selling GPL sources

Rick Moen rick at
Tue Sep 20 17:14:51 UTC 2005

Quoting Guilherme C. Hazan (lista at

> 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.

1.  For obvious reasons, the observation that someone, somewhere, is
doing something falls somewhat short of establishing that it is lawful.

2.  I've given you my entirely non-professional view of how tort law
generically applies (or rather, fails to apply) to someone deciding not
to hand out, or hand out only for a significant sum of money, source
code of a work that its sole creator asserts -- a bit dubiously -- to be
GPLed.  (Whether what I said is true, or whether it applies to your
situation is something, you should decide:  If there's a legal question
relevant to your business or personal affairs, you should seek competent
professional legal help.  I am not a lawyer, and will not give you legal

I _will_ say that you would likely be mocked for doing something rather
silly at best, if you issued a "GPLed" work without access to source
code.  Offering it for $100 would be equally silly if not more so, given
how you'd look the moment a purchaser turned around and redistributed 
the source code independently of you.

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

Does it really matter?  If my view of tort law applies to your situation
(and I note with a raised eyebrow that it's suddenly _your_ situation,
rather than just "a program" that you happen to be "aware of"), and
given the stipulation that you're sole copyright holder, then you'd be
under no _legal_ obligation to offer distribution at any specific price
or at no price.

More to the point, this mailing list really isn't about helping
proprietary software authors find bizarre ways to claim their
proprietary offerings are open source, your query has been somewhat
outside our scope, as I understand it, and I for one don't intend to 
spend further time helping you work out your business model.  

Anyhow, I'll just close with this (to reiterate):  Claiming that your
codebase is GPLed but that nobody among the public happens to possess the
written-entirely-by-Guilherme source code, or that it's theoretically
open source but that nobody's yet paid you $100 for access, would in my
view be an excellent way to get ignored.

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