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Ask Slashdot: Where Do You Draw the Line On GPL V2 Derived Works and Fees?

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the what-do-you-think? dept.

Android 371

First time accepted submitter Shifuimam writes "I downloaded a DOSBox port for Android recently to get back into all the games of my childhood. Turns out that the only free distribution available hasn't been updated in nearly two years, so I looked for alternatives. There are two on Google Play — DOSBox Turbo and "DOSBot". Both charge a fee — DOSBox Turbo is $3.99; DOSBot is $0.99. The developer of DOSBot says on his Google Play entry that he will not release the source code of his application because it's not GPL, even though it's derived from source released under GPL v2 — this is definitely a violation of the license. The developer of DOSBox Turbo is refusing to release the source for his application unless you pay the $3.99 to "buy" a license of it. The same developer explicitly states that the "small" fee (although one might argue that $3.99 is pretty expensive for an OSS Android app) is to cover the cost of development. Unless I'm misreading the text of GPL v2, a fee can only be charged to cover the cost of the distribution of a program or derived work, not the cost of development. And, of course, it doesn't cost the developer anything for someone to log in to Google Play and download their app. In fact, from what I can tell, there's a one-time $25 fee to register for Google Checkout, after which releasing apps is free. Where do you draw the line on this? What do you do in this kind of situation?"

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Pay the $3.99 (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234855)

Then post it on the internet yourself.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (5, Insightful)

emurphy42 (631808) | about a year and a half ago | (#42234927)

If you have to pay $3.99 to get the DOSBox Turbo binary, and then you get the source free along with it, then that's definitely not a violation of the license. (If you don't give someone the binary, then you don't have to give them the source either.) It's also definitely open to someone following the AC's suggestion.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234993)

"If you don't give someone the binary, then you don't have to give them the source either."

Not according to the GPL.

3(b) of the GPL "Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution.."

That's distribute one copy and you are obliged to give a written off "to give any third party", not merely parties you distributed to.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235031)

and 3(b) is the only section in that part of the license. They labeled 3(b) because they thought it looked cool. That's definitely not taken out of context.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (4, Informative)

DrJimbo (594231) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235101)

FUD much?

You took clause 3(b) completely out of context. Here is the full context from GPL-v2 [gnu.org] :

3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

  1. a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    c) Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form with such an offer, in accord with Subsection b above.)

What emurphy42 said was correct. Clause 3(b) is an option, not an absolute requirement like you made it seem. The suggestion by emurphy42 is an equally viable option.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235355)

As the original AC not at all FUD.

Yes there are three options.

3(a) As they distribute through the Play store they are not able to meet the terms of 3(a) and indeed they are not.
3(c) As they have modified the source this also is not an option.

That leaves one and only one option 3(b) - the one I mentioned since it's the only relevant one to the case in hand.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (2)

cas2000 (148703) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235471)

3(a) is still possible, even for a binary distributed on google's play store.

a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

Providing a link to the modified sources with the binary suffices - a web URL *is* a "medium customarily used for software interchange".

The recipient is, of course, entitled to redistribute both source and binary under the terms of the GPL...maybe put it up on an alternative app store like FDroid.

It's probably worth checking FDroid and others to see if someone has already done that.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (1)

yacc143 (975862) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235483)

How does the PlayStore have anything with that? They could easily embed the source in the apk and distribute it with the binary.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (5, Insightful)

CCW (125740) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235109)

"If you don't give someone the binary"

I believe the intent of the parent poster was using give as in "provide" not "give" as in make a gift of.

You are absolutely allowed to sell the binary for any price the market will bear, and then for compliance with the GPL you must either have a written offer as you describe or include the source code with the binary distribution. It isn't clear from the facts whether the distributor of DosBox Turbo is in compliance or not, it would depend entirely on whether there is a written offer for how to get source at a minimal expense included in the help text of the app or in the app description. Without that, then it seems to me to be in violation, but it doesn't hinge on the cost of the binary.

One critical fact is that anybody who does get the source has full GPL rights to it, and can redistribute it should they choose. This ability to compete is what limits the pricing, not the GPL.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (2)

Just Brew It! (636086) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235161)

True. But the way that is worded, you still need to find someone else who had already bought the binary and received the source code offer, since it only says the offer must accompany the binary.

So I think the DOSBox Turbo guy is technically still within the letter of the GPL. DOSBot definitely sounds like a GPL violation though.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235069)

Almost exactly right; you have to provide the source to anyone who has the binary legally, whether you gave it to them or not. Someone with a GPL'd binary has a right to redistribute it non-commercially, and the person from whom they obtained it has an obligation to provide source to anyone who acquires the binary through the non-commercial redistributor. (Commercial redistributors are required to provide the source themselves.)

Re:Pay the $3.99 (1)

DrJimbo (594231) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235123)

More stupid anti-GPL FUD. It doesn't even make sense that you would have to be responsible for the acts of others. I posted the actual clause from the GPL-v2 [gnu.org] in a recent post above this one.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (4, Informative)

Entrope (68843) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235173)

The AC had it right -- one must choose one of 3(a), 3(b) or 3(c) when one distributes a binary form of the work. It seems clear that the "DOSBox Turbo" distributor is not using 3(a) and is not eligible to use 3(c). If he wishes to comply with GPLv2, then, he must choose 3(b), and his written offer to provide source code must be valid for any third party. $3.99 is clearly not the distributor's cost to perform source distribution.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (1, Informative)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235305)

He only has up give the source to anyone HE DISTRIBUTES BINARIES to. Not anyone in the world. In effect, technically, he only has to give the source to Google. They are responsible for further distribution.

