Open source shareware?

John Cowan jcowan at
Thu Nov 8 19:03:29 UTC 2001

Chris Gehlker wrote:

> Believe me, if I hire RMS to write some software that's useful to me, he
> going to charge me a lot more than $20 for the binary even though he
> releases the source under GPL.

Ah, but that's because there's a contract between you and RMS.  Everyone
else gets to use the software for free.  Furthermore, the contract
is for the creation of the software, not for its use.

In the case of shareware, our author (call him "SMS") wants to be
paid not just by a single person, or even by everyone who gets the
software from him (like CD-ROM distributors) but by *everyone who uses
the program* no matter how they receive it.

How's SMS going to enforce this?  There simply is no contract between
SMS and that vast horde.  Making the license click-through doesn't help;
if the click is to a server, I can set up a competing server requiring
no clicks; if SMS tries to prohibit my doing so, he is restricting
distribution, which is not allowed by the OSD.  If the click is
internal to the program, I make a derivative work requiring no click;
same story.

Shareware programs, to make sense, just have to be closed-source.

> Terms of use:
> If you decide to run the software after a 30 day evaluation period,
> you must pay a fee of $20 to <copyright holder.>

Again, where does the force of this "must" come from?  Copyright
holders can't restrict the use (other than public performance/display)
of a copy owned by a rightful owner.


Not to perambulate             || John Cowan <jcowan at>
    the corridors               ||
during the hours of repose     ||
    in the boots of ascension.  \\ Sign in Austrian ski-resort hotel

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