Subject: Re: Servers running modified versions of free programs
From: "William C. Cheng" <>
Date: Sat, 03 Jul 1999 16:45:30 -0400

Richard Stallman <> wrote:

  | I was forwarded a message from the list, which said this:
  |     > What I am trying to get at is a set of restrictions on how certain
  |     > software could be used or modified.  For example, let's take mapping
  |     > software, since Tim O'Reilly mentioned it in his original post.  I
  |     > write some new cool mapping software and put it under the GPL.  Yahoo
  |     > snaps it up and puts it on their site.  In fact, they enhance it.
  |     > They permit users to connect to it on their site, but they don't
  |     > distribute their changes.  Yahoo has now in some odd but meaningful
  |     > sense made a proprietary fork of my code, the very thing the GPL was
  |     > supposed to prevent.
  | I see this as somewhat of a problem too.  So perhaps the GPL should
  | have a requirement for release of the modified source code in such
  | cases--but I am not sure of that.  I see arguments for both sides.
  | Privacy is an important right.  People and organizations should
  | certainly have the right to make their own changes, and use them
  | privately without publishing them in any way.

Would this include the privacy of making illegal links to proprietary
software behind close doors?

  | Offering a service to the public is not private use, though.  It takes
  | the case out of the domain where the principal of privacy gives
  | legitimacy.  So I don't think privacy is a valid argument against
  | such a requirement, for services offered to the public.
  | However, it might still be that a requirement like this is too
  | meddlesome and not necessary.  I am not sure.
  | The other question, of course, is whether it is legally possible to
  | make this requirement based on copyright.  It may be possible because
  | copyright covers public display.  Using a program to offer a service
  | to the public could perhaps count as public display of the program.
  | I have not yet asked lawyers about this, though.

Doesn't GPL specifically say that the act of running (or displaying) the
program is not restricted?  Can running a program be considered as
copying or distributing binaries?  Is the next version of GPL going to
address such networking issues more explicitly?
Bill Cheng // <URL:>