Also, I would love to see you argue in court that it costs less than $4 to distribute it anyway. You'll have a really hard time considering lawyers themselves charge hundreds of dollars for simply answering an email with copies of documents THEY ARE REQUIRED TO DISTRIBUTE.

You don't get to determine the cost of his time nor his methods of distribute.

Ignorance like yours is why so many people avoid GPL like the plague that it is.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (4, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235339)

No. If the binary doesn't come with the source, he does have to give the source to anyone in the world who got a binary, even if it wasn't him who gave them the copy. From the GPLv2 FAQ:

What does this âoewritten offer valid for any third partyâ mean? Does that mean everyone in the world can get the source to any GPL'ed program no matter what?

        If you choose to provide source through a written offer, then anybody who requests the source from you is entitled to receive it.

        If you commercially distribute binaries not accompanied with source code, the GPL says you must provide a written offer to distribute the source code later. When users non-commercially redistribute the binaries they received from you, they must pass along a copy of this written offer. This means that people who did not get the binaries directly from you can still receive copies of the source code, along with the written offer.

        The reason we require the offer to be valid for any third party is so that people who receive the binaries indirectly in that way can order the source code from you.

https://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0-faq.html#WhatDoesWrittenOfferValid [gnu.org]

Re:Pay the $3.99 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235431)

He only has up give the source to anyone HE DISTRIBUTES BINARIES to. Not anyone in the world. In effect, technically, he only has to give the source to Google. They are responsible for further distribution.

What? He isn't distributing it to Google any more than an author is distributing his novel to Doubleday.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (1)

Entrope (68843) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235441)

3(b) says the binary-form distributor must include "a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code". The "any third party" directly rebuts your claim about only having to give source code to the people he gave binaries to. The qualifier "physically" is apparently to preclude charges for the associated labor and to prevent overcharges for the medium or shipping. (Similarly, the GPL demands that the medium must be "customarily used for software interchange" -- which means the distributor has some limits on his choice there.) I do not expect to ever argue that in court, so you will probably be disappointed there as well, but you are free to ask a lawyer whether your interpretation or mine is more defensible.

Google's agency and role in these exchanges are an interesting but separate question.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (1)

gerddie (173963) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235347)

It seems clear that the "DOSBox Turbo" distributor is not using 3(a)

How so? Unless someone who bought the binary comments on this topic, we don't know.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (1)

DrJimbo (594231) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235391)

Entrope claims:

It seems clear that the "DOSBox Turbo" distributor is not using 3(a)

Yet the fine summary said:

The developer of DOSBox Turbo is refusing to release the source for his application unless you pay the $3.99 to "buy" a license of it.

which **is** option 3(a) since the $3.99 refers to buying the app. As I quoted before from the GPL-v2:

a) Accompany it [the app] with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or, [...]

Re:Pay the $3.99 (1)

Entrope (68843) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235463)

Your position is that the DOSBox Turbo app installs its source code along with the binaries? If so, where? If not, how does the source code accompany the binary form?

Re:Pay the $3.99 (1)

Fjandr (66656) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235497)

Of course, where the license is deficient is in not distinguishing if one need only comply with one avenue for obtaining source regardless of the number of ways it may be distributed or if a distribution option must apply for each distribution method.

If the former is the case, the author is completely within his rights. If the latter, then the distribution through a method where he does not comply with 3(a) and supply the source at the time of distribution opens him to the requirements of 3(b). However, he could still choose a method of supplying source which would allow him to charge $3.99 (or more) in distribution costs, since it does not mandate electronic delivery.

My advice: pay the damn fee and post the source yourself. $3.99 isn't excessive to cover distribution costs, which the license does not require to be amortized. Yes, they're "free" once a lot of other things have been paid, but it's not asking much.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235169)

No you do not. Read 3a again. if A gives binary+source to B(fulfilling 3a), and B gives C binary only fulfilling nothing, then C should talk to B, not A, for the source, since B should provide the offer to any third party (including A and C).

The idea that anyone you might randomly not give source to could induce a responsibility on an unrelated party is ridiculous.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235253)

Read 3b and 3c. From the Compliance Guide (http://www.softwarefreedom.org/resources/2008/compliance-guide.html):

"Second, note that the last line makes the offer valid to anyone who requests the source. This is because v2 3(b) requires that offers be “to give any third party” a copy of the Corresponding Source. GPLv3 has a similar requirement, stating that an offer must be valid for “anyone who possesses the object code”. These requirements indicated in v2 3(c) and v3 6(c) are so that non-commercial redistributors may pass these offers along with their distributions. Therefore, the offers must be valid not only to your customers, but also to anyone who received a copy of the binaries from them. Many distributors overlook this requirement and assume that they are only required to fulfill a request from their direct customers."

Re:Pay the $3.99 (1)

gerddie (173963) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235473)

The GPL clearly states that you may redistribute the binary provided that one of the three options 3(a-c) is fulfilled. Clearly, choosing (a) and redistributing the source code alongside with the binary is enough to comply with the GPL.. Redistributing by means of 3(c) can only be offered by someone who got the offered the source code by means of 3(b).

