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[P]
Discussing the GPL Timetable

By gnuchris in News
Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 04:55:47 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

I have been thinking about the GPL for a while now, and one issue in particular, I thought you guys might like to discuss it with me... When is a company or person required to release the changes to the code they make? Reading the FAQ on the Yoppy website it says... "Does Samsung intend to release mobile Linux to free software communities?Yes. We are scheduled to open this program soon. "... so do they have to release the code now if I ask them too, since they are using it in developement? Or do they have to 'sell' something using the OS before they have to release it? What about products that are never sold, but given away for free?

What I am asking is this.. If you make changes to GPL code, when do you need to release it? If you are just in developement, but have made changes, do you need to release the code?


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Discussing the GPL Timetable | 29 comments (29 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
This is a more serious issue than o... (5.00 / 1) (#15)
by Marvin on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 12:38:38 PM EST

Marvin voted 1 on this story.

This is a more serious issue than one might realize at first. If it is possible to delay the release of the source code, then the GPL could be made practically irrelevant by delaying the release for a long enough time.

Re: This is a more serious issue than o... (none / 0) (#19)
by mattdm on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 05:25:54 PM EST

Except it's not possible, so it's not an issue.

[ Parent ]
AFAIK, if you never release binarie... (4.50 / 2) (#1)
by rusty on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 12:45:36 PM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

AFAIK, if you never release binaries, you never have to release source. If you use and modify a GPL program "in-house" you are not required to share your changes. It's only when you distribute something based on that GPL code that you must also distribute the source.

____
Not the real rusty

Re: AFAIK, if you never release binarie... (none / 0) (#24)
by gnuchris on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 08:00:23 PM EST

Thanks to everyone for clearing this up... it's when they release the binaries... I wasn't pointing fingers at Yoppy, it's just that is the site that got me thinking.
"He had alot to say, He had alot of nothing to say" -TOOL-
[ Parent ]
There is some expectation that when... (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by inspire on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 12:56:49 PM EST

inspire voted 1 on this story.

There is some expectation that when something becomes available for public download under the GPL, the source code will also be available.

I dont like some sort of mandate of "you must provide code within X days of something happening" written into the license, there should be some sort of control as to when or how frequently the source code is released.

My guideline would be, for source code (from best to worst, starting from the first modification to the GPL'ed code):

- real-time CVS updates with a publically accessable tree
- nightly snapshots of the source tree
- release of source code with each incremental update to the code
- release of updated source code at the release time of the software
- delayed by 24 hours every time someone asks for it :)
- never

--
What is the helix?

I believe the answer is as soon as ... (2.00 / 1) (#16)
by schporto on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 01:00:31 PM EST

schporto voted 1 on this story.

I believe the answer is as soon as you give access to the program to the outside world. I base this on my understanding that if I mod GPL code and use it only internal to a company or just myself, I do not have to release it. However if I sell a program to someone then I must give them source too. I would believe that holds true even if the sale costs $0. -cpd

Hopefully this won't turn into a Co... (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by bmetzler on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 01:06:29 PM EST

bmetzler voted 1 on this story.

Hopefully this won't turn into a Corel thing all over again. You need to release the soruce *with* the software when you distribute it. Development doesn't have to be open. Let them finish what the start, do some QA, and then put their name behind it.
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.

They are required to release the so... (4.50 / 2) (#13)
by End on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 01:10:10 PM EST

End voted 1 on this story.

They are required to release the source code at the time they do a release. If the product is available, the source must be available. So it just depends on whether I can go right now and download their modified Linux; if I can, I should be able to get the source code too.

-JD

The GPL restricts your rights to di... (3.30 / 3) (#10)
by alisdair on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 01:43:03 PM EST

alisdair voted 0 on this story.

The GPL restricts your rights to distribution. RMS made a specific point about allowing internal distribution in a company under the GPL for testing purposes. Therefore, as long as you don't distribute the binary, you don't have to make the source available either.

