Q&A: Is it legal to sell ‘free’ software?

gnu-gpl-logoQuestion from Gordon H.: I have a very simple question for you Rick: Is it legal to sell free software?

I’m asking because I just bought a DVD off of eBay that’s packed with tons of software programs for troubleshooting and maintaining a PC, but I have just found out that ALL of it is freeware that’s distributed under the GNU GPL License.

This just seems to me like it should be illegal. Thanks in advance for your answer as I have come to trust your judgement in such matters.

Rick’s answer: The short answer to your question is yes, Gordon. It is entirely legal to charge for copies of “free” software that is distributed under the GNU GPL license. That is clearly stated in the last paragraph in section 4 of the “Terms And Conditions” of the GNU GPL license:

“You may charge any price or no price for each copy that you convey, and you may offer support or warranty protection for a fee.”

Note: Keep in mind that this only applies to software that’s distributed under the GNU GPL licence. It might or might not be legal to sell “free” software that’s distributed under different licensing terms.

Bottom line: As long as every program on the DVD you purchased is distributed under the GNU GPL license (which you stated is the case), the seller was within his legal rights to sell them to you.

Of course there is always the question of whether it’s “moral” to do so (some people agree with you that it isn’t), but it is completely legal.

I hope this helps Gordon. Take care.

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