9

A device I own uses BusyBox. BusyBox is licensed under GPLv2, hence, the software in my device must have a GPLv2 license.

Now, the company says they make the source code available, but for a charge, plus the shipping cost.

Is this legal? Can they charge to distribute the source codes for a software which I bought the binaries?

11

Yes. The terms are described in the GPLv2 license (emphasis mine):

  1. 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,

  • This seems to contradict the "charge, plus the shipping cost" mentioned in the OP. – Ruslan Sep 23 '16 at 19:47
  • 7
    @Ruslan, there's more to "physically performing the source distribution" than just dropping something in the mail. There's the cost of the storage medium, the cost of the envelope, the time and effort of preparing it, and so on. – Mark Sep 23 '16 at 20:02
  • Yet in most cases and today's world the marginal cost of a web-based downloadable redistribution is effectively zero. Now for the GPL 2 at least there is no such obligation to provide a web-based redistribution so a physical redistribution costs are to be determined on a case-by-case basis. @utku What would be the actual cost you are asked to cover? – Philippe Ombredanne Sep 25 '16 at 21:53
  • @PhilippeOmbredanne $10 (plus shipping). I would say it's only a discouraging measure for not actually wanting to distribute source code. IMO, it's a shame that GPL has such a loophole that can be exploited (as opposed to simply requiring to host the code in a public server which is accessible free of charge). – Utku Sep 28 '16 at 15:19
  • 1
    $10 + shipping is perfectly fine IMHO. This is NOT a loophole... You have a to understand that when the GPL was drafted snail mail was the only reliable way to physically distribute software. Also consider this: you redistribute GPL code and live in a place with no internet access: if you are receiving thousand source code requests, it is only fair to have the requester pay for shipping and handling. – Philippe Ombredanne Sep 29 '16 at 6:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.