute source at all, and thus there could be legitimate BSD-licensed code
for which the source is not distributed and it would not be Open Source.
So yes, the OSD adds a veneer of additional restrictions on top of the

> Has anyone else noticed that inconsistency?

Before I wrote the first draft of the OSD, RMS had commented to me that the
Internet had not existed at the time the GPL was composed, and that today he
might have written it differently, to require that source be available on the
internet. We discussed this issue during the month-long review of the
DFSG (the Debian predecessor of the OSD), and decided to put it in.



More information about the License-discuss mailing list