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an interesting way to use the GPL
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lawgon
As we all know, software is not a commodity to be bought and sold. The attempt to treat it like a commodity has caused a huge number of problems as well as colossal waste of money and programmers time. So the foss movement was started so that software can be shared freely across the world. And many licenses came into being in order to have some sort of regulation of this sharing to see that it is not abused. There are 40-50 licenses of this sort and they vary a lot - but all of them have one thing in common: they presuppose release of software to the public and availability of the source code. The business model changes - instead of selling software as a commodity, one shares the software and sells service, customisation, support, hosting ... however one bright spark has found a loophole in the GPL. What he does is hide in a closet and develop his software. Then he GPL's it (whatever that means). Then he goes and sells to the customer. The customer, having paid a good sum for it is not going to give to any one else free, so the GPL is as good as any other EULA. Then our friend goes and sells the same package to another bakra - same price, same results. And he goes on and on - proprietary mode of development, proprietary mode of deployment - but all kosher according to the GPL. I think V4 of the GPL may have to be amended to plug this perversion of the idea of foss.

This reminds me of what happens in the govt sector. Government of one state decides to computerise land records on linux platform. Some big company wins the contract, gets paid crores and delivers - source code is handed over under some agreement. Government keeps it secret. Then the same company gets a contract for the same thing from another state - same price, same hand over, same secrecy - and then the third state ... so three states pay public funds for the same thing. And it is quite possible for this to happen while GPLing the software in each case. Actually what should happen is that State A pays for it, releases it and the other states spend for customisation and deployment and not rewriting the same thing. The above scenario actually happened, although I have not named the states or the company.

So what does one mean by distributing software? what does the 'P' in GPL stand for? Yes, the above is probably in accordance with the letter of the law - but is a complete travesty of the spirit of foss.

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The loophole in GPL for the software-as-a-service is plugged in the AGPL v3. So there's no necessity for a GPL v4 any time soon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AGPL

Re: Handled by AGPLv3

this has nothing to do with software as a service. This guy is selling software as a product - and finds GPL is better than any EULA

I do not see any problem is this model. See, You can sell one software multiple times to multiple agencies. Every agencies need customization. Even if every agencies need same software across the it is the fault of system and not GPL. GPL always says you are free to sell to any number of client. There is nothing wrong is taking huge money even. Developer has stomach. FOSS Developer can charge any number of times to any customer for same codebase too.. depending on service.. So nothing wrong. FOSS/GPL developed to give freedom to user and not public. Those who need freedom, come and take software from GPL software developer, If user are no using their freedom then it is their fault.. they are given GPL license, they can also start selling or distributing software for free-of-cost in order to stop the original developer..

Re: What's Wrong ?

If I have a chappati and I sell it to you, you have a chappati and I do not have one. If I have software and I sell it to you, you have it and I have it too. Knowledge in general and software in particular is not a commodity to be bought and sold. It is something that can only be shared. If you are incapable of understanding this, then I am very sorry for you.

What is the actual issue? GPL doesn't prohibit selling to any no of people

>> What he does is hide in a closet and develop his software.
>> Then he GPL's it (whatever that means).
>> Then he goes and sells to the customer.

Well, if he distributes the software under GPL and doesn't publicly release the code, then it is sort of useless.

Yes, I don't find any problems with selling same software to multiple sources as long as the source is made public. Most of the cases "selling" is more of buying subscription with support.

I think the problem is again with the customers. Instead of taking the publicly available source code, they contact the company again to buy the software. Most of the time this happens because they want support too.

The GPL doesn't say that the source should be released publicly. It says that the receiver of the application should also get the source code along with the 4 freedoms. Well, not releasing the source code to the broader community defeats the purpose of FOSS license.

>> source code is handed over under some agreement
Handed over means? Copyright transfer or distributing the source code? If it is the latter, then the organizations are to be blamed, since they are the copyright holders and they can decide what to do with it.
If the copyright is preserved with the original firm, then it can sell the same software to multiple states. The state should come forward and take the code and setup it's infrastructure. Sadly, that never happens as the govt organization wants a firm who has experience running the whole thing including setup.

Re: What is the actual issue? GPL doesn't prohibit selling to any no of people

GPL does not prohibit child pornography, trafficking in women or spitting on the sidewalk - so we can do all this? There will be eternal confusion as to which came first - the chicken or the egg. But there is not even an iota of confusion on which came first - the concept that software should be free and open source or the concept of creating licenses to protect and regulate the process of open sourcing software.

The purpose of the open source licenses is to nurture the process of open sourcing code in an orderly manner. And to a large extent these licenses have done their job. The idea that software can be sold again and again is totally alien to the spirit of open source - and the fact that the GPL can be perverted to support this travesty indicates some fundamental defect in the GPL.

I think a 5th freedom is to be added - the freedom to have the software you use always available on a public repository so that the public can constantly review, change, modify. improve and update the software - which is why people open source anyway. Do not forget that if you buy software from a closet merchant, you are subject to vendor lock in - the said closet merchant would have taken great pains to obfuscate the code and make it very difficult to install and maintain. He can get away with this since anyway the public cannot see his code and straighten it out.

I agree with you that support, installation help, customisation and the like are highly legitimate sources of revenue - but making money by selling software as a product is disgusting. What right does one have to sell software? 90% of the code is written by others and copy pasted anyway - all good software is heavily based on other good software. And libraries written by others, and written in languages written by others. At least if these closet merchants extract some of the stuff they write and put up for public use - it would be a small compensation. But they are too miserly to do that.

