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I have found the following apps on the Google Play store. They are traditional Linux apps for drawing, that are running on Android (with some modification to the source code, I believe).

I would like to ask, if the original licences for these products was the GPL (GNU General Public Licence), how is it, that, these are sold for a fee (although the fee is minimal?

Have there been changes to the GPL version 3 that supersede version 2 allowing the executable from the free code, free for copying and redistribution, to be sold at a fee (perhaps, if I download the code for these apps from GitHub, compile it myself, with Android Studio, on a Windows 11 PC, and install it to USB using "adb install" to my Android phone, then I can install these apps without paying for them?

Essentially, am I just paying compilation and distribution?

Why the fee?

Thanks.

gimp and inkscape

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    Note that there is a reason why those haven't been ported freely: porting is apparently difficult, and there are plenty of complaints that the paid ports don't actually work properly.
    – trlkly
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 16:26
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    The GPL has never prevented selling the executable for a fee.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 17:57
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    "am I just paying compilation and distribution" - the fact that it seems to be strange to OP that this is something worth paying for makes me feel very old.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 14:08

1 Answer 1

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if the original licences for these products was the GPL (GNU General Public Licence), how is it, that, these are sold for a fee (although the fee is minimal)?

As we have said elsewhere more clearly, it's perfectly OK to sell GPL software: that is, to charge for the conveyance of the binary. What the vendor may not do is refuse also to transfer the complete corresponding source code to recipients of the binary, or to further charge for that. Essentially, one must convey freedom along with the product.

Whether the vendor in the above example(s) will give you all this on request will not be known until someone who's paid for the binary asks for it. I have my suspicions, but that's all they are.

Have there been changes to the GPL version 3 that supersede version 2 allowing the executable from the free code, free for copying and redistribution, to be sold at a fee

No, GPLv2 allowed this also.

Why the fee?

The Play store provides a mechanism whereby people can monetise software. Economically speaking, it's probably unavoidable that some people will ignore the "I can charge for software I wrote" model, in favour of the "I can charge for software somebody else wrote" model; the overheads are lower.

Essentially, am I just paying compilation and distribution?

Not even that. You can have single-click access to some five thousand (at time of writing) free software apps for Android via the F-Droid repository, and its corresponding software management app (or equivalents). Because it's specifically for free software, the issues of charging and privacy don't arise (no authentication is required, unlike Play Store), whereas the licence choice and app-related privacy issues are mentioned front-and-centre (at least in the official app). You can run an entire de-Googled Android phone off this repo; I have, for many years.

Somebody once said (I'm sorry I can't find a link offhand) that proprietary software requires you to pay, while free software requires you to learn. One could see this whole exercise as an excellent illustration of that principle.

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    Even if F-Droid exists, paying for either app through the Google Play Store is still paying for at least distribution, and possibly compilation. It’s also, importantly for some people, paying for convenience (F-Droid is great, but it’s not trivial to set up). Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 0:30
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    If I believed that users were, consciously and in the full knowledge of all their options, choosing to pay an avoidable charge in return for convenience, I'd be a lot happier. The OP's question, however, suggests that at least some users who get hit with the charge are not making a fully-informed choice when they click on "GIMP £1.79".
    – MadHatter
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 6:49
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    Ironic that the two paid products listed there preemptively provide the link for their GitHub repo in the About section, while the gratis XGimp doesn't (I know GPL allows that as long as they provide the source code to those who get the binary then ask for it). The About section for the paid apps also mentions a gratis alternative for those who don't want to pay, as far as providing informed choice I think that's as good as it get unless Play Store itself adds a confirmation screen like "This app is open source and you can compile it yourself or find other builds without paying".
    – Martheen
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 9:59
  • Still, the repos themselves don't provide a clear indication of what version it was forked from the mainline product, so it's probably not trivial for anyone else to merge patches from the mainline.
    – Martheen
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 10:01
  • @AustinHemmelgarn F-Droid was super easy to set up for me
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 11:41

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