Pretty simple, very old hat. What we need is an article on k5 where someone goes over all the FAQs about the common licences. Anyone wanna write it?

This is worth posting since there s... (2.00 / 1) (#5)
by mattdm on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:04:16 PM EST

mattdm voted 1 on this story.

This is worth posting since there seems to be widespread confusion over this and similar points (even though they could probably be cleared up by just reading the GPL). If they're not distributing the software in binary form, they don't have to give you source. Using in development isn't distributing, so they don't need to give you anything.

I think the author is confused... ... (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by sergent on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:05:56 PM EST

sergent voted -1 on this story.

I think the author is confused...
You don't have to release the source code just because you changed it.
The restriction is that you can't distribute binaries without either making the source available or providing a written offer to do so upon request for the next three years.
You're under no obligation, in general, to redistribute your binaries, or your source; but if you do choose to distribute binaries, you must also distribute source. There are a few more tweaks on top of that, but that's basically it.
IANAL.

I myself and not a proficient enoug... (1.00 / 1) (#18)
by bladerunner on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:12:43 PM EST

bladerunner voted 1 on this story.

I myself and not a proficient enough programmer to release anything even worth notifying my 2 year old niece of, but in light of Abits Major Fox Paw concerning the GPL and code they modified, I'm interested in this also...
-Ex-slashdotter. I love cats, but hate Katz.

http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.htm... (3.00 / 2) (#7)
by evro on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:21:44 PM EST

evro voted 1 on this story.

http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html:

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,
  • 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.)

---
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"
I think they're okay, legally. A p... (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by eann on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:27:15 PM EST

eann voted 1 on this story.

I think they're okay, legally. A product announcement is not a product. They're not required to show anything until it is a product, because until they try to distribute something based on that code to consumers, it's nothing but in-house tinkering, which none of us is required to report to anyone. That's the beauty of Free (as in speech) software!

Should they release it now? That depends. Since they're using GPL code, we have to assume they're aware of the debugging, etc., benefits of many extra volunteer eyeballs. However, if the kinds of changes they've made are specific to that hardware (very likely), and the hardware's not ready to go, that's a moot point. The code hacks are meaningless without the product.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


From what I understand, they don't ... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by fluffy grue on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:34:51 PM EST

fluffy grue voted 1 on this story.

From what I understand, they don't need to make the source available until they've made the binaries available. Technically, they only need to make the source available to people who have the binaries, but anyone who has the binaries must be able to do whatever they like with them, such as give them to other people, thus making other people eligible to have the source. So as long as Yoppy is only under development by the developers and the developers don't release the binaries to anyone who doesn't work on the Yoppy project (of course, they can't be prohibited from this by an NDA), they're only required to give source code to people who already have the Yoppy binaries, i.e. people who are working on the project anyway. Also hence why Transmeta doesn't need to release embedded Linux at this point and so forth.

However, as soon as someone makes the binaries available to someone else, that someone else could theoretically put the binaries on the Internet, meaning that theoretically everyone has access to the binaries, and so everyone has a right to the source.

Really, this is the way it should be, IMO. It's pointless to require that every single little change made to source should be made publically available; otherwise, nobody could get any work done. ("Oh no, I just changed another comment... better make another release.")
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

You don't have to release code unco... (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by Paul Dunne on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:37:21 PM EST

Paul Dunne voted 1 on this story.

You don't have to release code unconditionally. Under the GPL, you are only obligated to release source code if you distribute binaries. If a company is only using a GPL'ed product internally, they are under no obligation to release the source.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/

Re: You don't have to release code unco... (none / 0) (#20)
by fluffy grue on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 05:59:42 PM EST

Even if you release binaries, you're only obligated to give the source to someone if they ask for it. Of course, after that point, they're allowed to do whatever the hell with the source they feel like, as long as it doesn't violate the GPL.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

I think the answers are rather obvi... (1.00 / 1) (#9)
by TomG on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 02:49:18 PM EST

TomG voted -1 on this story.

