Subdownloader with GNU license and requiring payment to use the software? Is this legal?

Asked by Joaquim P. on 2008-11-23


I just downloaded Subdownloader and I'm required to pay 10 $ to use it (shareware).
But the license says it's freeware....

Strange to have to pay for freeware? It's the first time I face this situation. Is this legal?

The license disclaimer is:

License disclaimer:
Copyright (c) 2007-2008, Subdownloader Developers

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 3 of the License, or(at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will

be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc.,

59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA.

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Ivan Garcia (capiscuas) said : #1

Dear netquim,

english language is a bit weak in order to not confuse people about the term "FREE", in the case of FREE SOFTWARE, as it says the Free Software Foundation , is a Free as a Freedom, not as a free beer or freeware.
This software is "open source", the GPL license doesn't forbid anybody to make money from their effort, as long as they always provide the source code (which you can find available in the site). So it's perfectly legal, and I would even dare to say "fair".

Please check this other sites to find more information about this:

BTW, source code versions and linux versions don't have any limitation of days, so you can use this methods to use the program.

Best Regards.

Joaquim P. (jdsp) said : #2


Well, I'm not sure that mixing GNU GPL License and Shareware with a limit of 30 days of use is so legal. But it's quite confusing....
Under the GPL license, the program may be distributed having to pay a fee (that's ok according to GPL License).
But having a limit of usage in days doesn't seem to be any longer software distributed under a GPL License.

In a GPL License, I'm able to pay the software to get it (if the distributor requires so, in this case you do) but I'm also able to give that copy that I paid to anybody I want. I'm even able to post it somewhere and distribute it freely.
Having to request an activation prevents me from doing it.
That's not anymore a GPL License, that's something else....

I think you should clarify the license you are using. You should not mix shareware with GPL.
It's one or the other but not both.
If you want to keep the payment part, you should provide the software only after payment but remove the 30 days activation period. Otherwise, that's shareware.

Best Regards,

Thomas Detoux (detoux) said : #3

I agree with you netquim, this is a bit ackward.

If you reffer to the FAQ issued by the gnu project :

You see that requiring people to pay you after using the program, or just that people notify you that they use your program make it non free.

However, the GPL licence is not exclusive, as a copyright holder, you can distribute in any different licence you want, including gpl. What you can do is write a shareware licence ans ditribute your windows version in that licence, but you may not distribute a copy under the GPL and ask for activation.

Joaquim P. (jdsp) said : #4


I agree with you. The windows version needs to e distributed under another license.

I posted the same question to the FSF, and here is the answer I got from them:

"The GNU GPL is always free software.

If a program author releases something under the GPL but then says "oh
and by the way it's shareware", they aren't releasing it under the GPL.
Typical Shareware restrictions (pay $X after Y months) are incompatible
with the GPL.

They're releasing it under a new license that they are making up (in a
very confusing way) -- essentially just the shareware part. They
shouldn't do this."


Ivan Garcia (capiscuas) said : #5

The shareware binaries are released with a propietary license due that we are the creators of the software we can reserve this right for us. Sorry if the GPL term has confused people, the source code is GPL, also the linux and Mac binaries are freeware in case you will like to move to better OS than micro$oft.

Messages of the GPL in the windows shareware version will be removed in 2.0.9 . Those who would like to have Windows binaries of the program without Shareware limitation, are welcome to compile the program as I did, the source code is there.

Best Regards and thanks for using the program.

PhobosK (phobosk) said : #6

First of all i should apologize for my words that follow, but they are the only way i can show my indignation on this topic.

Sooo... I have to admit I've never seen such a stupidity: Releasing software under GPL and making it a kind of shareware at the same time.
@Ivan, you are right that FREE software doesn't mean money free, but using GPL means complying with the standards of open source society and not only the standards but the philosophy also. Part of that philosophy includes that programs under GPL should not require the user to have knowledge how to change the source code so he makes the "open source shareware" (what a stupid term... it is like the cold hot tea :P) just open source code with no limitations.
I will not at all comment on the fact that your "open source" program uses an open totally free site like

> BTW, source code versions and Linux versions don't have any limitation of days, so you can use this methods to use the
> program.
> Best Regards.
> Ivan.

This is not true even in the source code version 2.0.9 that can be downloaded from the home page. Because of the stupid way of coding (or to be exact of the stupid way of removing part of the code) it throws an error:
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/tests/usr/libexec/subdownloader/", line 56, in <module>
    import gui.main
  File "/tests/usr/libexec/subdownloader/gui/", line 74, in <module>
    import gui.expiration as expiration
ImportError: No module named expiration

So having in mind your own words and the funny licensing policy you use, what do you say if I put a link here with a place where Subdownloader's users can download the same Subdownloader latest version as can be found on the main site, but with the license check subroutines removed both for Win and Lin version?
Will that be ok with you?
It should be ok, since you use GPL :)

Oh... And BTW I think you should update your documentation in the source code and on your home page, so users have the information that the program is paid BEFORE they decide if to try it or not. Because there is not a single word on your download site about paying....