Re: What is the actual issue? GPL doesn't prohibit selling to any no of people

Child pornography, trafficking in women and spitting in sidewalk has nothing to do with the license. Inclusion of any such restriction would make the license less free. These things have to be handled by the law of the specific country. Let's not software license dictate terms which it is not meant to do.

>> The idea that software can be sold again and again is totally alien to the spirit of open source

Interesting! Never heard about this spirit. Software can be sold again and again. I don't find anything wrong. The copyright holder has the ownership and he can sell it to as many people as he wants.

>> the freedom to have the software you use always available on a public repository
>> so that the public can constantly review, change, modify.
>> improve and update the software
Ironically, GNU - which was the posterboy of Free software used Catheredal model of development at one time. It was Linux which introduced Bazaar model.

If a software is a Free software and the code is not available, then it is not a free software anyway. Development behind closed doors doesn't make it less Free, but yes .. it is frowned upon.

>> Do not forget that if you buy software from a closet merchant,
>> you are subject to vendor lock in
Yeah. The risk of vendor-lock-in always remains with closed merchant.

>> but making money by selling software as a product is disgusting.
How about you have the copyright ownership to the code you are selling? Is it still disgusting?

>> What right does one have to sell software?
If you are the owner, you have the right. 100% rights.

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I have seen many software companies in Bangalore developing proprietary software and bundling boost libraries with their software. I think they are charging for their software and not for the boost libraries. If Boost was under a strong copyleft license, they would have been forced to release the bundled boost code.


If I develop a Free software to sell to multiple clients, then I should not be stopped. I can distribute it in two ways
1) Create my own distro repo and package my application to resolve the dependencies. These dependencies can be pulled from my repo or from the official distro repo. I would charge only for the software and not for the dependencies.
2) I don't package it, but distribute the tarballs of binary with a custom installation script. In this case the dependency libraries are bundled together. I would release the source code of the libraries if it is required. A good way is to release the source code of all the dependencies as I am not making money out of it. I would then be charging only for my software.

This too sounds disgusting?

Re: What is the actual issue? GPL doesn't prohibit selling to any no of people

>> but making money by selling software as a product is disgusting.
How about you have the copyright ownership to the code you are selling? Is it still disgusting?


yes - unless you sell the copyright. Otherwise you are just selling the right to use a copy - while retaining the ownership.

>> What right does one have to sell software?
If you are the owner, you have the right. 100% rights.


not to sell the software - only to sell the copyright

I have seen many software companies in Bangalore developing proprietary software and bundling boost libraries with their software. I think they are charging for their software and not for the boost libraries. If Boost was under a strong copyleft license, they would have been forced to release the bundled boost code.


boost license is classic BSD - so what is the problem.

If I develop a Free software to sell to multiple clients, then I should not be stopped. I can distribute it in two ways
1) Create my own distro repo and package my application to resolve the dependencies. These dependencies can be pulled from my repo or from the official distro repo. I would charge only for the software and not for the dependencies.
2) I don't package it, but distribute the tarballs of binary with a custom installation script. In this case the dependency libraries are bundled together. I would release the source code of the libraries if it is required. A good way is to release the source code of all the dependencies as I am not making money out of it. I would then be charging only for my software.


The only way to make this viable is to keep the source of your software closed - and that is disgusting. If the source is available, then you will not make money (I am quite sure that you have not tried out this model). My role model is redhat - they write a hell of a lot of software, all with source code available, but they do not sell it - they make money by customising, deploying, supporting etc

Re: What is the actual issue? GPL doesn't prohibit selling to any no of people

>> yes - unless you sell the copyright. Otherwise you are just selling the right to use a copy - while retaining the ownership.

Till now I am not able to understand what you mean by selling? I mean that the person comes to me to ask for a software. I tell him that you need to buy the software which has trademark etc. I have also released the source code for the whole software. People come to buy software to get support, installation etc bundled. Call it subscription service. The source code is open but to get the version I would deploy is to subscribe. The source code available has no trademark mention. If you build by default, it would build with a generic name and a generic logo.

I think this is what RedHat does too. RHEL is not available to the public, but the source code of everything is. CentOS takes the source and build the unbranded RedHat Linux.

If you look at Red Hat store https://access.redhat.com/downloads/
you can see that you can download RedHat only if you have subscription otherwise you have to buy RedHat to download it. Their revenue model is mostly service and support, but why do they restrict the download?

Re: What is the actual issue? GPL doesn't prohibit selling to any no of people

my business model: I develop applications for customers. They pay me - I write the code and they own the copyright. I am only selling my labour. But I convince them to release the code on the internet under the BSD license. This way I can reuse the code for my next customer, but will have to charge less as less labour is involved. The next guy I convince to also contribute to the original code - and so on. I win, they win and the general public wins.

Re: What is the actual issue? GPL doesn't prohibit selling to any no of people

This business model is great, provided that companies arn't worries so much about money than they are about support, uptime etc.

Still, you need to define what you meant by "selling software"? If you sell FOSS software, you have to share the code too. I am assuming you retain copyright. In this case what is meant by selling?

Re: What is the actual issue? GPL doesn't prohibit selling to any no of people

Selling software means selling a copy of the code like microsoft does. Redhat does not sell software - it gives you a copy of the code, and charges for service, support etc. I do not retain copyright, I provide the labour and the company gets the copyright.

Re: an interesting way to use the GPL

When I see instances of people rebranding the product and selling like in the link below, I get your point clearly.

http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=OTAyNg

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