Re:Pay the $3.99 (4, Interesting)

leuk_he (194174) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235081)

Wrong.

Pay the 3.99
request the source
make a small improvement.
post a version for 1.35 on play

Sell the app 3 times.

Profit!!!!

put a ad supported version of in the store. More profit.

Re:Pay the $3.99 (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235425)

Practical, legal, and a bit of a hack. I love it!

Re:Pay the $3.99 (2)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235623)

Actually, you only need to

Pay the 3.99
post it for 1.35 on play

Sell the app 3 times.

Profit!!!!

There is no need to do a small modification or to obtain the source for this.

Work for Free (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234895)

That's right if someone spends weeks updating a piece of software then they shouldn't be able to expect to get compensated in the future. After all the work has already been done why should they get paid for it?

Re:Work for Free (4, Insightful)

faedle (114018) | about a year and a half ago | (#42234931)

What about the rights of the people who worked on it in the past, with the understanding that their "compensation" would be in the form of others donating their time to continue improvements?

From what I understand, the "heavy lifting" of getting a MSDOS emulator working has been done under these terms. DOSBot and DOSBox Turbo can replace the GPLed code that OTHER PEOPLE HAVE WRITTEN AND DESERVE TO BE COMPENSATED FOR with code they've written themselves if they don't agree to those terms.

Re:Work for Free (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235029)

the issue is not that he has the right to sell the software, but in the same way he has the duty to provide the source code... the two things are not mutually exclusive..

Re:Work for Free (0)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235213)

That's right if someone spends weeks updating a piece of software then they shouldn't be able to expect to get compensated in the future. After all the work has already been done why should they get paid for it?

Damned straight! It's a huge injustice!

Look at my example: I just spent the last few weeks creating a stylish new mustache for Mickey Mouse. Now the Disney corporation is on my ass and won't let me sell my improved Mickey and collect my deserved compensation! This is a bunch crap. We've got to stop these communists from taking our wealth.

Re:Work for Free (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235233)

They shouldn't have picked software licensed under the GPL. Since they did they are bound by the terms of the license.

Ask a lawyer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234897)

Title says it all.

Yes you are (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234899)

You've indeed misread the GPL. While a fee can only be charged to cover distribution costs of the source, that's assuming you even have a right to request the source. You don't have such a right unless you possess the binaries, and the developer can charge whatever they wish for those.

Re:Yes you are (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234975)

Are you sure you read it yourself ?

Mod parent up (1)

gerddie (173963) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235531)

Because AC is right.

Re:Yes you are (1)

ArcadeNut (85398) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235627)

If you install the "Trial Version" (assuming there is one), then you have the Binaries, therefore you should be able to request the source no?

It's often the case for Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234905)

Just look at the top 50 applications. Around half of them seem GPL violations. I'd venture to say that a quarter of them are actual GPL violations.
It's one of the reasons Stallman's "true followers" do not embrace Android and their software freedom attitude.

No Line (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234919)

I'll start this flame war...

I don't believe in compelling others to do anything other than not compelling others. Forcing others to give away their work is no better than forcing other to pay for your work. Don't like it... create your own, on your own time, and release it for free.

The world will become more open and free... it cannot be forced.

Re:No Line (2)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42234973)

No one compelled him to take a GPL code and extend it. When he took upon himself to use GPL code, he has agreed to release the source code, when he distributes the binaries of his derived work. So I do believe in forcing others to give away their source code (when I have purchased their binary). And I do believe in forcing others to pay for my work (especially when I have paid for the binaries).

Can use GPL code only if comply with license (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235235)

What you believe in is immaterial.

You can take, modify and distribute GPL code only if you comply with its llicense. If you do not comply with its license, which requires you to make your modified source code available to any recipient of the binary, then you have no legal right to use that GPL code at all, period.

Re:No Line (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235283)

You're right. We shouldn't force anyone to follow copyright laws. If someone wants to use the Pirate Bay and mass copy all works in copyright then no one should force them to stop. Oh, you are only talking about not "forcing" people to abide by the GPL? Then you are a hypocrite that loves pulling shit out of your arse to make it look "intelligent" I'd say crawl back to your hole M$ astroturfer but your head is already there.

GPL violation bad - Not wanting to pay is too. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234929)

Developers are wrong to assume they can lock up the GPL code.

You are wrong thinking that $3.99 is expensive for an android app - developing, curating, supporting and distributing code (open source or not) costs time and effort. Be willing to pay for that.

Don't pay GLP violators though.

The GPL allows them to charge the $4, as I read it (3, Insightful)

TwineLogic (1679802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42234939)

I thought you could charge any amount you want for distribution -- that you aren't limited to covering costs of the media, but you are actually allowed to make money for the "support" you provide by compiling the open source into a binary. However small that support may be, the GPL v2 does allow a company to carve out a small branded zone here. Providing binaries in the Google Play market is a valid thing to charge a little money for, and make a little money on

I also thought that whenever a binary is made available, the source code had to be made available. I thought it was this source code distribution which must be performed for the media cost (GPL v2 coming from a day when tapes were occassionally still considered a possible choice of distribution medium).

What this would mean, to me, is that DOSBox Turbo should be making the source code freely available. Then the market will decide if $3.99 is too much to bear for the product they provide -- some service in compiling the binary, and a brand.

