selling GPL sources

Ben Tilly btilly at
Tue Sep 20 14:40:17 UTC 2005

On 9/20/05, Guilherme C. Hazan <lista at> wrote:
> Hi,
> >> This makes sense. But suppose the author just want to use GPL, not a
> >> weird license. Or lets suppose that someone else but the author gets the
> >> GPLd software and asks for a fee of the sources. Without any other
> >> assumptions (such as this doesnt make sense bc others can give the
> >> source for free), will this be illegal?
> >
> > Guilherme:
> >
> > Make up your mind.  Please state what the situation _is_.
> >
> > If you are just conjuring up a flurry of hypothetical imaginary
> > situations -- contrary to your initial statement that you're "aware
> > of a program that uses the GPL license and the author made the binaries
> > free but not the sources", then please clarify that you are doing so.
> Well, both statements are true. I would like to distribute the binaries
> for free, and part of the sources (the vm part) for a fee. This happens
> because we're releasing a new version that will have an advertisement
> saying "this GPL version does not allow closed-source development" in
> our GPL distribution (we have both LGPL for people that pay and GPL for
> community users). But, if we release the sources for everyone, as we
> currently do, then people could just recompile the vm without the
> splash. (i'm completely aware that someone could buy and do it, but this
> makes things more dificult)

Wouldn't removing said splash screen violate section 2C of the GPL? 
They might be able to modify it, but they can't remove it by my

A bigger concern would be an LGPL user re-releasing a version without
the splash as GPL.  I'm not sure that the LGPL does what you want,

> So, we would like to charge something for people to download the
> sources. As my first impression regarding the GPL license, this would be
> illegal, but then i had found a software that was doing exactly that:
> giving the binaries, and selling the sources. Unfortunately, i had
> searched here and could not find that software again.

If it is all your code, then you can do that.  But probably shouldn't.

> Also, this distribution cost is somewhat strange. If the distribution is
> the internet, is it right to charge 100usd for it?

No, because your costs are lower than 100usd.

Please remember that the GPL was written before most people were on
the internet.  And back when most who were, were on very slow
connections.  Therefore a distributer was likely to have to mail
software at significant cost.  This term was protection for a
distributer to keep them from being out of pocket if many people
wanted source.

It is also worth noting that a primary beneficiary of this protection
was the Free Software Foundation.  They distributed a lot of GPLed
software, and their financial resources were minimal.


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