selling freebsd cd for profit

Chad Perrin perrin at
Sun Feb 28 23:00:25 UTC 2010

On Sun, Feb 28, 2010 at 11:10:33AM +0000, Matthew Seaman wrote:
> On 28/02/2010 01:56:27, Chad Perrin wrote:
> > Actually, once your project becomes a commercial enterprise, the GPL
> > stops allowing reference to upstream sources to suit the requirements of
> > code redistribution.  If you sell GPLed software, you have to provide the
> > sources yourself -- and, if you offer the *option* of access to the
> > sources without actually ensuring that everybody gets a copy of the
> > sources right away, you have to maintain sources for each distributed
> > version for a number of years after the last such distribution.  I'm not
> > saying you *don't* have to maintain sources that long after the fact if
> > you make sure everybody gets a copy right away; I haven't read the text
> > of the GPL in detail in a while, and don't recall that specific detail.
> Hmmm... I think the concept of 'modification' is pretty important
> here.  If you're just redistributing software without modifying it,
> you've fulfilled the intent of the GPL simply by giving a link to a
> well-known download site.  After all, what's the difference between
> that, and your outsourcing a download facility to a service provider
> like, say, SourceForge?
> If you're distributing /modified/ GPL'd code, then yes, you have to
> make your modifications available for download.  Ideally that would be
> by donating them back to the core project, but if they aren't
> acceptable for whatever reason, then you do have to slap them on a
> web/ftp site somewhere.

Unfortunately, such measures are not really sufficient -- at least for my
own level of comfort if I'm going to redistribute GPLed code.  For
instance, one must ask what happens if upstream doesn't accept your
modification.  Do you just not distribute your modified version, then, or
do you go back to figuring out how to distribute it directly in
accordance with the GPL?  Must you hold off on distribution the entire
time until either upstream accepts the modification or you come up with
some other distribution means to make up for the lack of upstream

Is referring to upstream actually in accord with the GPL, or is it just
likely to eliminate the likelihood of getting sued for an infringement
that actually occurred?

Obviously, a lawyer should be consulted to answer such questions.  I find
it's a lot cheaper to just treat all these questions as if they are
answered in the least friendly manner.

> > Note that I'm not a lawyer, and this does not constitute legal advice.
> > My only direct legal advice is to seek legal advice from a professional.
> It's a sad world where we have to keep restating the obvious in
> disclaimers: anyone believing the advice they get from a bunch of
> semi-anonymous people they only know from a mailing list deserves
> everything they get[*]. Whatever happened to caveat emptor?

I agree completely; it *is* a sad thing.  Still, I don't want anyone
claiming I represented myself as a lawyer and trying to sue me, so I keep
offering the lame disclaimers.

> [*] Generally that would be a better result than from much paid-for
> support...

That's also probably true, especially given that many of us actually have
more first-hand knowledge of open source licensing than a lot of
copyright lawyers whose jobs revolve around well established precedent
for how and when one is allowed to sing "Happy Birthday" or how best to
threaten (ex-)employees with lawsuits if they ever try to get a job with
a competitor.

Chad Perrin [ original content licensed OWL: ]
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