I think the answers are rather obvious and not worth a discussion thread.

ask slashdot... (1.00 / 1) (#6)
by emjay on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 03:32:59 PM EST

emjay voted 0 on this story.

ask slashdot
-------------------------
We can't stop here, this is bat country!

I've most often heard "when the pro... (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by nicktamm on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 04:06:52 PM EST

nicktamm voted 1 on this story.

I've most often heard "when the product is released, the source code needs to be also", but I don't know if that has any grounding in law. I'm curious to hear what everyone says.
Nick Tamm nick-k5@echorequest.net http://www.nicktamm.org

IANAL, YMMV, FWIW (NRUATAA[1]): ... (1.00 / 1) (#3)
by techt on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 04:42:42 PM EST

techt voted 1 on this story.

IANAL, YMMV, FWIW (NRUATAA[1]):

From http://www.fsf.org/copyleft/copyleft.html:

In the GNU project, our aim is to give all users the freedom to redistribute and change GNU software. If middlemen could strip off the freedom, we might have many users, but those users would not have freedom. So instead of putting GNU software in the public domain, we ``copyleft'' it. Copyleft says that anyone who redistributes the software, with or without changes, must pass along the freedom to further copy and change it.
(Emphasis mine.) The above is the basic spirit or reason behind the GPL. In reading the GPL version 2 I can see nothing that explicitly says one must distribute source code to whom you have not already given the program. It seems, from reading both the spirit of and the GPL, that no they are not required to pass along their code until they've started distributing the actual program -- and even then they're only truly required to give the source to those who have received the program.

From the above, I believe that if one makes changes to GPL source code, one is required to distribute their changes only if they distribute the program which resulted from those changes. If the changed program is not distributed, then the changed code is not required to be distributed either.

[1] Nobody Really Understands All These Acronyms Anyway.
--
Proud member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation!
Are You? http://www.eff.org/support/joineff.html

Re: IANAL, YMMV, FWIW (NRUATAA[1]):... (3.00 / 1) (#22)
by xah on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 06:59:28 PM EST

I think this is wrong. See part 3(b) under "TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR COPYING, DISTRIBUTION AND MODIFICATION" in the GPL 2.0. It indicates that third parties must also have access to the source code.

[ Parent ]
Re: IANAL, YMMV, FWIW (NRUATAA[1]):... (none / 0) (#23)
by techt on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 07:32:55 PM EST

Ah. Yes, it appears I was in error and you are correct -- source code is to be made available to all. Thank you for the correction.
--
Proud member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation!
Are You? http://www.eff.org/support/joineff.html
[ Parent ]
the legal perspective (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by xah on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 06:18:35 PM EST

This is entirely a legal question. I'm a first year law student.

The first question is whether the GPL is a legally binding contract. I don't know of any cases that have tested it in court. Nevertheless, unless the old theory of "consideration" is applied in a formalistic manner, the GPL will most likely be a legally binding contract. Consideration typically requires an exchange of money, but the exchange of something else (like source code) should constitute consideration. More progressive courts will not require a contract to have consideration.

The second question, more pertinent to the point you raise, is whether a company that refuses to release GPL source code modifications can be legally forced to release the modifications.

This question has two component parts. Initially, is there any length of delay (as above) that would constitute an abuse of the rights afforded by the GPL? This is the substantive part of the question. Secondly, would anyone have standing to sue? If not, the whole issue is moot. This is the procedural component.

The substantive component can be answered affirmitavely. At some point, the delay would become obnoxious and unreasonable. The test the court would probably apply would be common industry practice. How long do other companies take to release their source code? Coupled with a factual finding that a company's failure to release source does constitute an unreasonable delay, this legal approach could lead a court to force a company to release its source code.

