Subject: Re: JBoss aquired by Red Hat
From: "Ben Tilly" <>
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2006 20:52:46 -0700

 Thu, 27 Apr 2006 20:52:46 -0700
On 4/27/06, Anderson, Kelly <> wrote:
> > All those parties can distribute to one another and, if they
> > include source code in those distributions, they have no
> > further obligation.
> So you can "discriminate" with your distribution... That at least seems
> to go against the SPIRIT of the thing somewhat. I suppose it doesn't go
> against the letter of the law as you say.

It does not violate the spirit at all.  The spirit is, "if you have
software, then you should be able to have source".  The GPL was
designed to avoid the situation where someone had software and
couldn't get source.  It was NOT designed to make people give up
source when they didn't want to.

Note that no further obligation also comes with no further
restriction.  That is any of these parties can choose to distribute
the code wherever they want.  This may not be in the Navy's

> > I will assume that all distributions among these parties are
> > commercial distributions.
> Is the military commercial? I dunno.

The military can buy stuff.  That's a commercial transaction, even
though one party is not really a commercial entity.

> > The tricky part is if one of these parties distributes only
> > binaries to another
> > -- no source code.
> Ok, so the Navy has the code, but the airman firing the missle from the
> aircraft carrier doesn't. Since it's been "distributed" to him, isn't he
> entitled to the software under GPL terms?

It hasn't been legally distributed to him.  He no more owns a copy of
the binary than he owns the missile or aircraft carrier - the Navy
does.  He is merely an employee using the Navy's property.

> > In that case, the binary distribution
> > must be accompanied 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.
> Sure, but I'd assume that the Navy wouldn't pass along something
> sensitive, which is what I'm talking about here.

They would be foolish to...

> > 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
> > situation
> > 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.
> I can imagine that you would not want to distribute source to the
> soldiers in the field. What if their weapon/computer was captured? That
> would be bad. Is the Navy one party, and the airman not a party even
> though he uses the binary to run his weapon's system?

As I pointed out, I don't believe that that is an issue.  However what
might be an issue is that the source could get into a weapon system
that ACME wishes to sell to a different country.  While the military
may not mind source being shared between itself and its contractors,
it doesn't necessarily want to see its contractors give that source to
other countries.  (Of course in the real world, other countries do
eventually get that source anyways.  But by throwing up as many
roadblocks as they can, the military can try to keep its weapon
systems ahead of other people's weapon systems.)