Open source shareware?

Chris Gehlker gehlker at
Thu Nov 8 19:40:59 UTC 2001

On 11/8/01 12:03 PM, "John Cowan" <jcowan at> wrote:

> 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.

We are ending up at the same place. The OSD does not have to be modified to
account for the hypothetical shareware license. I only brought up RMS to
illustrate that the OSD is not incompatible with the notion of someone
getting paid. It sounded like some of the posters thought it was

>> 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.

Well if SMS were related to M$ he might assert that you own the source but
he is only licensing you to use the binary. He might get some money before
someone with a compiler and a modem came out with a competing distribution.

Perhaps a little more realistically, he could say "I have the source and
object code to a GPLed Quake beater game on this zip disk." He could even
let game reviewers play the game on his machine to prove it. "As soon as
10,000 fanatic gamers chip in $1.00 through PayPal, I'll hand the disk to
their representative."
Adults are obsolete children.
-Dr. Seuss, humorist, illustrator, and author (1904-1991)

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