Creality and the GPL violations: My opinion

I think in the last week the discussions about the GPL violations done by Creality have been, lets say, interesting.

Before we are able to understand what the actual problem is, we first need to understand what the GPL is and does. The GPL is the license the Marlin Firmware is released under. This license tells what you can do with the software, and what you can’t. The GPL is one of the licenses used a lot with open source projects, but it doesn’t mean directly that the software is free (But in a lot of cases it is).

What the GPL says is that there are a few requirements you need to met when using the software, or when you are modifying:

  • You are allowed to make any modifications to the source code
  • You are allowed to sell or distribute these modifications
  • All of these distributions do need to be licensed under the same requirements
  • You need to provide all source code modifications you made if you are distributing the software

Basicly what this means is that if you are distributing anything that was licensed under the GPL, you modified it, you need to provide the source code of the modifications as well.

The problem now starts with what Creality is not doing. They are using a modified version of Marlin, providing it in binary form with their printers, but are not publishing their source modifications. In their statement they are telling us, the community, that it is not their fault that they aren’t able to provide the source code, as they “bought” the source modifications and are only receiving the HEX file from that company. However, the GPL is pretty clear that if you distribute software that was originally released under the GPL, you need to provide these changes, no matter what.

Personally, my biggest problem is that they are using a 3rd party to modify the software, paying them for that, while using open source software. Creality is making a lot of money, using software that is released under the open source license, and in my opinion they should not pay a third party to do changes, but they should donate some of their income to the original authors of Marlin (Please note that I do not know if they are not donating anything already.). I have been in the open source software community since 2004, and personally, one of my biggest frustrations are the things Creality is currently doing.

I have decided I won’t be featuring any of the Creality products on the channel, until they are no longer in violation of the GPL. I might be using my Creality CR10 for some of the projects (And, I am currently using it for a upcoming video), but I will not be showing any video material featuring the CR10.

If you want to support the makers of Marlin, I know that at least one of the developers is using Patreon to help developing Marlin. Using patreon is a great way to help makers do their job and making great software. For a lot of open source developers it is not their day job, but it is volunteer work they do after their normal day job.

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