From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Richard Stallman)
Subject: Executables and anon ftp
Organization: GNUs Not Usenet
Date: Fri, 8 May 1992 10:31:22 GMT
I've heard that there are ftp sites distributing executables of
versions of GCC, without full sources on line side by side with them.
This isn't allowed under the GPL, and for good reason: ensuring users
have easy access to the source code is one of the main aims of GNU.
This is not a matter of deliberate wrongdoing; the source code for
these versions is free and is circulating. (The people who wrote the
modified versions aren't in control of what ftp sites do.) But it is
still a significant matter because it can cause trouble for users.
Sometimes there are patch files available giving changes from an FSF
release, such as 2.1. But this is not sufficient. For example,
suppose the user copies the binaries and patches now, then tries to
use the patches in a few months when a problem arises. At that time
it will be hard to find a copy of GCC 2.1 sources to patch. Instead,
2.3 or 2.4 will be current--but the patches may not work in those
versions, due to the changes we will have made in GCC.
This is why the GPL says that the complete sources have to be made
available. In the case of distribution by anonymous FTP, users can
choose to copy just the executable, but they must have the option of
copying the source as well. So the source has to be on line alongside
If you see an ftp site that has binaries available without complete
sources, please bring this to their attention.