As for the procedural part of the question, no obvious person has standing to sue. Arguably, however, the persons and companies that developed the GPL code that was later modified by the company might have standing to sue. This theory hinges on identifying the release of source as a duty to be entered upon acquiring source (entering the contract), and identifying access to modified source as a right gained upon releasing new GPL source (executing the contract, or starting a new GPL contract).

The difficulty with this approach is charting which piece of GPL code belongs to which developer. We would need to create "family trees" of GPL code.

If the approach was legally successful, however, there would be identifiable parties with standing to sue. Presumably, at least one would be willing to undertake a lawsuit to enforce the GPL and procure access to the source. This access would be public, of course, following the GPL.

As a first year law student, I took Contracts last semester. If you need real legal advice, I strongly suggest seeking out a real lawyer. If you don't know of one, I could probably refer you to a good one.

Re: Discussing the GPL Timetable (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 08:08:28 PM EST

This is all pointless. This is very obviously a thread started by people who have not read or fully understand how the GPL works (assuming it's legal, which has yet to be tested. We'll assume it's airtight for right now).

Put very simply (and you can read the license itself to verify): You do not have to give out your code. Period. Ever. You can modify it all you want and never be forced by anybody to give out your code.

You always have the *right* to give out your code. Once the code is under GPL, no matter the source, that code can be given to anybody, and cannot have any riders on it to remove the GPL rights.

If you have purchaced or been given any object, binary file, or part of the code, you have the two rights listed above, plus you are can request the code, and the source you got the code from has to provide it.

Now then, think about it.... somebody can very truthfully sell a copy of "UberGPLDoom 1.0" for $6000. They can deny the source to everyone. EXCEPT THOSE WHO BUY IT. And as SOON as anybody buys it, they can sell it for any price, or just give it away (because they now have those first two rights listed above).

That covers GPL 101 regarding *when* you have to give the source away. 201 includes nifty grey areas like "internal orginization distributions", "beta testers under contract", "lagged version GPL release (like Ghostscript)", and "Patches distributed alone".

--
Evan
gpl@timewarp.org

GPL FAQ (none / 0) (#28)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Apr 28, 2000 at 04:16:09 AM EST

These questions about GPL seem to be pop up in regulars basis, wouldn't it be time to create GPL FAQ? GPL in itself is not that hard to understand but people still have only hazy idea what GPL says, maybe it is because 'It's a legal document - I don't wanna understand or read it' -attitude.

[ Parent ]
Re: Discussing the GPL Timetable (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by johnmeacham on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 09:21:12 PM EST

this was actually a major point rms tried to make when formulating the GPL. the GPL explicitly is written to allow this. this was one of RMS's main beefs with the original mozilla liscence, in the original version it said that all changes must be released to the public, this however was considered by RMS (and i agree) to be a breach of privacy, no one should be forced to give out source to things they write for their own personal use or ethat are never even finished. the only thing that the GPL says is that if you can get ahold of the binarys you must be able to get ahold of the source, and you must be unrestricted in your further distribution of the binary and source.

this is a GOOD thing, it is not a hole in the GPL, we should be careful to not oversensationalize things here, this story was a definate reminder of what started to bug me on that other site.

Re: Discussing the GPL Timetable (none / 0) (#27)
by Inoshiro on Thu Apr 27, 2000 at 10:57:05 PM EST

But if I can get a binary, how long should I be expected to wait for source? One week? 6? A year? .. I'd like some boundries, instead of a gray area.



--
[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
Re: Discussing the GPL Timetable (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by dlc on Fri Apr 28, 2000 at 01:05:32 PM EST

My first instinct is to say that you must make the source available by the time you make any part of it available. In other words, you can't release a binary version of the software without code, if it's under the GPL. But you would only have to release the modified code to what you're releasing at that time. So, if I create a piece of software based on some GPL-covered software, and I need to modify GCC to work with it, I can release only the software source, without my GCC hack (it would be uncompilable), and postpone releasing the hacked GCC until it is ready.

darren


(darren)

Discussing the GPL Timetable | 29 comments (29 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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