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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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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.

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