Re:The GPL allows them to charge the $4, as I read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234961)

If he is making the binary available, he has to make the source available - *to the people he made the binary available to*. Not everybody. If you pay the $4 to get the binary you are entitled to a copy of the source along with the program, which you can then legally give away to anybody you want. But if he isn't distributing the binary to you he is under zero obligation to give you a copy of his source.

Re:The GPL allows them to charge the $4, as I read (2)

faedle (114018) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235079)

Actually, you are wrong in the case of DOSBox Turbo. Section 3 says he must do one of three things: distribute the source ALWAYS with any copy (which he is not doing), distribute the source on demand to ANYBODY requesting it for the price of materials, or provide your modifications along with any offer of code from section 2.

Sorry, that sounds pretty clear. He didn't say "send me $4 by post and I'll mail you a floppy." He's demanding he purchase it through Google Play, which means the first clause of section 3 is in effect.

Re:The GPL allows them to charge the $4, as I read (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235183)

distribute the source on demand to ANYBODY requesting it for the price of materials

Not anybody -- any third party. That's a specific legal term and the specific meaning of the third party is not defined. The GPL v3 clarified it as to mean that the first party (distributor) only has to provide source code to a third party if the third party received a GPL-licensed work from the first party. If it came down to it, a judge and jury would probably use the GPL v3 rules for an ambiguous v2 license dispute.

Re:The GPL allows them to charge the $4, as I read (4, Interesting)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235357)

I don't think so. "Third party" is, as you say, a specific legal term, but it is well-defined in law. The GPL doesn't provide any other definition, so the standard definition would be used in interpreting that language in the GPL.

And no, the GPL v3 doesn't allow distributing only to people who got the software directly from the distributor. Section 6 paragraph B (which applies here) says you have to provide the code to anyone who possesses the binaries. If Harry gets the program from you, and then Harry passes a copy along to me, I have a right to get the source code from you (Harry received the software under 6b, I received it under 6c, I possess the binaries thus can invoke 6b against you).

One thing's remained constant for a long time: the only option that permits you to give source code only to people who received the software directly from you is 3A (GPLv2) or 6A (GPLv3): distributing the source code along with the binaries.

Re:The GPL allows them to charge the $4, as I read (4, Informative)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235389)

The FSF has explained what "third party" means in GPLv2, and it is different than what you claim.

If you choose to provide source through a written offer, then anybody who requests the source from you is entitled to receive it.

If you commercially distribute binaries not accompanied with source code, the GPL says you must provide a written offer to distribute the source code later. When users non-commercially redistribute the binaries they received from you, they must pass along a copy of this written offer. This means that people who did not get the binaries directly from you can still receive copies of the source code, along with the written offer.

The reason we require the offer to be valid for any third party is so that people who receive the binaries indirectly in that way can order the source code from you.

-- http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0-faq.html#WhatDoesWrittenOfferValid [gnu.org]

Which makes sense, since the first two parties are the two involved in the license, "any third party" is anyone else.

Re:The GPL allows them to charge the $4, as I read (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235055)

I thought you could charge any amount you want for distribution...

Yes and no.

1. If you sell a binary that contains GPLv2 code, you must also make available the source code , and for distributing that source code, you can only charge a reasonable fee to cover costs.

But...

2. The binary you may charge whatever you want - 1 cent or $1000 or whatever.

Request help from the FSF (1)

doragasu (2717547) | about a year and a half ago | (#42234945)

Just call rms to release all its fury. Jokes aside, I suppose you can request help from the Free Software Foundation: http://www.fsf.org/ [fsf.org] Clear GPL violations, even this relatively small ones, should not be tolerated.

Re:Request help from the FSF (1, Flamebait)

kiwimate (458274) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235587)

Clear GPL violations, even this relatively small ones, should not be tolerated.

Whereas copyright violations, even major ones, should be not only tolerated but encouraged?*

* I don't know if doragasu is a copyright violater or not. This is aimed at the copyright infringing masses on /.

No Enforcement, No Restriction (4, Interesting)

deweyhewson (1323623) | about a year and a half ago | (#42234949)

A restriction is only as binding as its enforcement mechanism. If the developers behind DOSBox aren't going to hold other developers accountable who are trading on their name, and nobody else is willing to take them to court over it (and obviously nobody will over $3.99), then the restrictions are meaningless.

Another incident which comes to mind is that of DD-WRT - there are several articles on this, but I'll just link to the first on Google's listings [wi-fiplanet.com] - where they derived their product from open source code (OpenWRT), then closed source key parts and refuse to release the code in workable form.

It seems to me that this is the fundamental problem with GPL, and some other, open source licenses; it all depends on the honor system. Sure, they are technically legally binding, but if nobody holds anybody's feet to the fire, that means nothing.

As it pertains to you if you really care that much about it, I suppose you have three choices: (1) Swallow it, and pay the price they are demanding; (2) Go without, and refuse to give developers like this your money; (3) Buy a license of the source code, and then release it publicly out of principle. Since this stemmed from wanting to play games from your childhood, the pragmatist in me says to choose option two and move on.

Re:No Enforcement, No Restriction (4, Insightful)

Pieroxy (222434) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235181)

It seems to me that this is the fundamental problem with GPL, and some other, open source licenses

No, it's a fundamental problem with the current legal system. Nothing more, nothing less. The GPL, as any contract, is only enforceable by the legal system in place, which has this bias.

