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durable physical medium

durable physical medium

Posted Jan 23, 2006 23:16 UTC (Mon) by sanjoy (subscriber, #5026)
In reply to: Suits and Patents: A Report from the GPLv3 Launch Conference by dmarti
Parent article: Suits and Patents: A Report from the GPLv3 Launch Conference

"Durable physical medium" protects users whose only access to the Internet would be through an ISP that has unconscionable Terms of Service, but who have access to postal mail.

I think the GPL is brilliant and useful, but I disagree with its philosophy here because it centralizes the hassle caused by lame ISP's. If you have a lame ISP, you can ask a friend with a decent one to download the source for you, burn a CD, and post it to you. Decentralizing this work means that providing source code does not become onerous even as the number of users (who want source) grows huge. The developers can spend most of their time improving the program, and less of it burning CDs.

My favorite open-source/free-software license (the Open Software License 3.0) makes it very easy: The licensor merely has to place

a machine-readable copy of the Source Code in an information repository reasonably calculated to permit inexpensive and convenient access by You for as long as Licensor continues to distribute the Original Work.

Those terms ('for as long...') remind me of another problem with the GPL, that you have to provide source for three years after you stop distributing the binary (or book or whatever object code you use it for). Three years is a long time in the computer world! Many websites do not exist for that long.

I recognize that sometimes it is better to centralize a hassle. Obfuscated email addresses in Usenet postings, or in mailing list archives, shift the burden of dealing with spam from the poster to every reader who wants to reply and has to type the correct address in by hand. But if the poster has a decent spam filter (e.g. bogofilter), or their ISP does, it would take care of most of the problem. Or, to reduce pollution, use electric cars (the energy is generated in a large central power plant, which presumably can afford good scrubbing technology, whereas a gasoline-powered car has to carry the technology (catalytic converters) around with it, which is much more expensive and wasteful).

However, with source code provision, I think decentralizing has advantages.


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durable physical medium

Posted Jan 24, 2006 0:01 UTC (Tue) by piman (subscriber, #8957) [Link]

If you ship the binaries and the source code at the same time, none of that matters. It's only if you offer just the binaries. This won't bother developers at all, only people who distribute binaries without source -- who, if they had the resources to distribute the binaries, should have no problems with the source.

durable physical medium

Posted Jan 24, 2006 19:07 UTC (Tue) by sanjoy (subscriber, #5026) [Link]

All good points. Although one case I was thinking about, from a recent discussion on debian-legal, is if you want to hand out OpenOffice CD's or Knoppix CD's, as good publicity for free software.

Ideally you'd just like to tell anyone who asks: "Go to openoffice.org for the 1GB of source code." That relies on provision 3(c) of the GPL:

Accompany it with the information you received as to the offer to distribute corresponding source code.

But if you downloaded OpenOffice from openoffice.org, then you cannot rely on provision 3(c) because it is available only if you (a) are noncommerical, which you might be, and (b) if you received a written, three-year offer when you got the program, in accordance with your upstream source following provision 3(b). Openoffice.org, as far as I know, isn't providing such an offer. They (reasonably) just offer you source and binary on the same website, which is following provision 3(a).

3 years

Posted Jan 24, 2006 0:01 UTC (Tue) by jzbiciak (subscriber, #5246) [Link]

Well, the net effect of the 3 years provision is that if you violate it, you lose your legal right to redistribute modified binaries, as extended to you by the GPL. If you lose your physical ability to distribute the source code (e.g. your website implodes for whatever reason), chances are you've also lost your ability to distribute the binaries.

The net effect of this provision is that you are encouraged to offer the binaries and corresponding source together. If, for some reason, the two channels are separate (think "firmware" and "website" for binaries and source, respectively), then you must take additional pains to ensure that the source remains available.

I don't think this is too onerous. Web hosting is cheap (and getting cheaper), and is especially cheap with respect to the cost of developing the software in house.

3 years

Posted Jan 24, 2006 2:05 UTC (Tue) by drag (subscriber, #31333) [Link]

Not to only mention that it doesn't specify that you have to have it immediately aviable.. and that it's always been possible to recoup the expenses caused by distributing the source code. (at least in GPLv2, I assume they didn't change it in GPLv3 draft)

For instance if you need to go out and stamp a bunch of cdroms for some people you can change those people postage and the costs of making those cdroms.

So that way you don't have to deal with some a-hole trolling and demanding a hundred copies of source code while posing as multiple people over email or whatnot.

At least that is my understanding.

Ten times cost.

Posted Jan 24, 2006 5:59 UTC (Tue) by xoddam (subscriber, #2322) [Link]

> it's always been possible to recoup the expenses caused by
> distributing the source code. (at least in GPLv2, I assume
> they didn't change it in GPLv3 draft)

They did change it. You're now allowed to charge up to ten
times what it costs you to distribute source, rather than
provide source at cost.

durable physical medium

Posted Jan 24, 2006 9:07 UTC (Tue) by gdt (subscriber, #6284) [Link]

If you have a lame ISP, you can ask a friend with a decent one to download the source for you, burn a CD, and post it to you.

I think the export of the code for PGP on paper shows the utility of a paper copy in the face of lame ISP regulations. It's likely that a CD in the post would have been forbidden under te same regulations that prevented other formes of electronic copies of PGP beng exported.

3 years can now be longer - as long as you distribute the code...

Posted Jan 25, 2006 13:32 UTC (Wed) by dyork (guest, #2819) [Link]

Note that in GPLv3 clause 6b the text actually may require distribution longer than three years (emphasis added):
Distribute the Object Code in a physical product (including a physical distribution medium), accompanied by a written offer, valid for at least three years and valid for as long as you offer spare parts or customer support for that product model, to give any third party, for a price no more than ten times your cost of physically performing source distribution, a copy of the Corresponding Source for all the software in the product that is covered by this License, on a durable physical medium customarily used for software interchange...
This was mentioned at the launch event as a way to prevent people who continue to distribute modified versions for more than three years to escape their obligation to provide source code in this format.

3 years can now be longer - as long as you distribute the code...

Posted Jan 26, 2006 23:23 UTC (Thu) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

valid for at least three years and valid for as long as you offer spare parts or customer support for that product model,

This was mentioned at the launch event as a way to prevent people who continue to distribute modified versions for more than three years to escape their obligation to provide source code in this format.

The three years in (in both GPLs) is from the time of the distribution of the object code copy in question, not the time the first copy was distributed to someone else. So this has always been covered.

What's not covered in GPLv2 is where you give someone a router containing a GPL control program and 4 years later he demands the source code. Under GPLv2, you can say no. Under GPLv3, if you are still answering questions about the router and selling replacement power cords for it, you must say yes. (Under both, if you gave the user a firmware upgrade last year, you must say yes).

durable physical medium

Posted Jan 26, 2006 22:57 UTC (Thu) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

If you have a lame ISP, you can ask a friend with a decent one to download the source for you, burn a CD, and post it to you.

But the "durable physical medium" clause doesn't apply here anyway. The option of mail vs download is the distributor's. So the lame ISP that justifies the durable medium clause is the distributor's ISP. The lame term of service that could cause a problem is one that says you can't operate a server -- i.e. you can't offer stuff for download.

durable physical medium

Posted Feb 2, 2006 9:32 UTC (Thu) by Wol (guest, #4433) [Link]

There's a problem with the Open Source Licence 3 ...

What happens if I print a thousand binary CDs, distribute them as a one-off, and don't print any more?

I make a load of bucks, and my customers don't get source because I'm no longer distributing...

Cheers,
Wol


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