[linux-audio-user] License free Linux ??

Rob lau at kudla.org
Fri Dec 5 09:55:59 EST 2003

On Friday 05 December 2003 05:17, Daniel James wrote:
> I have been in touch with eBay about this person. eBay has a
> programme called Vero - for verified rights owners - which
> allows the Audacity team to get copyright infringing items
> removed from the listings. I believe there is a copyright
> infringement here based on GPL violation, as I don't see the
> offer of source code anywhere.

Well, the GPL doesn't have any advertising clause, which is why 
it's incompatible with old BSD-style licenses.  It appears to 
state pretty clearly that you can tell the user about their 
rights under the GPL in a splash screen or something similar, 
but the section where it says that is a legally enforceable part 
of the license (if it were, then "ls" in the GNU utils would be 
violating the GPL for example, by not mentioning the GPL if 
invoked without any arguments.)

> a) he doesn't tell his customers that Audacity is a free beer
> and very small download, typically only a couple of MB for the
> binary

Shareware vendors never did, either.  I agree that it's unethical 
but it's hardly an uncommon practice... it's just that that type 
of vendor never did much with free software for Windows till 

> b) by changing the name he divorces 'his' users from the
> Audacity community, which is a pretty good way of hiding
> source code availability. Obscuring its origin, he breaks the
> feedback loop which allows users to improve free software

He certainly goes out of his way to mention that a community 
developed it, but he also goes out of his way to make it 
non-obvious where exactly that community is.

> I understand that this individual hasn't modified the software
> at all - he is just misrepresenting it in order to sell it to
> people who don't know about Audacity. It's a very crude way of
> turning free software proprietary.

I certainly don't think he'd try to sue people who made further 
copies of Audacity after buying them from him.  And for whatever 
reason, people don't seem to mind buying free software.... the 
guy has a 99.5% feedback rating with 4801 positives and 23 
negatives.  He has had about 500 repeat buyers, going by his 
feedback ratings, which is way too many to be astroturf.  To me 
this just demonstrates how poorly we free software enthusiasts 
have done at promoting free software to Windows users.

As a matter of fact, if you look through his feedback, you'll get 
to page 18 (as of today) before you find anyone complaining (and 
then with a neutral, not a negative) that they "Paid 8 bucks for 
software I found for free at another site. Oh well!"  Whereas 
there are a number of neutrals arising from people buying the 
software (usually the gimp) and deciding it sucks.  (Lots of 
backhanded compliments in the positive feedback though that 
suggests he includes no documentation with his stuff... I 
suppose that's how he can get away with selling printouts of 
Grokking the Gimp and the OpenOffice manual on his site, and I 
guess that's the only reason he ever mentions the real names of 
those programs...)

> Real community distributors offer a download and CD burning
> service for people who don't have broadband but need GBs of
> software, but if you can use eBay then you can easily download
> Audacity. So there's no moral justification at all for this
> scam.

I agree that the guy kinda sucks, but I'm also wondering if 
people buying "his" software will, after discovering Audacity's 
real identity, get exposed to other free software that way.

How about a splash screen in the next version that says something 
like "If you bought this from someone on ebay, you got robbed!" 
the first time you run it? Or, more positively, "For a free copy 
of this and lots of other free Windows software, visit 
gnuwin.epfl.ch or www.theopencd.org." At least that would force 
him to either learn how to use a compiler or stay back at 1.0.  
I suppose it depends on how much of a problem the developers 
really consider this guy to be.


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