Re:No Enforcement, No Restriction (2)

geminidomino (614729) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235243)

A restriction is only as binding as its enforcement mechanism. If the developers behind DOSBox aren't going to hold other developers accountable who are trading on their name, and nobody else is willing to take them to court over it (and obviously nobody will over $3.99), then the restrictions are meaningless.

Pretty much this. We can yell and scream and call them horrible people all we want. In the end of the day, no one gives a shit. The only ones with grounds to do anything about this are the DosBox devs, and they've either decided they don't care, or that the situation is ambiguous enough to let it slide. They wouldn't even need to take this joker to court: just start by reporting the infringement to google.

Re:No Enforcement, No Restriction (3, Insightful)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235257)

It seems to me that this is the fundamental problem with GPL, and some other, open source licenses; it all depends on the honor system. Sure, they are technically legally binding, but if nobody holds anybody's feet to the fire, that means nothing.

Your problem is that you don't understand how these licenses work. The copyright holder gave people permission to make copies, as long as they followed certain rules. This doesn't mean anyone, even the copyright holder, can force anyone to follow these rules. It means that anyone making copies without following the rules, or without having any other permission, commits copyright infringement, and the copyright holder can sue them for copyright infringement.

If you are not the copyright holder, you have no standing to sue.

Re:No Enforcement, No Restriction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235665)

How does this differ from non-open source licenses? If Microsoft doesn't want to sue someone for violating a license on their product, it's not like someone else can step in and independently do it for them.

They can charge what they like (4, Informative)

djmurdoch (306849) | about a year and a half ago | (#42234953)

The GPL doesn't prohibit you from charging for your software. It does require you to give the source to anyone who gets the binary and charge only the cost of distribution, but failing to do so is a license violation against the copyright holder, not against the user who wants the source.

So you need to convince a copyright holder of the original GPL2 version to go after the individual who isn't releasing source.

And you need to pay the $3.99 before you can get the source from the other guy.

Re:They can charge what they like (0)

john.r.strohm (586791) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235239)

Are you certain you have read the GPL?

Your statement that it requires one to give the source to anyone who gets the binary is INCORRECT.

Clause 3(b) of the GPL requires you to give the source to ANY third party (emphasis added). "Any third party" means any third party, whether they got the binary or not.

And you explicitly do NOT need to pay the scumbag's $3.99 binary fee before you can get his source.

Re:They can charge what they like (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235365)

Um, I don't think you understand the legal meaning of "third party." It does NOT mean ANYBODY.

Re:They can charge what they like (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235371)

No.

The person distributing the code can do 3a, 3b, or 3c. MUST do one of them (at their discretion), not all of them, and not whichever one you (the non-distributor) feels like.

IF (3a OR 3b OR 3c) { valid }

Re:They can charge what they like (2)

muridae (966931) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235381)

3(b) is one of the options. And the OP would have to prove that he got a copy of that written notice from someone who had bought the program. 3 says you must do one of the following, not all of them. B is just one of the available options for the distributor to pick from.

Re:They can charge what they like (3, Insightful)

gerddie (173963) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235685)

Are you certain you have read the GPL?

Your statement that it requires one to give the source to anyone who gets the binary is INCORRECT.

WRONG: Firstly, they may distribute the source code alongside with the binary (see 3(a)), and if they choose 3(b), the offer has to be valid for any third party, but they only have to give it to the person who receives the binary. This person could then decide to post the offer on the Internet.

And you explicitly do NOT need to pay the scumbag's $3.99 binary fee before you can get his source.

Also wrong, they can charge all they want for the binary, because only when you receive the binary you are legally entitled to also get the source code. In other words, at least one person must pay the guys, and this person can then redistribute the binary and the source code gratis.

Re:They can charge what they like (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235325)

And you need to pay the $3.99 before you can get the source from the other guy.

And then publish it, compile your own version and upload it to Play for free.

money plus source (2)

pmontra (738736) | about a year and a half ago | (#42234957)

They can charge money for the apps, the GPL doesn't prevent that. But they must distribute the source code, the GPL requires that. IMHO some people will build their own app from source but many more will just pay for the convenience of instant installation and updates. Unfortunately sooner or later somebody will publish the same app for free and if s/he keeps it updated they'll be driven out of business.

Re:money plus source (1)

SuperHighImpact (463360) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235119)

I think this is the key, right here. Once you pay $3.99 and get the source code, you can do whatever you want with it. You could make it freely available to everyone, or you could even compile it and sell the identical app for $3.98. If you really feel strongly about making this code freely available, you should be glad that you can make that happen for less than $4.

Re:money plus source (1)

Danathar (267989) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235227)

If that were true than MySQL would of never been able to make money...

Re:money plus source (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235349)

MySQL, like every profitable product with OSS in it makes its money from proprietary extensions.

No one actually makes money directly from OSS.

Not how it works (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234979)

Developers only need to release the source code if the person receiving the binary requests it. Therefore, the developers do not have to provide you with their code unless you first purchase their app. Plus, they can also charge you a small fee for sending you the source code if it's provided on physical media.

It sounds to me like the original poster hasn't read the GPL or greatly misunderstood what it says.

Re:Not how it works (-1)

john.r.strohm (586791) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235251)

No, developers must release the source code to ANYONE who requests it, regardless of whether they received the binary or not.

Read clause 3(b), the part where it says "any third party". The key word is "any".

I have a better idea (-1, Flamebait)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about a year and a half ago | (#42234989)

How about if you just mind your own business and quit looking for things to bitch about. Pay the fee and get the app, or don't and move on. One or the other.

