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I've looked over the GPL2 and I'm not sure I understand it in relation to an issue.

We would like to give a binary version of our plugin for free to use at different sites in related organizations. Would building the unmodified release Wireshark with the plugin and then distributing it run afoul of the license?

We wouldn't be charging for Wireshark or the plugin. We wouldn't be changing the Wireshark source code. We don't want to release the source code for the plugin for reasons outside of copyright/patents.

asked 11 Mar '14, 09:19

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tlann
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Define "related organizations". Are they part of your organization, such as wholly owned subsidiaries, or do you mean other organizations but in a related field? If they're other organizations, then if you give any of them your plugin you also have to make the source code of your plugin available upon request, to anyone.

(11 Mar '14, 11:05) Hadriel

As far as I understand, distributing it inside your company is ok. To other companies is not.

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answered 11 Mar '14, 10:00

Anders's gravatar image

Anders ♦
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accept rate: 17%

The GPL FAQ discusses distribution and the extent thereof as regards source availability here. It's not clear to me what the limits are of any specific "organisation".

(11 Mar '14, 10:47) grahamb ♦

IANAL (of course) but the way I've always thought of it (which I think simplifies things greatly) is: GPL requires that you give the source code to anyone you give the binary to. If I give a binary to users in my company then they must be able to get the source if they want it (this is easy as we're in the same company). If I give the binary to someone at another company then I must give the source to those people. If I somehow make the binary public then I must give the source code to everyone because, as they say, the cat's out of the bag.

(11 Mar '14, 11:15) JeffMorriss ♦

IANAL either, but I believe technically if you give it to anyone outside your organization, then anyone must be able to get the source. The license is transferable, so anyone else could get it indirectly from the party you gave it to, and rightly demand the source from you. Or at least that's my interpretation of this.

(11 Mar '14, 11:40) Hadriel

Right, makes sense. So within my company I can control it because I can prevent it from leaving the "building." Once it's outside of my "control" (so much as I control anything at work ;-)) it's open to the world.

(11 Mar '14, 12:51) JeffMorriss ♦

@Hadriel,

IANAL either.

The GPL FAQ seems to imply the requirement to give the source to anybody who asks depends on how you distribute the source in the first place, see the entry about the written offer of sources.

If you give the source to the recipients with the binaries, then I think you're done as it's then the recipients duty to make the source available to anyone they distribute the binaries to.

If however, you only make the offer of sources, then as any third party could obtain the binaries via a further distribution, your offer must be available to that third party, i.e. anyone.

(12 Mar '14, 02:58) grahamb ♦

Yup good point, but I was assuming tian's question meant he didn't want to distribute the source with the plugin.

(12 Mar '14, 08:47) Hadriel

Just one more comment: I remember reading recently (but I don't have the time to find the link) that while you cannot give your GPL code to a customer under NDA (i.e., to prevent them from distributing your work) it is possible to "prevent" them from distributing your work by threat of terminating support or whatever. They are (by GPL) still legally allowed to distribute your work (including source code) but you also would have the right to cancel their support agreement if they do. The FSF weighed in on that and agreed it was legal--the GPL says nothing about other contracts that might be in place between the program author and program user.

(12 Mar '14, 15:26) JeffMorriss ♦
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question asked: 11 Mar '14, 09:19

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