Subject: Re: GPL business practice question
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 09:51:28 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "William" == William C Cheng <> writes:

    William>   Brian Bartholomew <> wrote:

    >> If a vendor resells a package they originally received as GPL,
    >> then getting the customers to promise not to redistribute for a
    >> timeperiod seems like a violation of the letter of the GPL.  It
    >> is an additional license term.

Of course it isn't, in principle.  The customer has decided that it is
in his own interest not to redistribute.  You can't make an individual
distribute his own code under the GPL; I don't see how you can make his
customers redistribute, either.

It would be arguably (any lawyers want to comment) an additional
license term if redistribution triggered legal action enforcible in
court, but if it was merely a gentlemen's agreement on the side, with
the only enforcement being loss of trust, I think the above argument

    William> If the ``promise'' (or ``understanding'') was made in a
    William> separate agreement, is it still a violation of the letter
    William> of the GPL?  (It's probably a violation of the spirit of
    William> the GPL.)

It's a violation of what Stallman intended, in my opinion.  It
certainly reduces the economic benefits produced by the package, and
therefore is a (qualified) bad thing (subject to the need to provide
incentives to get it produced in the first place).

    >> If this vendor creates a package of incentives to discourage
    >> redistribution by customers, it seems like a violation of the
    >> spirit; or a violation of the letter if the incentives are
    >> strong enough to be considered additional license terms.

    William> If the spirit of the GPL is voilated, who's going to sue?
    William> FSF?

Not if they're in their right minds; breach of contract suits do not
pay off on spirit.  That reduce the whole idea of "contract law" to
mere arbitration.

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."