Re:I have a better idea (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235449)

I think this is an apt discussion. All the basic tools like FTP, SSH etc on mobile are made by weirdo, fly-by-night companies, mostly re-using old code. Where is the Android AOSP FTP, SSH, etc?

Do? (3, Interesting)

faedle (114018) | about a year and a half ago | (#42234991)

If you are a DOSBox developer and have code in the source tree, try sending a DMCA takedown notice to Google.

If you aren't, it sounds like you've done the first step, which is report it to the community at large. You might contact DOSBox's developer community and see if they even care.

Fees and the GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42234995)

Not sure about GPLv3, but with the GPL2, you CAN charge what ever you want for a GPL application. You can only charge for the cost of distributing when someone you released the binary to asks for source code.

Remember, the FSF used to charge an arm and a leg for many of the GNU stuff back in the day - far, far above distribution costs.

how much updating does it really need (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235007)

its dos, it hasnt been made for over a decade, does your app work? if yes then be happy, if no then start looking, its not like it has to keep up with the bleeding edge of MS DOS development here

misreading... kinda (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235009)

I think you are partly confused. You are correct on the first part... if it is a derived work they need to release the source, but on the second part he is only obligated to release the source to customers. If he wants to charge the customers that is fine! He can't just charge extra for the source. Once he has a customer he is obligated to offer the source upon request by the customer. There is nothing preventing authors from charging for their work, just forcing them to release it to the people using it. You could have just looked this up on the gnu website by the way: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html

One yes, one no. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235011)

As you said, DOSBot does violate the GPL; however, DosBox Turbo doesn't.

You're allowed to charge whatever the hell you want for copies of GPLv2 binaries. You could charge $5,000 if you wanted. But, having sold someone a copy of the binary, you're not allowed to *further* charge them more than the cost of distribution for providing the source code (or prevent them from further distributing said source code, for that matter.) So anyone could buy your $5,000 GPLv2 software and fork it into a free-as-in-beer version.

Take his house! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235015)

Seriously, this is such a glaring violation that he should lose his home in litigation. Ruin the fucker's life.

All we need is one solid example of fucking with the license and everyone will use it.

GPL != Free (5, Informative)

kagaku (774787) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235059)

The GPL doesn't mandate that the software/source code be released for free, it mandates that the source code MUST accompany the binary if (and only if) the binary is distributed.

For example, I work for Random Fortune 500 Co. and take a copy of DOSBox, heavily modify it and deploy it to all the workstations in my organization. At no point am I publicly distributing a binary, thus nobody has the right to demand I release my source code.

Example 2: I decide to take the DOSBox source code and make an Android port. I put this port in the app store and sell it for $5. Unless you purchase the application, again you have no right to request the source code. If 100 people purchase my application, they have the right to request the modified source code. If you buy it, you can request the source code.

Once you get the source code, you can do whatever you want with it, within the bounds of the GPL. You can give it away for free, package it up and resell it (modified or unmodified), or never give it away to anyone!

Re:GPL != Free (5, Informative)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235139)

The GPL doesn't mandate that the software/source code be released for free, it mandates that the source code MUST accompany the binary if (and only if) the binary is distributed.

Yes and no. Source code only has to be made available if the binaries are distributed, that much is correct. But the GPL v2 does not mandate that the source code must accompany the binaries. For commercial distribution, what it mandates (down in section 3, paragraphis A and B [gnu.org] ) is that either:

  • The source code must be distributed along with the binaries, or
  • You must offer the source code, at a cost of no more than the cost of your making and delivering the copy, to any third party who asks for it.

So yes, if you put up a port of DOSBox in the app store and don't include source code in the package, I can indeed come along and demand the source code from you without ever buying a copy of your app. If you refuse to provide it, you're in breach of your license to distribute the DOSBox code because you're failing to comply with section 3 regarding availability of the source code (no source in the binary package means paragraph A doesn't apply, your failure to make it available to any third party means paragraph B doesn't apply, and since you're distributing commercially through the app store paragraph C doesn't apply).

Re:GPL != Free (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235697)

So yes, if you put up a port of DOSBox in the app store and don't include source code in the package, I can indeed come along and demand the source code from you without ever buying a copy of your app.

Absolutely incorrect. The GPL indicates that if you don't distribute source with the binary, THEN alternatively when you distribute the binary you must accompany it with an offer to provide the source code when asked for it.

Nowhere does it ever say that if you that you are entitled to the source without the binary.

Re:GPL != Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235195)

Could not one of the employees at that company, with the software installed on his machine, make a request for the source code? If not (which will probably depend on your definiton of 'public') then a huge loophole would be to make a special invitation-online private members area, which you'd need to join before being allowed to purchase the application. Hey, it's private and invitation only, so not being publically released...

Re:GPL != Free (1)

indre1 (1422435) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235255)

What if I work for your Random Fortune 500 Co and execute the modified GPL application on my workstation. Do you have to provide me the source code if I ask you to? Does GPL allow me to take the program and it's source with me when I leave the company?

Re:GPL != Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235375)

Err, no. And if you even think you can start that conversation, my colleagues in HR will invite you to read your employment contract more carefully.

Re:GPL != Free (3, Informative)

john.r.strohm (586791) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235327)

The GPL does not require that the source code accompany the binary, although that is the simplest way to comply with clause 3 of the GPL.

