Subject: Re: embedded systems vs. GPL
From: gnu@CYGNUS.COM
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 93 18:16:20 -0700

> Hmmm...  I wonder.  Maybe a new FSB (call it GPL Sources) could sell
> "GPL Compliance" to people.  The GPL-code-user would include a note
> in their documentation saying that source code is available from GPL
> Sources. GPL Sources would indemnify the GPL-code-user against claims
> that the source was not available.  It would also meet the need for
> guaranteeing source code availability for three years.

The main problem with this is that you can charge "no more than your
cost of physically performing source distribution" (from COPYING),
which means that nobody can make a profit from distributing source.

This means that every time GPL Sources, Inc, ships a copy of the
source to somebody, the customer who shipped the binaries must somehow
be billed.  Companies hate open-ended committments like that; they
want to know how much it will cost them, up front.

General Public Sources, Inc, could sell "source code insurance", by
guesstimating how many people will want the sources, and charging the
binary distributor a fixed price that will cover their expected costs.
This is like putting in a fixed-price bid on a consulting contract;
the risk of mis-estimation is yours.  They would have to estimate
high for a few years, until they got the hang of it, so they don't lose
money and go out of business (thereby throwing the obligation of providing
source code, back onto the binary distributors, who had already paid
"GPS, Inc", to handle this for them).

A few years ago, RMS indicated a willingness to think about changing
the terms to allow some small profit to be made on
source-distribution-to-satisfy-binary-distribution, but nobody has
wanted to push the issue, so nothing has happened.