[ros-general] Just a curiosity-- ROS redistribution legalities

Wierd Wierd wierd_w at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 17 02:42:21 CET 2003


Someday ROS will be a stable alternative to using M$
windows- and I have some questions.

I personally think ROS would be extremely attractive
to small system builders and retailers, since M$'s
business model is EXTREMELY restrictive to such
ventures- (your local computer shop, who cannot afford
a massive licensing scheme like what M$ perfers.)

It is extremely difficult for a computer entrepreneur
to become a legitimate "Microsoft certified system
builder", and get their deployment kits, and get
licensed redistribution packages at reasonable prices
that such an entrepreneur can afford. (one must go
through a bunch of hoops and 'certification exams', as
well as practically signing away your firstborn child
in order to be eligable.)

Because of these limitations, ROS would be VERY VERY
appealing to small system builders in this marketing
venue- I am just curious what the legalese would be
for somebody considering it. (To be honest, I have
been considering starting up such a venture, but the
licensing model from M$ is too prohibitive.)

So, Say if this person were to have ROS installed
stock, with various other Open Source packages, like
OpenOffice (there is a win32 port), and perhaps some
open sourced entertainment packages, as well as a
collection of the sources for such applications
distributed on CD-Rom media (to maintain compliance
with GPL), and the associated ReadMe's with each
package, indicating where to go for more information
about individual packages- Would this strategy be on
the "Up and up"?

The reason being, that the most costly part of any
modern 'win32' based computer is its operating system.
By eliminating a Windoze license, you EASILY shave off
300$ from the computer's price.  So, your 500$
cheapskate computer is now a 200$ cheapskate
computer--
(A common gripe from the Linux Community is that
commercial PCs ship with a Windows license, that linux
users dont want or need. There have been petitions to
major system builders to provide refunds for these
windows licenses. However, because these large
providers have practically sold their souls to M$,
they cannot sell computers without that license, and
are quite unwilling to refund the license. Small
retailers however, are not encumbered by such
restrictions, and would in fact, PROFIT by not being
FORCED into such licensing models.)

>From an entrepreneur's viewpoint, this means an
increase in potential sales, so long as win32
compatability is stable and reliable. From an ROS
point of view, it is a potential means of releasing
the OS on a public venue. Especially if such systems
are released at a heavy consumer shopping month, like
the Christmas season. Linux doesnt seem to perform
well in the normal 'home end user' category, but I
suspect ROS *will*. 

I realise that it will be some time before ROS is
ready for distribution in this form, but I am a
patient person-  I am just wanting the full scoop, so
I can get all my ducks in a row.

So far, this is what I understand must be done if I
were to build and sell computers preloaded with ROS,
and other OpenSource software:

1) The system should not have buyware installed, but
may come bundled with buyware on a second CD that the
User may install at their whim. Such a CD should be
carefully and CLEARLY marked, so it is not confused
with Open Source software.

2) The GPL license, and all other licenses pertaining
to ROS, and any other OpenSource software packages
must be supplied in plain view to the user of ROS and
such packages. (like, putting the licenses and the
package's readme's in the start menu along with same
said applications, and placing a link on the desktop
of the ROS installed machine to ROS's license and
readme, where it is in plain and unobstructed view.)

3) The source code to such products must be made
available, and contact information for project
maintaners should be provided. Media with authentic
installers, and full documentation should also be
provided. (So that the user can re-install any
software later, including a ROS install CD. The user
should be made aware that it is perfectly legal for
them to use that CD to install ROS on any machine they
own, and feel it is needed on, and that the same
applies to all other Open source software bundled with
the unit.)

4) ROS, and any/all other open sourced products must
not be 'sold', but reimbursement charges (copying, or
other expenses for making products and sources
available) are applicable within reason.

I also understand that you are attempting to create an
ROS SDK- Since many mid-level businesses purchase
systems from local retailers to reduce overhead, would
it be legitimate to provide the ROS SDK along with
corporate purchased system units? Providing a 'free'
SDK would be very attractive to some organisations
seeking to do in-house software development, and could
be a potential selling point. (especially if programs
produced using the ROS SDK work fine under existing
windows platforms, which may allready be in service at
said corporation.)

I would really like this information. Any and all
feedback will be very much welcome. 

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