written offer valid for any third party Re: OSI enforcement?

Ernest Prabhakar ernest.prabhakar at gmail.com
Fri Jan 11 17:39:38 UTC 2008

Hi Philippe,

>> 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?

I am glad you made the effort to phrase this discussion the form of a  
question/answer.  I invite you (or anyone else) to collect the answers  
into a short summary we can post on the website:



-- Ernie P.

On Jan 10, 2008, at 6:34 PM, Philippe Verdy wrote:

> 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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