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Ask Slashdot: Where Do You Draw the Line On GPL V2 Derived Works and Fees? 371

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-do-you-think? dept.
First time accepted submitter Shifuimam writes "I downloaded a DOSBox port for Android recently to get back into all the games of my childhood. Turns out that the only free distribution available hasn't been updated in nearly two years, so I looked for alternatives. There are two on Google Play — DOSBox Turbo and "DOSBot". Both charge a fee — DOSBox Turbo is $3.99; DOSBot is $0.99. The developer of DOSBot says on his Google Play entry that he will not release the source code of his application because it's not GPL, even though it's derived from source released under GPL v2 — this is definitely a violation of the license. The developer of DOSBox Turbo is refusing to release the source for his application unless you pay the $3.99 to "buy" a license of it. The same developer explicitly states that the "small" fee (although one might argue that $3.99 is pretty expensive for an OSS Android app) is to cover the cost of development. Unless I'm misreading the text of GPL v2, a fee can only be charged to cover the cost of the distribution of a program or derived work, not the cost of development. And, of course, it doesn't cost the developer anything for someone to log in to Google Play and download their app. In fact, from what I can tell, there's a one-time $25 fee to register for Google Checkout, after which releasing apps is free. Where do you draw the line on this? What do you do in this kind of situation?"
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Ask Slashdot: Where Do You Draw the Line On GPL V2 Derived Works and Fees?

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  • by deweyhewson (1323623) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @02:31PM (#42234949)

    A restriction is only as binding as its enforcement mechanism. If the developers behind DOSBox aren't going to hold other developers accountable who are trading on their name, and nobody else is willing to take them to court over it (and obviously nobody will over $3.99), then the restrictions are meaningless.

    Another incident which comes to mind is that of DD-WRT - there are several articles on this, but I'll just link to the first on Google's listings [wi-fiplanet.com] - where they derived their product from open source code (OpenWRT), then closed source key parts and refuse to release the code in workable form.

    It seems to me that this is the fundamental problem with GPL, and some other, open source licenses; it all depends on the honor system. Sure, they are technically legally binding, but if nobody holds anybody's feet to the fire, that means nothing.

    As it pertains to you if you really care that much about it, I suppose you have three choices: (1) Swallow it, and pay the price they are demanding; (2) Go without, and refuse to give developers like this your money; (3) Buy a license of the source code, and then release it publicly out of principle. Since this stemmed from wanting to play games from your childhood, the pragmatist in me says to choose option two and move on.

  • Do? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by faedle (114018) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @02:34PM (#42234991) Homepage Journal

    If you are a DOSBox developer and have code in the source tree, try sending a DMCA takedown notice to Google.

    If you aren't, it sounds like you've done the first step, which is report it to the community at large. You might contact DOSBox's developer community and see if they even care.

  • Re:Pay the $3.99 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by leuk_he (194174) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @02:42PM (#42235081) Homepage Journal

    Wrong.

    Pay the 3.99
    request the source
    make a small improvement.
    post a version for 1.35 on play

    Sell the app 3 times.

    Profit!!!!

    put a ad supported version of in the store. More profit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2012 @02:57PM (#42235183)

    distribute the source on demand to ANYBODY requesting it for the price of materials

    Not anybody -- any third party. That's a specific legal term and the specific meaning of the third party is not defined. The GPL v3 clarified it as to mean that the first party (distributor) only has to provide source code to a third party if the third party received a GPL-licensed work from the first party. If it came down to it, a judge and jury would probably use the GPL v3 rules for an ambiguous v2 license dispute.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Sunday December 09, 2012 @03:22PM (#42235357) Homepage

    I don't think so. "Third party" is, as you say, a specific legal term, but it is well-defined in law. The GPL doesn't provide any other definition, so the standard definition would be used in interpreting that language in the GPL.

    And no, the GPL v3 doesn't allow distributing only to people who got the software directly from the distributor. Section 6 paragraph B (which applies here) says you have to provide the code to anyone who possesses the binaries. If Harry gets the program from you, and then Harry passes a copy along to me, I have a right to get the source code from you (Harry received the software under 6b, I received it under 6c, I possess the binaries thus can invoke 6b against you).

    One thing's remained constant for a long time: the only option that permits you to give source code only to people who received the software directly from you is 3A (GPLv2) or 6A (GPLv3): distributing the source code along with the binaries.

  • Re:GPL != Free (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2012 @04:20PM (#42235859)

    And here is why people don't develop GPL commercial apps.

    YOU ARE ONLY ENTITLED TO THE SOURCE CODE IF YOU HAVE THE BINARY

    How hard is it? The *distributor* of the binary is requires to distribute the source code as well. IF you get the binary from some HAX4FREE website, well, then you can aks them for the source code too, NOT the original developer.

    THE DISTRIBUTOR IS REQUIRES TO DISTRIBUTE THE SOURCE CODE

    So if you get the binary from an AppStore, you are entitled for the source code. IF you then get it from a 3rd party, then that 3rd party is required to give you the source code, NOT the original distributor through the AppStore.

    The GPL license talks about distribution of source code along with binary. The GPL license does not limit someone from modifying the source code and keeping the changes to themselves if they don't distribute. If you then illegally get the modified copy, you are NOT entitled to either the binary or the source code.

    Finally, the developer may charge whatever they want for binary, be it free or $10,000,000. For the source code the license is very specific - REASONABLE DISTRIBUTION FEE. If you distribute binary through electronic channels, it is reasonable to get the source code through electronic channels too. You can't turn around and say "source code only available through courier DVD delivery". etc. That is not reasonable.

    Anyway, the entire summary is fucking FUD and morons not understand what GPL even is. They should retain a lawyer so they can spell it out for them. The person not distributing source code is in clear violation. The other person charging $$ and only distributing source to customer is in the clear

  • by tricorn (199664) <sep@shout.net> on Monday December 10, 2012 @07:50AM (#42240853) Journal

    The author says he already did send his changes upstream, but upstream appears to be dead.

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