OSI enforcement?

Philippe Verdy verdy_p at wanadoo.fr
Fri Jan 11 02:34:51 UTC 2008

Matthew Flaschen [mailto:matthew.flaschen at gatech.edu] wrote:
> Envoyé : vendredi 11 janvier 2008 02:35
> À : License Discuss
> Objet : Re: OSI enforcement?
> Philippe Verdy wrote:
> > Question:
> > 	What does this “written offer valid for any third party” mean? Does
> > that mean everyone in the world can get the source to any GPL'ed program
> no
> > matter what?
> > Reply:
> > 	If you choose to provide source through a written offer, then
> > anybody who requests the source from you is entitled to receive it.
> But if you provide source up front, there is no such entitlement.

Yes, and that's a good reason why many providers do that upfront, just to
avoid complications later or having to maintain these sources for quite long
(at least 3 years). When you publish the binary along with the source, you
may think that it's enough to provide them side-by-side on the same side.

However this is not true, unless the binary can't be conveyed separately
without the sources. As soon as they are conveyed in separate transactions,
there's nothing that guarantees that a user getting the binaries at one time
will be able to get the source later if the provider does not include the
written offer and the guarantee to maintain the corresponding sources
available to anyone for at least 3 years.

Over Internet, it is most often the case that sources and binaries are
conveyed separately; in practice, only the producers of CDROMs/DVDROMs are
not required to give a written offer, if they deliver or sell both the
source and binary on the same support media (note that when they sell
support medias, they often have to replace them with an identical copy in
the case it would be unreadable, whatever the licence or content they put on
these supports, however too few customers use this right).

CDROMs/DVDROMs published and given as bonus with the purchase of magazines
are not exempt of these obligations, but too many of these medias are
producing CDROMs/DVDROMs that just contain large collections of binaries,
and forget to give the written offer on the CDROM or in the magazine: they
indicate sometime an URL on their website where the sources can be
downloaded, but too often they don't even host these sources and indicate
wrong URLs, by just assuming that the URL present in the software help files
are working; they are failing to their obligations when they don't even
verify that they have the sources corresponding to the binaries they are
conveying and selling with their magazines!

In fact, instead of conveying the sources on these CDs, they prefer filling
the CD or DVD with commercial sharewares and trial versions, because they
got money from their advertisers to include these sharewares and trial
versions. And even if they provide a link to a download section of their
website, they still don't honour the required written offer by forcing users
to connect only to their website, which is also not always maintained to
keep the sources for 3 years after their initial publication.

This consideration is true of many small "Linux magazines" that give
installable CDROMs or demonstration CDROMs for some new Linux distrib. In my
opinion, by forgetting this (or by just adding a link to the website of the
initial publisher of the Linux distribution), they are clearly violating the
GPL licence. Every distributor should be required to make sure they have the
corresponding sources to the binaries they are conveying before they even
choose to redistribute them (but they are lazy and don't even verify that
this is the case, by recompiling these sources themselves and housekeeping
these sources during the whole time of their obligations: if the initial
publisher from which they got the binaries stop its activities and disappear
or close their website, the downstream distributors still have to deliver
the sources themselves to any of their downstream users).

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