Subject: Ghostscript as a FSB
From: ghost@aladdin.com (L. Peter Deutsch)
Date: Fri, 5 Feb 93 12:26:53 PDT

> > What if the commercial use is done in such a way that it's not proprietary?
> > A not-so-hypothetical example to counter yours:  what if we at Cygnus
> > wanted to use this software, and promised to distribute sources (which is
> > something we already do).  Would we need to pay?  
> > 
> > One example of something of this nature is Ghostscript.  (As I understand
> > it -- LPD may wish to comment if he sees this).  L. Peter Deutsch maintains
> > two versions of this software: one with a copyright that allows hoarding,
> > and another under the GPL.  As author, he's allowed to do this.  The
> > technical content of the two versions is identical.  It's the copyright
> > that changes.
> 
> This is interesting!  My main question is regarding the definition of
> ``commercial use''.  Does it mean selling (redistributing for profit)
> and selling derived work (assuming that source is distributed)?  Or,
> does it mean that it is used in a commercial environment?

No one has asked me for a license simply to redistribute Ghostscript for
profit.  My commercial customers are primarily people who want to
incorporate Ghostscript into a larger work that they want to sell under
customary commercial terms, i.e., no copying, no source code, and support
provided.  One recent customer asked for a commercial license simply
because he wanted support and also was selling into such a low-margin mass
market that he couldn't afford to distribute, or even offer to distribute,
source code.  I tried to talk him out of it, and into using the GPL (since
he wasn't adding any value to Ghostscript itself -- he just wanted it as a
previewer and printer to bundle with his own application that created
PostScript files), but he really wanted it the other way.  Now, it is true
that I don't offer support-only licenses for Ghostscript, simply because I
couldn't price them at a level that would make it worth my time (which is
my shortest resource), and I don't know anyone who does (I discussed this
with Cygnus a year or two ago, and they rejected the idea because they
didn't think there would be enough demand to make it worth their while to
acquire the expertise), so the choice for this customer was either a
commercial license for the software itself, or the GPL.

As far as the technical content goes, the only thing that commercial
customers get that the GPL version doesn't is bug fixes between releases.
I can deal with distributing fixes to a small number of customers, but I
don't want to keep paying the overhead required to keep two filesets, run
diff, copy the stuff to Unix sites, etc., etc., especially since I don't
have Unix hardware or software at my own site and I don't have much
incentive to acquire it (essentially none of my commercial revenue comes
from Unix environments, and the Borland development environment for MS-DOS
is about as good as the manufacturer-supplied or GNU Unix tools).
Besides, I put out full free releases about once every 6-8 months anyway.

Several shareware houses distribute the full Ghostscript fileset, with
source code and the GPL, and charge a few $$ for it.  Several large
companies distribute Ghostscript aggregated with their software products,
as a utility that is usable stand-alone but that their own products also
invoke through something like `exec'; they include the GPL (applicable
only to Ghostscript, not to their full product), and either include source
code or a written offer to supply it at cost.  All of this is allowed
under the GPL, and doesn't require any special permission from me.  I also
distribute the GPL'ed version on PC-compatible diskettes, with precompiled
executables, for a few more $$.  When someone calls me on the phone to ask
a question, I simply don't answer it if they got the code from anywhere
except a GNU distribution site or directly from me (e.g., from a shareware
house or a BBS, which usually have out-of-date and/or incomplete
versions), or if they don't have the latest version, so there is some
incentive for people to order diskettes if they don't have Internet
access.

My philosophy on all this is similar to one expressed in another posting
on this list: people who want free access to the software I've put a lot
of work into can have it, under the GPL; people who want the right to keep
their own software proprietary, but also want the value from my work, can
pay for the privilege.

Ghostscript brought in enough money last year to support me.  About 5% of
the revenue was from selling diskettes; the other 95% was from commercial
licensing.  This year it is likely to bring in quite a lot more.  I have
one commercial contract possibility that would bring in far more than I
could possibly want or need for my own purposes; if it pans out, I'll
donate a significant chunk of the revenue to FSF.  (The odds aren't very
high, unfortunately.)

L. Peter Deutsch :: Aladdin Enterprises :: P.O. box 60264, Palo Alto, CA 94306
ghost@aladdin.com, ...decwrl!aladdin!ghost ; voice 415-322-0103 ; fax 322-1734
	    "Implementation is the sincerest form of flattery."