September 26th, 2010

The GPL GeeXboX License

GeeXboX is more than just a software, it’s a complete Linux distribution, including dozens of software.

All the programs and libraries used by the GeeXboX are protected by their respective licenses.
They are all free software and most of them are covered by the GNU General Public Licence.
The GeeXboX itself, meaning all the scripts which are used in the building toolkit, configuration files, init files, logos but also all the patches that have been added to existent software (in a simple word, all that is included in the GeeXboX full archive) are covered by the GNU General Public Licence.

There might be some confusion about what is required to safely distribute GPL’d software such as GeeXboX or its components as part (or as a standalone) of a product. To ensure that there is no confusion whatsoever, this page attempts to summarize what you should do to ensure you do not accidentally violate the law.

Complying with the GeeXboX license is easy and completely free.

U.S. and International Law protects copyright owners from the unauthorized reproduction, adaptation, display, distribution, etc of copyright protected works. Copyright violations (such as shipping GeeXboX in a manner contrary to its license) are subject to severe penalties. The courts can award up to $150,000 per product shipped without even showing any actual loss by the copyright holder. Criminal penalties are available for intentional acts undertaken for purposes of “commercial advantage” or “private financial gain.”

Remember that GeeXboX is a complete distribution. Violating GeeXboX license means you also have violated license of every software that is part of GeeXboX, meaning Linux, MPlayer, uClibc, BusyBox (where the original copy of this license warning has been taken from) and many others … Criminal penalties can engaged for EACH of these software.

Nobody wants that to happen. Do everyone a favor and don’t break the law — if you use GeeXboX and its components, you must comply with the GeeXboX license.

GeeXboX is licensed under the GNU General Public License

GeeXboX is licensed under the GNU General Public License , which is generally just abbreviated as the GPL license, or just the GPL. Anyone thinking of shipping GeeXboX as part of a product or as a standalone product (especially with customizations) should be familiar with the licensing terms under which they are allowed to use and distribute GeeXboX. You are advised to take a look over the

to be sure you (and your lawyers) fully understand them.

The following is a quick summary for the impatient. If you carefully follow these steps, it will ensure that you are 100% authorized to ship GeeXboX with your product (or as a product), and have no reason to worry about lawsuits. You will be able to sleep peacefully at night knowing you have fulfilled all your licensing obligations.

If you distribute a product, it should either be accompanied by full source for all GPL’d products (including GeeXboX and all of its components) and/or a written offer to supply the source for all GPL’d products for the cost of shipping and handling. The source has to be in its preferred machine readable form, so you cannot encrypt or obfuscate it. You are not required to provide full source for all the closed source applications that happen to be part of the system based on GeeXboX, though you can certainly do so if you feel like it. But providing source for the GPL licensed applications such as GeeXboX and all of its GPL components is mandatory.

Accompanied by source generally means you distribute the full source code for all GPL’d products including GeeXboX along with your product, such as by placing it somewhere on an install CD. Full source code includes the “.config” files for each software included in GeeXboX but also all GeeXboX configuration and initialization scripts used when your shipping GeeXboX derivated binary was compiled, and any and all modifications you made to the GeeXboX (or its components) source code.

A written offer generally means that somewhere in the documentation for your product, you write something like :

The GPL source code contained in this product is available as a free download from http://blah.blah.blah/

Alternatively, you can offer the source code by writing somewhere in the documentation for your product something like :

If you would like a copy of the GPL source code contained in this product shipped to you on CD, please send $9.99 to address which covers the cost of preparing and mailing a CD to you.

Keep in mind though that if you distribute GPL’d binaries online (as is often done when supplying a CD image of a Linux distribution), it is highly recommended that you make the corresponding source available online at the same place. Regardless, if you distribute a binary copy of GeeXboX online (such as part of a new product) you must either make source available online (i.e. accompanied by source) and/or inform those downloading the product of their right to obtain source (i.e. a written offer). Failure to do so is a violation of your licensing obligations.
Some people have the mistaken understanding that if they use unmodified GPL’d source code, they do not need to distribute anything. This belief is not correct, and is not supported by the text of GPL. Please do re-read it — you will find there is no such provision. If you distribute any GPL’d binaries, you must also make source available as discussed on this webpage.

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