Subject: Re: Change ot topic, back to OVPL
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 25 Aug 2005 11:37:04 -0700

Alex Bligh <> writes:

> Let's assume the IT department install a modified GPL app on their
> call-center staff's platform. They chose not to accompany that by the
> source. IF that is "distribution" within the terms of the GPL, then (as
> they didn't do 3(a)), they MUST do 3(b), which is to accompany it with a
> written offer, to give ANY third party a copy of the source. Agree? [1]

This is technically true.

I do think it is clear in practice that if you ask for the source
code, and they give it to you, that nobody will make a fuss about
3(b).  I have certainly had that happen more than once with companies
distributing GPL binaries.

> Now, I argue the reason why this isn't in practice a problem is simply
> because what they are doing is not "distribution" within the terms of the
> copyright act. The distribution occurred when the company originally
> received the code. Since its modification, the company has not distributed
> it (sent it to a third party) because it is installed in the call center
> for the use of the same legal person. A court will not see this as
> distribution, just like if employer X uses employee A to buy a software
> license that in turn is used on employee B's PC.

Although this is definitely the common understanding, I can't quite
tell how well it holds up under copyright law.  Under copyright law, a
company is not permitted to simply copy a book which they have
received, whether they distribute the copy internally or not.  The GPL
does clearly grant permission to copy the software, but only under the
terms of clause 3.  Copyright law is clearly different between books
and software, in that you are permitted to make a backup of software,
but is it different in this case?  I don't know.