×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Ask Slashdot: Where do you draw the line on GPL v2 derived works and fees?

Shifuimam (768966) writes | about a year ago

Android 12

Shifuimam (768966) 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?"

Link to Original Source

12 comments

GPL doesn't mean must give the source to everyone (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | about a year ago | (#42227553)

The GPL obligates a developer (or distributor) to give the source code to anyone he supplies the binary to. If you haven't obtained the binary from him you have no rights to demand the source code.

Re:GPL doesn't mean must give the source to everyo (1)

Shifuimam (768966) | about a year ago | (#42227627)

I've been reading up on the text of GPL v2 and all the FAQs provided to clarify what the license does and does not allow - I certainly can't deny the above is true. However, one of the individuals selling his distribution of DOSBox states that he will not provide the source code. I suspect that, at least, is a violation, particularly if he refuses to provide the source to people who have paid for his application. What sort of allowances are provided for when a developer updates his source? If derivative works must be released under the same GPL, wouldn't it go to follow that any updates to that derivative must also provide the source (upon request)?

Re:GPL doesn't mean must give the source to everyo (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | about a year ago | (#42231217)

If you obtain the binary from him, then he must provide you with the source code.

If he later updates his program and you obtain another binary from him, then he must provide you with the updated source code.

If you have only the "old version" of the binary and the source code for that, he is not obligated to give you either the updated binary or the updated source code.

Re:GPL doesn't mean must give the source to everyo (1)

Shifuimam (768966) | about a year ago | (#42233885)

Well, with Google Play apps, the buyer automatically gets updates AFAIK, unless the developer releases an updated version as an entirely new app. So it would seem that buying the app once should theoretically entitle you to updated source until the developer decides he's sick of it and sets up a new app for his next release.

Is it permitted to include anti-copying code? (1)

Shifuimam (768966) | about a year ago | (#42228227)

If a GPLed program includes anti-copying code, wouldn't that directly violate the provision allowing for unhindered distribution of both binaries and source?

Re:Is it permitted to include anti-copying code? (1)

Shifuimam (768966) | about a year ago | (#42228545)

Well, snap. Sure is! See http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-3.0.html#section3 [gnu.org]

Re:Is it permitted to include anti-copying code? (1)

boley1 (2001576) | about a year ago | (#42230575)

According to the wikipedia this was a provision added to GPL 3 to overcome a weakness of GPL 2. So if the code was derived from GPL 2 maybe not.

In explaining the changes:
"It also adds a provision that 'strips' DRM of its legal value, so people can break the DRM on GPL software without breaking laws like the DMCA.[27]"

Not agreeing with the developer - just saying he may have some legal ground to stand on. (I don't pretend to be a lawyer or even know when to hire one. )

Re:Is it permitted to include anti-copying code? (1)

Shifuimam (768966) | about a year ago | (#42230633)

I can't say I really agree with adding that provision in GPL v3. How does it make sense to claim software is free-as-in-freedom if it's designed with DRM or other anti-piracy measures? Can you even technically pirate GPLed software to begin with?

Re:Is it permitted to include anti-copying code? (1)

boley1 (2001576) | about a year ago | (#42230737)

"How does it make sense to claim software is free-as-in-freedom if it's designed with DRM or other anti-piracy measures? "
I think the pro "Tivoization" argument was that just because I'm obligated to share what I have done for free or nominal cost - possibly for educational value, I don't have to make "easy" for you to simply copy and use my work, and not put in your own blood sweat and tears. GPL 3 was intended to clear this up - I do have to make it easy and cheap for you to use my derivative - and legal - if I distribute my work. BTW Linus T. didn't agree with this change according to some articles I read. He was OK with Tivoization so long as he got to see the source code of the derivative.

"Can you even technically pirate GPLed software to begin with?"
Maybe. You aren't required by the GPL (either version) to distribute your derivative work. Only that you don't limit the rights of those you do distribute it to, - if they are outside your organization. Within your organization, for instance, Google or Amazon, you can have custom versions of GPL'd software that are trade secrets and could presumably use DRM to stop the distribution outside of your intended internal use, or to track who let it loose.

So getting a copy of a private version of a GPL'd derivative, intended for private use - could be considered piracy.

Just a thought - not dogmatic about the thought at all.

Selling software (1)

Seeteufel (1736784) | about a year ago | (#42232639)

Selling GPL software is perfectly fine as it paying for services.

Re:Selling software (1)

Shifuimam (768966) | about a year ago | (#42233895)

Perhaps, but that's part of my original question - where do you draw the line? GPL doesn't specify what the charges for a piece of software are supposed to cover, so a seller can legally charge whatever he wants and claim that it's for distribution, value-added services, support, etc. Obviously someone charging $100 for a hard copy of the GIMP is overcharging, but they can do it if they want - and if people are stupid enough to pay for it. It's a bigger problem with derivative works. How much is too much when determining a price for a derivative of GPLed source? There may not be set rules, but is there precedent?
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...