Re: [OT] Making money with GPLed Software / Fairness

From: Patrick TJ McPhee (
Date: 09/11/03

Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2003 17:32:59 +0200 (MEST)

In article <bjp6h6$cv2$02$>,
Holger Hoffmann <> wrote:

% I'm really in a dilemma: next to my (CS) studies I work to earn some
% extra $$$, and in the future I'm planning to employ GPLed software to
% solve a problem (e.g. writing a letter with OpenOffice) and/or use GPLed
% software in solutions (e.g. building a fileserver using FreeBSD).

FreeBSD is not GPLed per se, although some of the utilities which are
shipped with the system are. I don't think OpenOffice is under GPL at all.

The following is not legal advice.

The general rule for GPL software is that the licence imposes no
restrictions on your use of the software as shipped, for instance you
can write a letter with OpenOffice without GPL coming into it, or use
gawk as a filter without the rest of the software in the pipeline being
under GPL, but any derived software must be entirely under GPL, meaning
that if you write some code and link it with GPL software, the code you
write must be under GPL. Apart from that, you can do anything you like.

The general rule for BSD-licenced software is that you can do anything
you like, but at least in some cases must acknowledge your use of the

There are many other public licences which attempt to find a balance
between these extremes.

% I assume that:
% - I must not promote my work with the other software

Why not?

% - I must not charge people for this software

You may charge as much as you can get away with. What you can't do with
GPL is restrict people from giving away the software that you've sold
them. Note that this doesn't apply to all public licences. Some don't
permit resale. It does apply to GPL and Berkley-style licences.

% - I do have to release my additions to the software as GPL as well

For software based on GPL. For software not based on GPL, you may not
release your additions under GPL, although you can use a modified
GPL-style mess.

% - I may charge my customers for e.g. installing/configuring the software

As much as you can get away with.

% Now for the really hard part: what if I want to give something back to
% the various projects?

Contribute bug reports and fixes.

% c.) Even trickier: When I design & implement a dynamic website: do I
% donate to the PHP Project since I'm using PHP? Should I donate to
% Apache? MySQL? Or should that be the problem of the guys actually
% hosting the site?

I believe that MySQL does not permit commercial use without a commercial
licence. I suggest you give whatever you feel is comfortable to
whichever projects are helping you become independently wealthy. You can
build some of that into your service price if you can get away with it.

Patrick TJ McPhee
East York  Canada