[vox] What is GPL "Distribution"?
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[vox] What is GPL "Distribution"?
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This is a legalish question about the GPL...
I don't expect to find an answer here but the risk that someone here will=
know the answer is much better me finding useful discussion on google=20
(GPL+distribution hits about 360,000 documents).
I'm looking for a good place to ask this, if it's in a FAQ, or
if some place already did a a discussion about this.
The questions centers on the definition of "distribution"... a company is
free to modify a GPL'd program and not release the source provided that
they do not "distribute"... So modified versions of the program can=20
be used a company website or servers without releasing the code without=20
a them needing to release their changes, paid subscriptions to the
service could even be required to use.
- Now what if the machine that company hosts the website on is wholly
owned by the co-location facility that hosts the machine (only being
rented by the company which made changes)?
- What if the company develops all of their software with sub-contractors
who do the work on their own personal machines at home?
- Is the transportation of the GPL'd code or binaries to those two places=
"distribution" as far as the GPL is concerned?
=2E..depending on how you look at it it is boarder line.
While writing this I got the idea to check for "GPL FAQ"... which=20
came up with something useful.
A block of items in the FAQ near to this seem to cover the question...
A company is running a modified version of a GPL'ed program on a web
site. Does the GPL say they must release their modified sources?
The GPL permits anyone to make a modified version and use it
without ever distributing it to others. What this company is doing
is a special case of that. Therefore, the company does not have to
release the modified sources.
It is essential for people to have the freedom to make
modifications and use them privately, without ever publishing those
modifications. However, putting the program on a server machine
for the public to talk to is hardly "private" use, so it would be
legitimate to require release of the source code in that special
case. We are thinking about doing something like this in GPL version
3, but we don't have precise wording in mind yet.
In the mean time, you might want to use the Affero GPL for programs
designed for network server use
Is making and using multiple copies within one organization or company
No, in that case the organization is just making the copies for
itself. As a consequence, a company or other organization can
develop a modified version and install that version through its
own facilities, without giving the staff permission to release that
modified version to outsiders.
However, when the organization transfers copies to other organizations
or individuals, that is distribution. In particular, providing copies
to contractors for use off-site is distribution.
There may still a little wiggle room for "distribution" to a rented
co-location machine... but doesn't seem like much. Comments?
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