[sword-devel] CDEarth GPL violation

Chris Little chrislit at crosswire.org
Wed Mar 26 23:03:18 MST 2008

Steve Dibb wrote:
> peter wrote:
>>> 4) The little slip of paper that comes with it, like the website, makes 
>>> mention that "[t]hrough our special licensing arrangement and because we 
>>> publish our software directly to you, each trial CD is only USD$14.99 
>>> (which as you know is up to 80% off the store price for similar 
>>> products)." I suspect this is itself in violation of the GPL. I don't 
>>> believe there is any recourse for revocation of a license from end-users 
>>> like the term "trial" implies. I also don't know that the whole 
>>> try-for-25-days-then-we-bill-you concept is quite kosher with the GPL. 
>>> It might require some pretty close reading of the license.
> There's nothing wrong with selling GPL'd software, for any amount of money.
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0-faq.html#DoesTheGPLAllowMoney

Yeah, I know. I never questioned the right to sell. That's not the issue.

The issues are claims like "special licensing". GPL roughly the most 
un-special licensing imaginable since 1) everyone get the same licensing 
deal and 2) you're obligated to extend the same licensing to others. The 
implication is that CDEarth has some set of special rights, rights that 
are not given to other parties, including their customers.

The other major issue I'm bringing up here is the "trial" nature of the 
software. That implies that CDEarth may revoke your license after you 
have received it if you don't pay them an additional $14.99 per copy. 
The GPL doesn't actually permit you to charge for software, only for 
"the physical act of transferring a copy"--which can reasonably include 
shipping, duplication, website hosting, & other business overhead. 
There's no problem there. The problem is the later $14.99 per copy 
charge incurred for the software itself. The GPL also afford no right to 
revoke GPL rights except in the case of GPL violation. I.e., it's not 
permitted to deny rights afforded by the GPL after distribution has 
happened and it is not permitted to deny usage if the user fails to pay 
a $14.99 licensing fee.

>>> But most importantly:
>>> 5) There's no source code, nor an offer for source code, for The SWORD 
>>> Project for Windows or MacSword.
> It doesn't have to be distributed with the binaries, just available upon 
> request.
> What they do need to do is let the person know that 1) It's licensed 
> under the GPL and 2) how to get the source code.
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0-faq.html#WhyMustIInclude

What I stated was absolutely correct. Go read the GPL--the actual GPL, 
not a FAQ. The relevant section is 3.

They must include either the source code or a WRITTEN offer for source 
code. (The third option isn't relevant since this is commercial 

Like I said, it's a GPL violation.

> So, we're actually and legitimately in
>>> a position where we can demand removal, DMCA takedown by the ISP, all 
>>> that good stuff.
> Or, you could ask them to correct the errors, and continue letting them 
> do the legwork of marketing and getting Sword out to more people.  I'd 
> also recommend giving them a hand and getting them most recent versions 
> to distribute, they would probably appreciate a hand.

We're not in the habit of assisting people to defraud our users. These 
people are deliberately trying to hide the source of the works they 
distribute, committing a number of acts of fraud in the process, 
scamming people who don't know any better, spamming websites, and 
creating huge ill-will in the process. We aren't in the habit of helping 
others make money off of our work without having contributed anything at 
all to our efforts. And the mere suggestion that we would align 
ourselves with a company that is committing these kinds of illegal and 
immoral acts is just ludicrous.


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