Again - How To Break The GPL

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. rod at
Thu Mar 23 01:02:06 UTC 2000

[This is not legal advice.]

Interesting scenario, but I do not see a problem with a two-month delay
under the GPL. Since the GNU-GPL does not require immediate release of the
source code, a two-month delay would not violate the literal terms of the
GPL. The GPL is not intended to foreclose competitive use of modifications,
rather, it is intended to ensure that those modifications (when made to an
open source or free program) remain free (or open). Of course, if the delay
in release of modified source code is substantial or does not follow upon
request, then that action may violate the GPL.(You might ask, WHERE TO DRAW
THE LINE? Well, I do not know, but two months is not substantial)

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M.
rod at

> -----Original Message-----
> From: cszigetv [mailto:csaba.szigetvari at]
> Sent: Wednesday, March 22, 2000 7:05 AM
> Cc: license-discuss at
> Subject: Again - How To Break The GPL
> At the end of this mail is part of an article from OS Opinion about
> TurboLinux' delays the distribution of their modified code, while (as I
> assume) they distribute binaries.
> The GPL is not specific on when the modifications have to be made
> available, though I always assumed that it should happen simultaneously
> with the binary distribution. The delay imposed by TurboLinux is not
> much (2 months), but then again, next time someone makes it 6 months, 1
> year, 2 years...
> Could someone with legal experience or deep GPL-knowledge tell me if the
> GPL really could be bypassed by this delay trick? I fear that the
> TurboLinux lawyers did their homework, so working against this will not
> be easy.
> You can not force someone to maintain a web/ftp site, press CD's and pay
> for everything related to distribution. Even if there is a separate
> binary distribution, it can be claimed that the source packages do not
> fit on the disk, or just claim that the source CD is still in-production
> ... I'm not even sure if offering FTP or web space would help against
> it. Any ideas?
> ---Csaba Szigetvári
> PS: part of the article from OS Opinion
> Making the GPL Obsolete
> Several weeks ago, I read an article on the net about the release of
> TurboLinux's new Enterprise Linux version, which had among other things,
> built-in support for Clustering. Supposedly, TurboLinux modified the
> kernel of Linux to accomplish this since they also released the source
> code of their modifications. One thing that caught my eye though, was
> the fact that they imposed a two-month delay on releasing the
> source-code to the general public and hence their competitors. Now, to
> most people this may not seem like much, but technically, this action
> alone could destroy the Open Source movement. For example, if this were
> allowed this would let any Linux vendor make changes to the Linux kernel
> (or any other Open Source program) and specify some arbitrary amount of
> time before the changes are released. Two months, six months, a year,
> two years, a hundred years!! This would set a very serious precedent and
> would eventually destroy the credibility of the GPL if it weren't fought
> against in court. Which brings about the second question. Who is going
> to take whom to court if the GPL isn't followed to the letter? Is it
> Linux ?? Torvalds against TurboLinux, GNU vs. TurboLinux, Richard
> Stallman vs. TurboLinux? So far, I haven't seen any response from anyone
> regarding this stunt.

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