Sorry but it is really lame and amateur to do things like this.
And yes you are right... i am disgusted when someone uses Open Source to get money... That is the most stupid thing one calling himself an open source coder could do.

And just a piece of advice - read carefully your users' opinions... I will cite only one (
> ....I have difficulties to understand why you made the windows version shareware (30 days).
> Moreover, I always contribute by a donation to software I am using, but here, the price is really excessive to my view.....

And here is another one:
> I donated a few euros to the developers of subdownloader thinking it wass a common free-gratis and free-open source project
> but seeing now that they're trying to charge people for using the prog I'm very pissed off and will not pay for it,
> when it expires i'll stop using it altogether. At the end of the day is the users who are uploading the content.

And a third one i will end with:
> i find it insulting that somebody would expect me to pay rather than donate for an open-source app.

P.S. I hope my post will stay like this here so other users can see it also...

Ivan Garcia (capiscuas) said : #7

Hello PhobosK,

thanks to let me know about the source code package bug, I have fixed and removed the shareware limitation for the source code, that was my mistake, it only happened since yesterday night when I had replaced some .mo localization files and I reuploaded the .tar.gz without remembering to removing the limitation. Now is ok, you can get it from here.

Regarding the shareware and opensource licenses this is called Dual-Licensing, many opensource companies do it, if you think it's my invent I recommend you to read this:

Again, if you like other OS rather than Windows, the application is free. This revenue of money is a tax for those windows users, I have to admit, I don't like Windows so if you like it that much that you are still using it, then I don't feel pitty about you. You are free to not use the app, or do with the app wathever you want to do with :-), that's why the source code is 100% Free Libre Software.

Thanks for your feedback and keep reporting bugs to give all our users the best experience when finding their subtitles.

Marco Ferreira (mferreira) said : #8

Hello all.

I don't see the big deal with the license paying. Let's say it's just a price to pay for the packaging into a binary for easy install (without having to install python). As it was said, the source is available for every person, whether it's a linux or windows user.

We will surely solve this issue by clearing up the mess with the licenses.
And just to be clear:

Source-code: GPL
*nix binaries: GPL
Windows binaries: Shareware


PhobosK (phobosk) said : #9

> ....this is called Dual-Licensing, many opensource companies do it,
> if you think it's my invent I recommend you to read this...

I do not need any recommendations about such things... I do know what Dual-Licensing is and i agree it is totally up to you to decide how you will release the code. What i was implying is that SubDownloader is not QT, nor Mozilla , nor Perl etc. and using the Windows users lack of knowledge on compiling things is merely cynical and indecent when it comes to OSC.

> This revenue of money is a tax for those windows users, I have to admit,
> I don't like Windows so if you like it that much that you are still using it, then I don't feel pitty about you.

Lol...How pathetic... And no comment....
I will just say that as a developer i cannot deny the existence of MS OS, nor i can stop using it because of misinterpreted feelings.

And because i do not wanna get into personal fight with someone's way of seeing OSC... i just inform you that i wrote a quick step by step explanation on compiling your "GPL'ed" software on Windows ( ). I hope your users will be glad as much as you are.

Wish you luck with your "experiment with the acceptance of the people"...

PhobosK (phobosk) said : #10

BTW take my installer.nsi ( and ( scripts as a contribution to the OSC.... So you may add them to the source tree of SubDownloader if you like... though i doubt you will do it :)

Ivan Garcia (capiscuas) said : #11

thanks a lot PhobosK,

the installer.nsi will be very useful for our next project (this one not even shareware for windows, 100% opensource :-))

Best Regards.


PhobosK (phobosk) said : #12

Yeah that is a good information...

And BTW I forgot to tell you that you current SubDownloader's Windows binaries violate every MS EULA for distributing MS code and libraries, which makes their distribution ILLEGAL.

More info you can find here:

torokze (torokze) said : #13


I've just downloaded the 2.0.9 for windows.
As I see it is using QT from Nokia (Trolltech).
Is it the commercial or the open source one ?