Clause 3 gives three options. Clause 3(a) allows one to distribute the source with the binary. Clause 3(b) allows one to offer to distribute the source to ANY third party. Clause 3(c) allows one to refer requests up the food chain. (Al puts the app out there. Bob grabs a copy, and gives it to Charlie. Charlie asks Bob for the source. Bob is allowed under clause 3(c) to tell Charlie "I got it from Al, he said you could get it from HERE".) Clause 3(c) is restricted to noncommercial distribution, and only works if all you got was a clause 3(b) offer. If you got the source with the binary (clause 3(a)), you are required to give it up on request.

Your Example #2 is SPECIFICALLY wrong. If you do not distribute your GPL source WITH your GPL binary in accordance with clause 3(a), you are required by clause 3(b) of the GPL to make your source code available to ANYONE who requests it.

Re:GPL != Free (2)

v1 (525388) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235443)

Once you get the source code, you can do whatever you want with it, within the bounds of the GPL. You can give it away for free, package it up and resell it (modified or unmodified), or never give it away to anyone!

Three things I'd like to throw in here. First, you'd think that after a few dickish maneuvers of making source hard to get, someone that got the source from him would post it up somewhere so anyone could have it (whether or not they bought the author's binary) I suppose the author may try to go after you for some sort of copyright violation, but that would only go as far as he was willing to pay his lawyer to bog down a court in the mud for. (which, depending on his money to burn and determination, may be annoying or expensive enough for the poster to just give up on, losing to "unaffordable justice")

Second, the purchaser could make most any small modification that changes the binary's crc, and then repost that for anyone to download. I imagine that would piss off the author even more and be more likely to initiate a lawyer-pissing-contest, but again it would be legal up to the point of justice being unaffordable to the poster.

And lastly, I wonder where the legal status would be for "I compiled and posted it as is with no modifications", creating a crc-idential binary that would be very easily argued to have been compiled (since you have the source) so I wonder if a judge could be convinced that the poster violated the author's right of exclusive distribution? I suppose "in theory" the poster would be safe and again be looking at an "affordable justice" outcome, but I'm not certain, maybe some modification (to the source, to cause a difference in the binary) would be legally necessary?

The $4 guy isn't doing anything wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235121)

He is perfectly within his rights to give the source code to his customers only, as long as he places no restrictions (beyond the GPL) on the source code when doing so.

In other words, Bill sells the binary and source.
Mary buys the binary, is entitled to the source from Bill. Harry does not buy anything from Bill. Mary can give the source code to Harry (under the GPL licence restrictions), but nothing forces Bill to give the code directly to Harry.

OP doesn't understand GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235141)

YES you may distribute GPL'd software (as a usable product, or "binaries") and charge any amount you wish to do so. But if someone requests the source code, you must provide it with no profit, charging that person only the cost of the distribution, which is no cost if distributed digitally.

So yes, these guys are violating the GPL because they did not provide the source code upon request.

Head on over to http://gpl-violations.org and report it already.

GPLv2 gives the reciever of software rights (3, Insightful)

fikx (704101) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235143)

the point, as I understand it, of GPLv2 is to allow someone who gets a piece of software to have some freedom (not a free ride) with what they just got. There's no issue with making money off it.
rule of thumb: if you get a piece of software, can you change it at the code level? can you pass on those changes to someone else without having to check with who you got it from? if either answer is "No" then there's a problem if you got a supposed GPLv2 piece of software.

One violates the GPL the other does not. (3, Informative)

davydagger (2566757) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235159)

"he developer of DOSBot says on his Google Play entry that he will not release the source code of his application because it's not GPL, even though it's derived from source released under GPL v2"
gross violation of the GPL, report it to the EFF and the FSF immediately, they can and just might sue.

"The developer of DOSBox Turbo is refusing to release the source for his application unless you pay the $3.99 to "buy" a license of it."

which is allowed under the GPL, specificly. Stallman himself said he has no problem with people charging money for software so long as the source code is included, and the consumer is given the right to look at, modify, recompile and redistribute software.
https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/. He's also made it very clear, Free software is "Free as in speech, not free as in beer".

So if you have the opinion that no one should ever charge for software, fine, but your views do not represent either the FSF, nor its illustrious founder, nor the bulk of the Free software community, and certainly not the Open Source community(which has found a solid business model to profit off Free software).

You could obviously pay the 3.99 and re-upload the app, or copy from someone else who has it.

And merge it upstream (3, Insightful)

godrik (1287354) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235303)

Even better than "pay the $3.99 and upload the app". Pay the $3.99, get the source. Then talk to upstream to merge the changes upstream. Then redistribute the app from upstream. You do not want to have to upkeep a separate code tree for android. Merging it to upstream might just give you free updates of the engine.

You misread the GPL. (2)

jimicus (737525) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235199)

Unless I'm misreading the text of GPL v2, a fee can only be charged to cover the cost of the distribution of a program or derived work, not the cost of development.

You are misreading the GPL [gnu.org] . There's nothing stopping the author selling the product for £1,000,000.

Of course he's obliged to give the source code away - but only to people he distributes the application to. He's not obliged to make the source code available to anyone who wants a copy, and he's not obliged to distribute it to people who haven't got a copy of the binary.

