Possible copyright infringement in your software distribution

Rob Kendrick rjek at netsurf-browser.org
Tue May 5 17:11:21 BST 2009

On Tue, 5 May 2009 17:04:52 +0100 (BST)
Chris Evans <chris at cjemicros.co.uk> wrote:

> We have no record here of receiving any email on this subject before!

A copy of this email follows at the end of this email; it must have
vanished into the ether.  Sorry about that.

> and as " If you are not distributing NetSurf in any form, then sorry
> for the noise," applies to us [1] I woudn't expect to have replied.
> [1] There is I believe a very old copy of NetSurf on the A9home's Hard
> drive that we supply but the contents of which is the resposibilty of
> Advantage6 who assure me that the contents of which is legitimate.

Unfortunately, it is you who is distributing it.  Advantage 6
distributed it to you, and you are within your rights to demand the
sources to NetSurf from them, in exactly the same way your customers
are within their rights to demand it from you.  The creator of the
medium doesn't matter; it is who distributes it.  Don't worry; there is
a trivial way to comply with the licence under which NetSurf was
distributed to you, and the original mail details this.

Original email follows;


At the Wakefield Show this weekend, several people said they were using
NetSurf as it was shipped with a product you sold.  I just thought I'd
drop you a line to make sure that you are distributing this software
legally, as it is surprising how many people don't realise they have
requirements if they wish to do so; otherwise they are essentially
pirating the software.  If you are not distributing NetSurf in any
form, then sorry for the noise, although its contents of this email may
be applicable to any other software you distribute that is licenced
under the GPL (like many modern pieces of RISC OS 'freeware').

Basically, if you distribute a binary version of NetSurf, you are
compelled by the licence agreement under which you received NetSurf in
the first place to either include all of the source code alongside, or
provide a written offer valid for three years from the date of
distribution to provide it.  Specifically, you should read section
three of the GPL, which I will include here;

3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it,
under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of
Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

	a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable
	   source code, which must be distributed under the terms of
	   Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for
	   software interchange; or,
	b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three
	   years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than
	   your cost of physically performing source distribution, a
	   complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source
	   code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2
           above on a medium customarily used for software interchange;
	c) Accompany it with the information you received as to
	   the offer to distribute corresponding source code. (This
	   alternative is allowed only for noncommercial distribution
	   and only if you received the program in object code or
	   executable form with such an offer, in accord with
	   Subsection b above.)

The entire licence, along with the other licences that effect NetSurf
(which are more liberal than the GPL, and thus most likely won't
concern you) are available from;

You should note that you must also distribute a copy of the GPL licence
text along with NetSurf.

The easiest way to make sure you comply with the licence agreement you
have agreed to by redistributing NetSurf is to simply include a piece
of paper in any physical distribution that has the following written on
	"Some parts of this product are licenced under the General
	 Public Licence.  You can request a copy of all the sources
	 to the parts of the software you are entitled to by sending
	 a request to <email address/postal address>."

You will get bonus points if you include a printed copy of the GPL
text, in addition to a digital copy.  The GPL was written before the
internet was widespread, and so "written offer" is slightly confusing.
Most large companies include a physical sheet of paper in their
physical products to completely cover themselves.  (Consider Netgear's
routers, which are based on Linux.)

You should also note that it is your responsibility to ensure you can
honour any source requests for three years, and not the NetSurf's
project's.  As such, you should keep a copy of the sources for
everything that is GPLed that you distributed; simply forwarding on
your customers to a third party's website is unwise, as that site may
not be assessable in three years time.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact


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