As I don't like the Windows shareware discrimination, I've created new project OpenSubdownloader that is primarily focused on bringing you Windows binaries. Check (direct download link is Enjoy it and donate to our beloved Ivan! :-)

PhobosK (phobosk) said : #15

Thanks for doing this @Libor :)
Though It's a pity that mind resources and efforts are lost into useless things like splitting projects (if for this we can use the word split) ....
But keep up the good job for the Windows binaries :)

Ivan Garcia (capiscuas) said : #16

Due to Launchpad restrictions to only opensource questions, we need to move any question regarding the SubDownloader license version into here.

Best Regards.
SubDownloader team

PhobosK (phobosk) said : #17

LOL ....

"Launchpad restrictions to only OpenSource questions" ?!?!?
OR the impossibility to close and forbid writing in a question here on

Besides... as far as we all know SubDownloader is still Opensource isn't it? ...

Ivan Garcia (capiscuas) said : #18

hmm, I'm not kiding, this is the email from canonical about it:

Hello Ivan,

I recently became aware of the Subdownloader project on Launchpad. First, let me congratulate you on a very interesting project and your extensive use of Launchpad. Subdownloader is one of the most viewed on the site!

Your project is licensed on Launchpad as GPLv3, which is the license you've applied to your source code. In addition you have a different, proprietary license for the Windows installer. I fully understand the need for a dual license and support your right to do so. However, as you probably know, Launchpad is free to use for open source projects. Your use of Launchpad to distribute the proprietary binaries and your use of the Answers forum to handle registration key requests puts your project in an awkward position where the licensing is concerned.

While the use of Launchpad is free for open source projects we also allow commercial projects to use Launchpad provided they buy a commercial-use subscription for US$250/project/year. Details of our licensing guidelines and subscription policy can be found at:

You need to do one of two things for your project to use Launchpad in an approved manner. You can either add the 'Other/Proprietary' license to your project to cover your Windows binary distribution and then purchase a commercial-use subscription. Or you can maintain the GPLv3 license for your source code but remove the Windows distribution from our servers and cease to use the Answers forum for registration issues. You would need to move the distribution of the executable and the registration discussions off Launchpad while being able to maintain the code hosting and the distribution of free packages. Use of the other Launchpad facilities (Bug tracker, Blueprints, etc) would only be allowed as the issues pertain to the open source code.

Clearly we would prefer you to choose the first option but are happy to work with you to realize the second option should you choose to go that route.

You do need to make a decision, though. Your project cannot continue to use Launchpad in the current manner.

Please follow up with me if you have any questions. I would like to have this issue resolved within the week.


PhobosK (phobosk) said : #19

It seems like 3 years after our dispute about your project licensing and after the warning issued by the Launchpad Administration (, you still show a totally disrespectful attitude and behavior towards Open Source Community(OSC), offering your Windows shareware binaries from the servers of Launchpad (LP). Thus you directly violate (and you've been violating them for the last 3 years) LP Terms of use ->

"- It must not require royalty payments or any other fee for redistribution or modification."
"- It must not discriminate against persons, groups or against fields of endeavour. The licence of software hosted by Launchpad can not discriminate against anyone or any group of users and cannot restrict users from using the software for a particular field of endeavor - a business for example."
"- It must not be distributed under a licence specific to one operating system. The rights attached to the software must not depend on the programme's being part of Ubuntu, for example."

So I think your users that are about to pay for your Windows binaries should pay close attention to your attitude towards them (stated clearly in the dispute mentioned above) and your attitude towards OSC and they should think twice before they do actually pay you.

The funny thing is that you expect and require your Win users to pay you, but at the same time you are obviously not inclined to follow the rules of Launchpad and pay for your project US$250/project/year to LP and thus using their servers for free to distribute a shareware... What would you call that? I would call it disrespect and mercantilism...

So in a word, would you be so kind at least to adhere to LP Terms of use and remove your Windows binaries + remove all the registration questions/answers from LP servers?

And to all of your users that like your Windows version... I remind that they have an option to get it for free:

Though I would propose them a much better solution with two open source projects running on Windows that bring them the benefit of downloading/uploading subtitles to + all the required video codecs for Windows built-in the applications:

Oh and BTW I have filed a notice to LP council about all that () .... Let's see what they have to say about this....

Thanks and
Have a nice day :)

Ivan Garcia (capiscuas) said : #20

Thanks to PhobosK reminder, we just realized that we were wrongly hosting the shareware binary also in Launchpad servers, and using LP Questions&Answers service to answer some of our users inqueries.

This has been all taken care already and we would be leaving the Subdownloader Launchpad project exclusively for the OpenSource version of it and following Launchpad requirements.

The team strongly believes in the Free Software principles that's why we decided to release Subdownloader GPLv3 from the beggining with a dual license(completely legal thing).

More versions of the free opensource version will come soon!

Best Regards.