conducting a sane and efficient GPLv3, LGPLv3 Review

Ben Tilly btilly at
Fri Aug 3 18:35:56 UTC 2007

On 8/3/07, Alexander Terekhov <alexander.terekhov at> wrote:
> On 8/2/07, Ben Tilly <btilly at> wrote:
> > On 8/2/07, Alexander Terekhov <alexander.terekhov at> wrote:
> > > On 8/2/07, Zak Greant <zak at> wrote:
> > [...]
> > > Hey Zak, are you still at MySQL?
> > >
> > > I'm asking because MySQL must be truly excited regarding Seventh
> > > Circuit's interpretation of the GPL...
> > >
> > > ------
> > > Before EASTERBROOK, KANNE, and EVANS, Circuit Judges.
> > >
> > > EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge. Does the provision of copyrighted software
> > > under the GNU General Public License ("GPL") violate the federal
> > > antitrust laws? Authors who distribute their works under this license,
> > > devised by the Free Software Foundation, Inc., authorize not only
> > > copying but also the creation of derivative works—and the license
> > > prohibits charging for the derivative work. People may make and
> >
> > Easterbrook is wrong on a basic point of fact.  The license does not
> > prohibit charging for the derivative work, and many people have
> > charged for such derivative works.  Not the least of these being the
> > Free Software Foundation itself.
> You misunderstand.


> "The GPL covers only the software; people are free to charge for the
> physical media on
> which it comes and for assistance in making it work. Paper manuals,
> and the time of knowledgeable people who service and support an
> installation, thus are the most expensive part of using Linux."
> Got it now?

Yes.  I got it.  You're confusing common practice with legal requirements.

I am allowed to charge as much as I like for GPLed software.  Nowhere
does it say that I can't charge.  It does say that if I've distributed
a copy to you, then I have to give you a written offer, valid for
anyone, to deliver source at no more than my physical cost of doing
so.  But nobody says that I have to distribute that initial copy to
you, and I'm allowed to charge anything I want for that.

See for
verification of this.

With consumer products this tends to limit retail prices because there
are no barriers to entry for competitors.  (Red Hat tried to create
one with trademarks, however that didn't work out too well for them.)
However that does not hold true in many business markets where you can
expect custom development to be needed for every sale.  There people
can, and do, charge up front for the effort it takes to develop
software.  Until they were purchased by Red Hat, the best-known
example was probably Cygnus.

> But this part
> "Thus the GPL propagates from user to user and revision to revision:
> neither the original author, nor any creator of a revised or improved
> version, may charge for the software or allow any successor to
> charge."
> is not quite correct. Just ask MySQL or SUN. :-)

Yup, dual-licensing changes the rules.


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