This is a quote from the FSF website, the FSF and the GNU foundations are closely tied and the FSF defends the GPL.

A company is running a modified version of a GPL'ed program on a web site. Does the GPL say they must release their modified sources?

The GPL permits anyone to make a modified version and use it without ever distributing it to others. What this company is doing is a special case of that. Therefore, the company does not have to release the modified sources.

It is essential for people to have the freedom to make modifications and use them privately, without ever publishing those modifications. However, putting the program on a server machine for the public to talk to is hardly "private" use, so it would be legitimate to require release of the source code in that special case. Developers who wish to address this might want to use the Affero GPL for programs designed for network server use.

Emphasis mine.

It appears, from this FAQ, that the FSF considers hosting a public website to be "distribution".

The question this raises is if Drupal, being under GPL, is hosted on any webserver, that the webserver must also provide it's sourcecode. The particular case would be modifications to the core Drupal code. This source code would need to be provided "in the same location" as the program was provided.

This opens two major questions.

1. Should Drupal default installations have a folder that provides the default code for download?

2. If I make modification to code in a Drupal website, am I obliged to provide my modified and modules code for download on my site?

PS ( 3. Since technically the code contains the MySQL password, would that also be required?!? )

Comments

It appears, from this FAQ, that the FSF considers hosting a public website to be "distribution".

No, it does not. They specifically state: "Therefore, the company does not have to release the modified sources.". It is a legitimate concern however, so if you want to require release ("..would be legitimate to require release of the source code.."), then you should use the Affero GPL (See clause 1d).

To clarify; the earlier text of this part of the FAQ read:

However, putting the program on a server machine for the public to talk to is hardly "private" use, so it would be legitimate to require release of the source code in that special case. We are thinking about doing something like this in GPL version 3, but we don't have precise wording in mind yet.

In the mean time, you might want to use the Affero GPL for programs designed for network server use.

So the answer to both of your questions is no.

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Assuming that's true, what does the clause about ...

However, putting the program on a server machine for the public to talk to is hardly "private" use, so it would be legitimate to require release of the source code in that special case.

... have to do with.

Can you give an example where the above condition would need to be enforced to clarify what they are trying to explain?

I must say, this Drupal thing sure is fun.

that is ridiculously poorly written. Ultimately it says first and foremost that the company does not have to distribute the modified sources.

About that second paragraph though that I want you to consider. It only says that "putting the program on a server machine for the public to talk to is hardly "private" use", but it doesn't say that you therefore must distribute anywhere in that paragraph. I have to assume that paragraph is written from the point of view of appropriateness or "best practices" in terms of the views of free software advocates.

On the other hand, it's ridiculously confusing and could go either way.

I think I would ask for a clarification from the FSF before making some sort of change to Drupal from our collected impressions. I have to believe that if the FSF thought Drupal was doing something not in compliance with the GPL, they'd be very vocal about it. Very, very, vocal.

I certainly agree with that.

I think it's likely that the FAQ was just poorly written.

I have initiated contact with the FSF regarding this matter and I should hear back from them this week. I used a hypothetical Drupal installation and a modified Drupal installation as examples. I'll post here when I get a response.

Stupid FAQs.

Stupid Laws.

I must say, this Drupal thing sure is fun.

Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 12:03:18 -0400
From: Yoni Rabkin via RT
To: xxxxxx@xxxx.xxx
Subject: [gnu.org #342746] Confusion regarding website GPL licensing.

Hello,

> The first indicates that my website is considered public and thus both
> the Drupal code and my module must be released as source code.

I understand that you are running a Website using free software licensed
under the GNU GPL, but that you are not distributing the software/the
code for that Website. As the FAQ item you quoted states, you are not
required to publicly distribute any part of the software, but if and
when you do distribute the software, in source and/or binary form, you
can only do so under the terms of the GPL.

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I am not a lawyer, the above is not legal advice

Regards, Yoni Rabkin

I must say, this Drupal thing sure is fun.

Perhaps some clarification for your question #2: if you create custom themes/modules for your site, you can "release" them under whatever license you want. Or in your case, don't release them.

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Current Drupal project: http://www.ubercart.org

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Drupal by Wombats

if you create custom themes/modules for your site, you can "release" them under whatever license you want.

If you release them, they have to be released under the GPL, though images and CSS are most likely exempt. See also the huge thread on the development list.

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Do you by any chance have a link to the thread? I thought that was the point of folks choosing not to use Drupal.org for the distribution of their modules... anything distributed through here had to be GPL whereas you could license it alternatively if distributed through a personal site.

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Current Drupal project: http://www.ubercart.org

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Drupal by Wombats

definitely

I'm not certain about that. From past discussions I have seen on this site any module written for Drupal that has been distributed is covered by the GPL.

http://drupal.org/node/37504

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Using homegrown modules on a public website is as much a distribution of source code as a dinner at a restaurant is a "distribution" of the recipe.

*shaking head*

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