GPL: implications for FreeBSD-on-hardware for sale?

Gary W. Swearingen underway at
Sat Apr 10 11:04:53 PDT 2004

"Paul A. Hoadley" <paulh at> writes:

> On Sat, Apr 10, 2004 at 09:46:29AM +0100, Matthew Seaman wrote:
>> There's no problem with selling GPL'd programs for money.  As the
>> cant goes "Free speech, not free beer".

We all use loose language like that, but a "software seller" should
keep in mind that usually he's really doing two things: publishing (or
at least distributing) copies of the software and licensing use of the
software.  The GPL seems to permit charging anything for the
publishing (but see clause 3b for an exception) while prohibiting any
charge for the licensing (but see the clauses which require fees in
the form of cross-licensing some derivative works).  I have no idea
how it's legally permissible to say that your one "bundle" price only
applies to the publishing and not the licensing, but I've never heard
that any publishers or licensors worry about it.

Also remember that not only the chunks of software like "readline"
carry licensed and sub-licensable copyrights, but that your arrangment
of the chunks as the collection that you publish (your product) is
copyrightable, and a careful buyer will want a license for that too,
which must (per the GPL) be compatible with the GPL.  (The GPL does,
of course, allow distribution with closed-source software.  I think
the GPL's "further restrictions" clause should be a problem here, but
I'm not aware that any GPL licensor has complained about any "further
restrictions" in such kinds of GPL derivatives as your product will

> Would it be arguable that I was, in fact, selling only the
> hardware and my own software application, and giving away the (GPL-
> and BSD-licensed) open source software for free?

I'll have to refer you to a lawyer.  Maybe it depends upon what the
sales contract says.  Maybe not.  Or maybe if you have no right to
sell licenses for a fee, then it's implied that you're not selling it.

But it's easy to get too wrapped up in worrying about technicalities
that most people seem happy to ignore.

Good question; I've not seen this bundling issued discussed before.

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