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Re: [fluid-dev] Another application using FluidSynth announced

From: Matt Giuca
Subject: Re: [fluid-dev] Another application using FluidSynth announced
Date: Tue, 13 Sep 2011 12:05:44 +1000

> For point 3, I think it fails because you can choose to distribute the
> modified source code outside App Store, and it'll be available to use for
> anyone who fulfils points 1. and 2.

That's a good point, but I think it's all about whether you're
distributing the binaries or the source. Remember, the (L)GPL really
doesn't say much about distributing the source -- it is mostly
concerned with what happens when you distribute binaries. If you
release an iPhone app using FluidSynth *solely in source form*, I
doubt anybody here would have a problem. You're giving the users the
source code *only* and they can give their recipients the same freedom
you gave them (that is, the ability to compile the app for 100
devices, but not engage in widespread distribution). Section 6 only
applies when you distribute binaries. If you distribute the full App
Store executable signed by Apple, then you are required to release the
source code, data and utilities for reconstructing that same
executable, which you clearly can't.

Yes, anyone who fulfils points 1 and 2 will be able to compile and run
the program. But they won't have the ability to mass distribute a
modified binary. That is a significant loss of freedom compared to a
normal operating system, where I could patch FluidSynth, recompile the
program, and then host the binary (with source) on my web server for
people to run directly. On iOS, I can still patch FluidSynth, but I
can't host the binary on my server -- I need to tell people to get the
source code, a Mac, XCode, and sign up for the AdHoc Apple developer
program (which Graham tells us is free). As the downstream recipient
of the software, I have significantly less freedom than the upstream
developer, who can release new versions as binaries in the App Store.
It is precisely this freedom which the LGPL is supposed to protect for
downstream recipients.

I don't want to sound like I'm promoting "fanaticism and radicalism"
as Pedro put it. You might say my position here is a "hard line"
position. But really, there is no point in having a license if people
can later say, "yeah, but we don't want to enforce that particular
rule because it would do us more harm than good." If FluidSynth had
chosen the BSD license, I wouldn't be making this argument, because
all of the contributors would have contributed under the knowledge
that each recipient could do whatever they wanted with the source
code. The point of *this* license (the LGPL) is that the original
developer who chose the license, and all the subsequent contributors,
did so under the knowledge that their code would be passed down giving
each recipient along the chain the same freedoms that their
predecessor had. It seems like this debate has descended into the "BSD
vs (L)GPL" debate (do we give the users total freedom, or do we ensure
the software is free?) -- normally a legitimate debate with no right
and wrong answers, except in the case of FluidSynth the answer has
already been chosen.

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