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Re: Possible make license violation/miss-comprehension by SN Systems

From: Paul D. Smith
Subject: Re: Possible make license violation/miss-comprehension by SN Systems
Date: Tue, 9 Dec 2003 22:35:33 -0500

%% Dave <address@hidden> writes:

  d> Hi.  I'm using SN Systems gnu make version, I have been in contact
  d> with them because I would like to have the source of their changes.
  d> Thus far i've not been able to receive the source code from them.
  d> (They even blocked my email address by their spam filter now!)

  d> (1) if their customers really have a gnu make license exception (to
  d>     stop them from redistribution)?

No.  The FSF never agrees to exceptions like this, ever, for anyone, and
SN Systems cannot unilaterally make such a restriction (see Clauses 4
and 6 of the GPL).


  d> (2) Are their customers really not allowed to give out their
  d>     modified gnu make exe with the SN Systems offer of source code?

Yes, the customers can give out both the binary and the source code if
they please.

  d> (3) Are their customers really the ones I need to be in contact
  d>     with for the source code as ~SN systems suggest? (their
  d>     customer [who gave me the exe] was not provided with the source
  d>     by SN Systems as far as I know, just the SN Systems offer of
  d>     source code).

Although this is sometimes not understood, if SN Systems provided the
source with the binary under clause 3a of the GPL then that is all they
are obligated to do.  In that case they do not have to provide the
source to any third party--that's you! :)  Although, as above, they
can't restrict their customers from doing so.

If they did not provide the source with the binary, then they are
obligated to provide the complete source code to any third party who
requests it for at least three years from the distribution date, under
clause 3b of the GPL.

However, although I've been familiar with the GPL for many years and I
believe this to be accurate, this is just my lay interpretation.  The
FSF itself, as the copyright owner for the GNU make program, will be
able to tell you definitively.

  d> If someone can help me out I'd much appreciate it!

>From what you've said here this does sound like a violation of the GPL.
Probably your best next step is to explain, POLITELY, to the tech you're
talking to the fact that they are obligated to provide the source and
that they cannot keep their customers from redistributing it.  I would
also mention, POLITELY, that if they fail to comply with the GPL you
will bring this to the attention of the Free Software Foundation.  Give
them time to respond (if they have to check with their lawyers it could
take a few days).  Keep a copy of all messages you send and any
responses you get back.

If they do not provide you with the source or you're unsure of what to
do next, please check this web page:


Verify, based on the information in that page, that you believe a
violation to have occurred.  If so, send the requested information, as
well as every bit of correspondence you have had with that company, to
the email address on the page.

If it wouldn't be too much trouble please CC me (address@hidden) on that
email as well so I can track this.


 Paul D. Smith <address@hidden>          Find some GNU make tips at:
 http://www.gnu.org                      http://make.paulandlesley.org
 "Please remain calm...I may be mad, but I am a professional." --Mad Scientist

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