[Fsfe-ie] GPL query

Glenn Strong Glenn.Strong at cs.tcd.ie
Wed Jun 24 00:17:26 CEST 2009

Malcolm Tyrrell wrote:
> Query from a friend of mine:
> "We have a code released under GPL2, the source is available for
> download over the web and by subversion. However, we would like to have
> some better stats of who our users are and how many they are.
> Unfortunately, its impossible to track people downloading the code via
> subversion. Hence I had an idea to request subversion users to mail us
> to ask for the anonymous password - thus providing us with the number of
> users, and also with email addresses that we can use to send user
> surveys and other spam to. Would this go against the terms of the GPL?"

[I'm not a legal expert, but then you guessed that]

I believe this would be acceptable under the GPL2, and isn't all that
uncommon. There is no requirement that the source be available to the
public at large, only that it be available to those who you have given
the binaries to. Restricting the download to those users via a password
system should be fine.

HOWEVER, they cannot stop further distribution of the sources by their
users, and it would be a violation of the GPL to add any terms that did
this (I am simplifying somewhat here -- see GPLV2 3c, for example). In
practice I imagine that most people would fetch the source from the
original site anyway, so they will probably achieve their aim of
counting the source-desiring users. But if the software wound up in,
say, Debian then downloads of the source debs would not be counted.

> Opinions welcome*.
> Thanks,
> Malcolm
> * Please post to the list since then I can just point him to the
> archives.
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