Intent of source code distribution
Posted Sep 23, 2006 21:25 UTC (Sat) by spinality
Parent article: Kernel developers' position on GPLv3
What a fascinating discussion, all around. I see one particular salient point. Two distinct GPL objectives are apparent in the discussion: 1. Being sure that distributors of the code share their modifications. 2. Being sure that users of the code have essentially the same ability to make modifications as the distributor. Using binary-only libraries or obfuscated source code would not fulfill the second requirement and is not permitted.
An earlier comment pointed out that, given sufficiently restrictive hardware, distributing source code is little different from distributing read-only object code. It then gives us only the ability to understand how the software works on the device – not the ability to alter its behavior. (This is how IBM used to distribute operating system source.)
If an intent of the GPL is to ensure that the end user has the same ability to modify and use the source code as the distributor, then restrictive hardware seems to defeat its spirit. If the primary intent is to ensure transparency of function and sharing of modification, but not to preserve the technical ability to make changes, then such hardware is not a circumvention.
I seem to hear both positions being argued, often as an implicit subtext.
to post comments)