We receive regular reports of people or companies who are selling Blender on eBay. What should we, as the Blender community, think of this? I'll explore some of the do's and don'ts of this practice in this article and I'll suggest a course of action if you run into one.
Before I begin, I want to make clear that I'm not against the idea of selling Blender or by making money with it. In fact I applaud it when people build businesses around the product - in the long run this will be good for everyone. But there are some rules to play by.
First off, you should realise that the GPL license allows you to do sell Blender. The GPL is a license that provides freedom (although you can have heated discussions about some of the freedoms it also takes away). As a result, you CAN sell open source software but you always have to provide (access to) the source-code. This is also the basis for most of the Linux distributions, and for many people receiving the software on nicely packaged CD complete with documentation is a plus.
Most of the eBay offers don't mention the fact that Blender is open source however; they sell Blender as if it's their own software. Some companies also re-brand Blender and call it something else, removing the existing copyrights from either the program itself or even from the source-code as well. This is a direct violation of the GPL; you have to leave the existing copyrights intact.
I have also spotted a few offers where people sell Blender along with documentation and/or video-tutorials. Of course, you're free to offer the official Blender documentation as it's also published under an open license (but the same terms as above apply). With the video-tutorials I'm always a bit more skeptical: most of these people don't have a clue about Blender and they simply copy existing material from the web. Of course, this is a straight violation of the author's rights - you cannot distribute someone else's material without his permission.
Finally, something that always gets me is that these people often copy Blender artwork to promote their 'product'. Again, a copyright violation. Remember that if you create something, you are automatically the copyright holder, even if you publish it on the internet. If someone wants to use your work, they'll need to have your permission.
What can you do about this?
So, you've seen someone selling Blender, your blood is boiling and you want to take immediate action. Instead of contacting the little weasel trying to illegally sell Blender, I suggest you are smarter about this: hit them where it hurts. Report this action to eBay as being illegal. When enough people do this, these 'merchants' might get banned from the site. Before you do though, be sure about what you're doing: check the offering against the following checklist:
- Does it mention that Blender is open source and/or that you will receive the full source-code?
- Does it use Blender's real name, or have they re-branded?
- Does the package include documentation or video-tutorials? Did the author of this material give his permission?
- Does the ad include Blender art that you recognise? Was the artist credited and did he give permission?
If by now you are still convinced that you need to take action, go to the product page on eBay, select the link 'Report this item' at the bottom of the page and fill out the forms. Maybe I'm overly optimistic about this, but I would hope that companies like eBay are sensitive to this approach.
Of course, other auction sites offer similar tools to report suspect transactions. I focused on eBay as this seems to be the largest source of them. I'm very curious to hear about your success stories using this approach.
For more information about the Blender Foundation's take on this, read 'Luxuriosity, scam or open source leech?' by Ton Roosendaal.