Subject: Re: JBoss aquired by Red Hat
From: Thomas Lord <>
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2006 15:01:04 -0700

Anderson, Kelly wrote:
> Now a follow up question. Suppose that ACME corp and TransNebraska corp
> are both government contractors. They make improvements to the Linux
> kernel under government contract and "distribute" it to each other. They
> then distribute it to the department of the Navy, and the Army. Would
> they be bound to release the code to the general public? Or does the GPL
> only state that the code must be available to those they distribute it
> to, in this case the Army and the Navy and each other?
Of course I am not a lawyer but I think this is all pretty commonly known:

All those parties can distribute to one another and, if they include source
code in those distributions, they have no further obligation.

I will assume that all distributions among these parties are commercial

The tricky part is if one of these parties distributes only binaries to 
-- no source code.  In that case, the binary distribution must be 
by an offer for source (from the distributing party) such that that 
offer is valid
for all third parties (for some length of time specified in the GPL, IIRC).
So, if ACME gives the Navy binaries only -- but then the Navy
non-commercially passes this along to the public, the navy must include
the offer for source from ACME and any member of the public may
exercise the offer for source from ACME.

The simplest thing would be for all of these parties to include source with
their mutual distributions.   That simply avoids the hassle of including a
transferable offer to provide source.   It is hard for me to imagine a 
where these parties would want to exchange binaries but withhold source
for a GPL derived work: reverse engineering from a binary is not *that*
expensive while including source in the first place is practically gratis.