[ILUG-BOM] FOSS profit

Raj Mathur ( राज माथुर ) raju at linux-delhi.org
Fri Dec 31 21:54:01 IST 2010

On Friday 31 Dec 2010, Kenneth Gonsalves wrote:
> On Thu, 2010-12-30 at 20:42 +0530, Raj Mathur (राज माथुर) wrote:
> > That's because your business model is based on a flawed premise:
> > that by
> > giving a GPL software to one person you are obliged to share it
> > with everyone in the world.
> my dear chap, I am talking about open source software - where the
> code is up in a public repository - as the key part of my business
> model is to get outside developers involved. It is not only the best
> model to develop good software at lower costs and sustain the app -
> it is also an affirmation of the stand that it is immoral to keep
> source code closed.

That's totally at variance with what you said earlier.  I was responding 
to your original statement, which, to quote you, is:

> The second scenario is that I write the software on my own time. I
> own the copyright. I can sell it to the client for a fee. But here
> is the catch: If I have licensed it under the GPL, the moment I sell
> it to the client, I have distributed it - and hence am obliged to
> give a copy of the source code to anyone who asks. So only the
> client pays for it, the rest of the world gets it free. This is
> impossible - the client will demand his money back - why should he
> pay while his competitors are all getting it free? - this business
> model will not work.

No mention of public repositories of open source there.  I have no issue 
if you wish to make another point, but your original point has nothing 
to do with your follow-up.

> I am no expert on the GPL and it is quite possible that what you say
> is true - I have seen any number people/companies using the GPL to
> develop software in a closet - and keep it there. Which is why I
> avoid the GPL as restrictive of freedom.

It appears that you're badly confused between development methodology 
and licence.  To clarify, let me give you a couple of scenarios:

1. You develop your software on a public repository, asking for 
contributions from the public.  As long as you have it under a FOSS 
licence (GPL, BSD, or any other), you cannot stop people from 
downloading the source and using it.

Again regardless of the licence, each person who downloads the source 
code from the repository can choose to keep it herself or redistribute 
it.  She can also choose to keep modified versions of the code for 
herself or redistribute it.

2. You develop your software in private manner for a single client.  
Depending on which FOSS licence you choose -- copyleft (GPL) or open 
(BSD, etc.) -- your obligations to provide source code to your client 
will be different.  If you have developed under the GPL, you are obliged 
to provide the source code of the package to the client once you give 
her the binaries.  If under a non-copyleft licence, you don't have that 

The GPL is obviously better in the second scenario, since your client 
will have the source and can make improvements or changes herself if she 
so desires.  If the software is under a non-copyleft licence, the client 
may or may not get the source, depending on your contract and/or your 

In both scenarios, if the person who gets the source modifies it and 
redistributes modified binaries to other people, she is obliged to 
provide the modified source code too if the original software is under 
the GPL.  If the original software is under a non-copyleft licence, she 
is NOT obliged to provide the source, and your software can be made or 
embedded into proprietary products.

I agree that software licensing is a complex issue, but there are enough 
resources available on the Internet to help anyone understand the 
difference between GPL vs non-GPL obligations, pros and cons of each 
type of licence, development methodologies, trademarks and copyrights 
and patents.  I'd be glad to point you in the direction of a few 
introductory texts if you're still confused.  As for the GPL being 
restrictive of freedom -- well, I have no comment since the belief 
obviously springs from a lack of understanding of licensing.


-- Raj
Raj Mathur                raju at kandalaya.org      http://kandalaya.org/
       GPG: 78D4 FC67 367F 40E2 0DD5  0FEF C968 D0EF CC68 D17F
PsyTrance & Chill: http://schizoid.in/   ||   It is the mind that moves

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