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GPLv2 terms state the following (see below). But does this means to be able to charge an unlimited amount for copy transfer (it may be object code) and the limitation not to exceed distribution fees is applied only to source code (especially when asked by a user who recieved the object code)?

3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following: a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or, b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code,

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    If the price is high, this may imply that the OSS author will probably sell it only one time. As it is said, the software copy (including both object and source code) may be got from several sources; other users may exerce the right to distribute the OSS free of charge or for lesser amount.
    – Silkly
    Mar 26 at 12:49

2 Answers 2

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As the FSF clearly state, charging money for free software is absolutely fine; what you're not allowed to do is hold your users to ransom once they've bought the software. Buying the software includes the four freedoms; your users are allowed to share copies of the software, to have access to the source, and may use your software in their own projects and for their own purposes, so long as, if they distribute it, they do so under similar free terms. All versions of the GPL permit this.

You may find that if you set the price too high, the business model is unsustainable as the users will use their freedom to share their own copies - both binary and source - but that's just how free software helps keep people honest.

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The GPLv2 requires, as a rule, that GPL'd object code be accompanied by its source code. Whenever you transfer a copy of the binary (which must generally be accompanied by corresponding source), you may charge whatever you like (or whatever your buyer will agree to) as part of that transaction.

One special case of this rule is that you may, instead, have the binary accompanied by a promissory document that says "I, Foo Barr, will send a copy of the source to anyone who asks." That promise may also require a small fee, e.g., "I will send it to anyone who asks on CD media for a shipping cost of $5."

Fulfilling the promise to send the source on demand cannot cost more than what it actually costs you to send the source. This fee constraint has no relationship to unlimited prices that you (or downstream distributors) may set for transferring the binary (either with source code or an attached promise for source code).

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  • I understand that your answer is not supposed to focuessed on that detail, yet you don't have to promise to ship the source code to anyone who asks, but only to those people you shipped the binary to. If someone else forwards the binary you shipped to them, it's their duty to also forward the source code (accompanying the binary, or on demand). Mar 27 at 7:15
  • The specific language regarding the promissory note from the license is [bold italic emphasis mine]: "Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code,". This was changed in GPLv3 to "anyone who possesses the object code". Mar 27 at 13:31

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