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Re: Circumventing the GPL

From: Tim Smith
Subject: Re: Circumventing the GPL
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2008 13:38:45 -0700
User-agent: MT-NewsWatcher/3.5.3b2 (PPC Mac OS X)

In article <853am1917s.fsf@lola.goethe.zz>, David Kastrup <> 
> > It occurs to me that in the U.S. there is a relatively easy
> > way to circumvent the requirement of giving away source code
> > for GPLed software.

Not just the US.  Pretty much every place with copyright law has an 
equivalent of the first sale doctrine.  It often goes by the name of 
copyright exhaustion.

> > Company A prepares a work derived from GPL-licensed code.
> > Company B purchases copies of this work from Company A.
> > For each copy purchased, Company A sends Company B two disks,
> > one with the binaries and one with the sources. Company A has
> > thus completely discharged its duties under the GPL. Then
> > Company B turns around resells only the binary disks to its
> > customers, but not the source. Company B is allowed to do this
> > under the First Sale Doctrine, and therefore does not need a
> > license to resell the software. The customers of Company B
> > have no one from whom they can demand source code, and thus the
> > GPL is circumvented.
> Where is the point in throwing away valuable material?  Where is the
> point in paying A for copying source and binaries _AND_ then make you
> unable to do copies yourself?
> I mean, it's like circumventing robbery laws by withdrawing money from
> your own bank account pointing your gun on an ATM all the while.

I think when this happens, it is not going to be intentional (in the 
sense of trying to get around GPL).  Instead of two discs, it will be 
one disc of source, and one device with embedded GPL code.  Company A 
includes the disc in order to satisfy their GPL obligation.

Company B discards the source disc because they don't need it 
themselves, and the device works fine for their customers without it, so 
discarding it means one less item they have to put in the box.

--Tim Smith

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