Thing is, he's not allowed to impose any onerous conditions on you. He could sell it for, say, £1,000,000; you could buy it and then sell it yourself for £100. If you can persuade more than ten thousand people to buy it, you'd make a profit overall. If you could persuade 10,001 people to pay £100 for every one person who pays £1,000,000 to the original author, you'd make more money than them!

This means that it's pretty rare for commercial software to be sold under the GPL; usually it's dual-licensed. But it's not unknown, and as more hobbyist developers start looking at selling packaged apps on platforms like Google Play, I think it may even become more common.

Re:You misread the GPL. (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235279)

Apparently a common misconception, but a misconception nonetheless. If you read the GPL v2 section 3 on distribution in object-code form [gnu.org] , you'll find you have 3 options:

  • A: Distribute the source code along with the binaries.
  • B: Make a written offer to distribute the source code to any third party.
  • C: Pass along the written offer you received for source code. Available only for non-commercial distribution where you received the software under option B.

If you're distributing the source along with the binaries you aren't obliged to make the source available independently at all (anyone who got a binary also got the source code, your obligations are fulfilled). But if you're distributing the binaries without source the GPL v2 doesn't permit you to only give source code to people who have the binaries, you have to give it to anyone who asks.

GPL v3 would allow you to only give source code to people who have the binaries. Beware, though, because it doesn't allow you to only give source code to people who got the binaries from you. If they got the binaries from someone who got them from someone who got them from someone who got them from you, you're still on the hook to provide source code.

Re:You misread the GPL. (2)

photon317 (208409) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235331)

Actually, no, that's not quite right. You can't resell his binary without his permission. The way it works is:

1) He doesn't have to give the original source or his modified source to anyone by default, and he can charge whatever he wants for his binaries built from modified source.
2) He *does* have to make either the complete modified source or patches against otherwise-available baseline GPL source available to everyone who buys his binary. He can charge a very minimal fee for access to this source (e.g. pay me the cost to mail a floppy), but not much. Under the same terms, he must also provide source to an involved third party of the purchaser if requested, but that's kind of a minor side-point.
3) When he provides said source code to a purchaser, the purchaser receives it under the terms of the GPL and is therefore free to do *whatever they want* with it that the GPL allows for, including posting it on the internet for everyone else on the planet to download for free (again under the terms of the GPL), if they feel like it.

However that binary you paid for is under the seller's copyright, and you need his permission and must comply with his terms if you want to redistribute it. This should be a minor non-issue anyways though, since you can rebuild your own binary on your own terms from the source he was obligated to provide you.

Did you read the GPL? (1)

devent (1627873) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235277)

Did you even read the GPL text?
I think you are referring to the to the section 3) of the GPL license [gnu.org] ?

3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

        a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
        b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

There it states that You may copy and distribute the Program ... if you follow the terms a), b) and c). That means if you are not copy and not distribute the Program you are in no obligation to offer anyone the source code (under the terms a), b) or c)).

I think a lot of people misunderstand the GPL. The GPL is a license that is protecting the user and grands the user rights (to study the code, to modify the code and to re-distribute the code). If you are using the application and you are not distributing it to others then the GPL gives you rights that you normally would not have.

Only if you are distributing the GPL'd application you have to grand your users the same rights that you have previously enjoined. That means you have to give them the source code with any modifications you have made.

So, to answer your question: if you are not buying the application you are not a user, the developer is not distributing the application to you and the developer is under no obligation to give you the source code.

Re:Did you read the GPL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235615)

Legal issues aside taking a project that is 99.9% an OSS project adding a crappy GUI onto it and then releasing it as proprietary software is not good. (Dunno how the GUI could not be considered a derivative work).

(I don't mind people making their own software and making it proprietary but being a parasite on stuff that other people give away is not acceptable.)

Best model seems to be that used by Robert Broglia - http://www.explusalpha.com (Best Snes emulator - Snes9X EX)

Doesn't try to hide anything which I think is quite admirable.

When 3.99 is too much (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235383)

This exactly points out what is wrong with this world.

When you think that 3.99 is too much, please take a look at the number of downloads. See how that fits into your current salary.
If the math is working well for you and you live on fast noodles and in a cardboard box, then complain!

I'm not a software engineer, just someone who is shocked by consumer attitudes over and over again.

An easy solution! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42235399)

Even if charging for GPL-derived software happens to be legal (I'm not sure if it is), I know for a fact that the person who buys will have access to the source and he/she can legally re-distribute it under the terms of GPL. So only one person needs to buy it and then create new binaries and post it on Google Play to download for free! I hope someone comes along and does that for the community. I am an iOS/iPhone 5 user, so things are quite different on this side.

Its $4.00!!!! (2)

corychristison (951993) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235479)

If you want the app, pay the fee. If you are squabbling over the cost of a coffee at Starbucks, you have more financial issues than you think and if that is the case, you probably don't need that shiny Android device.

If it ticks you off so much, fork the most recent open source version you can find and try to build a community behind it.

I do understand this is all about GPL Violations, but if what brought you to investigating it was sticker price shock, I am just baffled by your cheapness.

Think before you post (1, Insightful)

yacc143 (975862) | about a year and a half ago | (#42235535)

First, the question is of the interaction. The apps almost certainly consist of a launcher/helper written in Java/Android and a compiled binary. The normal analysis is that by calling a GPLed program your program does not yet become GPLed. The next detail is that the DOSBox source is probably modified, e.g. to interact with the hardware (e.g. Android is not X11), and to compile on ARM, ... => these modifications do need to be released.

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