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leoptimus

Making money with GPL software

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Hi. Just a thought. Suppose that I have developed a very popular Open Source Web Browser like Mozilla Firefox, which always redirects to my website when people search something. My website company ask money to companies whose want to adversiting on it, like Google does. If this browser is distributed by the GNU licence (GPL), making money as I've described above is illegal?

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One of the beauties of the GPL is that anybody can make a copy of your project and start their own. (= forking the project.)

If very many people found that going to your ads was annoying, the project would very quickly have a patch or fork that would get around the annoying behavior.

No, having a project link to a particular web page is not going to be directly illegal. There may be issues with the content on that page, such as advertisers having particular requirements or the content being subject to various laws globally. But that has nothing to do with actually linking to your own page itself.

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You mean if I use your hypothetical browser, go to Google and type "shoes," you will redirect me to your page instead of Google's result page? And your page will contain links to people who have paid you to show up under the "shoes" result?

I don't think its illegal (but I'm not a lawyer), so long as you actually redirect to a page that is not attempting to look like Google (or whatever) at all -- otherwise you'd obviously be infringing upon copyright or trademark, et cetera. In that case your dirty underhanded tactic (which is exactly how it would be viewed by your userbase) will be quite obvious and nobody will use your browser (or, if it offers enough other compelling features, somebody will fork it like frob said).

EDIT: Actually, this kind of behavior might be illegal in terms of unfair business practices, et cetera.

Intercepting the search request will be annoying in any case (how will you recognize the search request URL? You'll need to have your application understand the search string formats of a number of popular web search engines and be able to easily update them if they ever change. Not really difficult, but a pain in the butt and a too much work to go to for a "feature" that will basically kill your project.

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Plus, the whole reason most indie projects go GPL is to get a bunch of programmers who like the goal to put their time and effort into it for free. No open source programmers are going to put their energy into making a scam web browser for you so you can profit off of it. What would be in it for them?

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Is the reason you're asking because you think that it is prohibited to make money from GPL'ed software? If that's the case, the GPL in a nutshell only says that you have to supply the sourcecode when distributing the software, nothing about wheter it has to be non-profit.

Reason I'm asking is that I assumed from your post that you want the answer to one question, but asks another question.

Sorry if I made the wrong assumption.
Quote:
From the GPL
When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price. Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for this service if you wish)

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Thanks a lot for your help.

Quote:

You mean if I use your hypothetical browser, go to Google and type "shoes," you will redirect me to your page instead of Google's result page? And your page will contain links to people who have paid you to show up under the "shoes" result?

I don't think its illegal (but I'm not a lawyer), so long as you actually redirect to a page that is not attempting to look like Google (or whatever) at all -- otherwise you'd obviously be infringing upon copyright or trademark, et cetera. In that case your dirty underhanded tactic (which is exactly how it would be viewed by your userbase) will be quite obvious and nobody will use your browser (or, if it offers enough other compelling features, somebody will fork it like frob said).


For get clarity about the "Search" add-on of my browser, I just wanted to describe some kind of button in the navigator bar, like as the Mozilla navigator searh bar.
I didn't mean to deny the access to Google. If the users type "google.com", they'll get google.

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The GPL isn't about cost or charging for your work, it's all about "code hijacking". The basic thrust of it is that you have to release the source code to anything that's GPL'd, and any package which is built incorporating a GPL package must also be licensed under the GPL - but NOT two things which are simply bundled together and shipped without any coded connection.

So you can put a link button to anything you want on your GPL browser, but you must distribute the source code for the browser and so people will be able to change the button or remove it if they want.

If you don't want them to be able to do that then look closely at the libraries you're using and see if the ones you need actually are GPL. Many (most?) GNU libraries are actually LGPL, which is different in that it allows you to link to the library without having to reveal your own source code. Also, I believe the Mozilla code proper is not GPL at all but their own special license which is much less restrictive.

Even some things which appear to be GPL-licensed might not actually be. I ran into this myself recently with GNU gettext (a package for internationalizing code, useful with GTk). While gettext itself is GPL the runtime libraries which you need to distribute are LGPL, and there's a notice buried inside the package that explains that.

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No, making money that way is fine. But you must provide the source code in its preferred form for editing (i.e. really the source).

So there's nothing stopping someone from creating a patched version which doesn't have this advertising behaviour, then nothing stopping them from distributing this modified version.

Needless to say, Netscape browser (Made by AOL) does something more or less identical to this, and it's a load of rubbish which nobody uses.

In fact Mozilla is licenced under a less restrictive licence than GPL; you don't have to provide the source code to modifications. However, as none of AOL's modifications (to Mozilla) are at all desirable, nobody cares.

Mark

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