Distributing Fedora packages under GPLv2 3(b)

Simo Sorce ssorce at redhat.com
Sat Oct 6 16:31:53 UTC 2007

On Fri, 2007-10-05 at 22:02 -0500, Matt Domsch wrote:
> The "three years" part isn't really clarified in v3 either.  A
> pessimistic read would be "three years from the last distribution",
> which would be forever if you don't know when the last distribution
> was.  I can't believe this is what they intend, but IANAL, and
> definitely IANAFSFL.

While sometimes legal matters seem to be complicated, this one is pretty
1st of all there is no concept of first, last or middle distribution, GA
date or anything in a license.

The license is binding at the moment of distribution.

So the 3 years promise is a promise to provide source code for that
specific GPLv2 package you distributed starting exactly the day it was
handed on.
So the 3 years promise for a Distribution on a CD start from the Day you
actually distributed the specific CD.
The reason why 3b is difficult to respect is that you have to keep
track, at least of the last time you distribute as binary only + promise
a specific package, and keep it's source code for 3 years since then.

To be clear, if you decide, for some reason, to distribute (binary only
CD) an old Fedora release say 2 years after it has been published, then
you have to keep sources for another 3 years.

That's why most vendors use this option only under controlled conditions
when they can keep track easily of the distributed material, all others
ship CDs with sources to avoid this problem or ship binaries only via
the net, as that way their obligations are fulfilled immediately and
don't have to keep track of anything for long periods of time.

Now this means at all effects: "3 years from last distribution", but it
should be corrected to: "3 years from last distribution on a media in
binary only *by the Fedora Project* itself"

If someone else make up a fedora CD and distributes it, it is *their*
duty to keep up the promise, as *they* are distributing not the Fedora

In Conclusion, I say we should always provide source CDs when Binary
only CDs are distributed. From what I can understand, picking up the
offered source CD is up to the person that accept the binary CD, we
don't need to force people to take the source CD as well. And this means
that most probably the number of CD with sources that someone need to
bring along is substantially inferior to the number of binary CDs as
most people will choose, at the moment, no to pick the sources CDs. But
*this* point should be evaluated by a real lawyer or asked the FSF.


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