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

Paul A. Hoadley paulh at
Sat Apr 10 18:36:35 PDT 2004

On Sat, Apr 10, 2004 at 11:04:46AM -0700, Gary W. Swearingen wrote:

> 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.

Now this is more like the kind of complexity I was expecting.  :-)

> 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 be.)

Maybe some more specifics would be helpful.  The application is a web
application.  It may or may not end up open source, but it will be for
sale, and I don't want it to inherit a restrictive license.

It uses some PHP (Open Publication License), is served by Apache
(Apache Software License), and is backed by PostgreSQL (BSD license).
Currently I'm using a PHP template engine called Smarty (LGPL).  Here,
my application would be a 'work that uses the library'.

So I don't think my application is a derivative work of any of these.

> > 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.

I'll have to look into it further.

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

Excellent point.  :-)  (But, then, I don't want to be a test case
either.  :-)

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

It must have arisen somewhere---people have done this before.  I'll
search harder...  Thanks for the input, Gary.


mailto:paulh at
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