As many people are aware, there is a "new" flight simulator product that is being widely and actively marketed at the moment - VirtualPilot3D (also promoted as ProFlightSimulator, FlightSimPro, Earth Flight Sim, FlightProSim, Real Flight Simulator). This product is a direct copy of a really old and outdated version of FlightGear for which the FlightGear project does not provide support. VirtualPilot3D goes to extreme measures to hide the fact that they are simply copying an old version of FlightGear and reselling it under a different name. In some cases they have tried to turn the tables and say that FlightGear is ripping them off and pirating their work. This has caused some confusion for many people. To help provide some clarity, and answer some common questions, we (the core FlightGear development team) felt it was appropriate to make a statement, and provide a FAQ.
FlightGear is an open-source flight simulator that was started in 1996. It is released as so called 'open source' under the GNU General Public License v2, and as such, it is free to use, modify and distribute with few restrictions. It has been developed with the collaboration of a large number of individuals over more than 15 years. FlightGear can be downloaded at no cost from http://www.flightgear.org.
- 1 Review of VirtualPilot3D
- 2 What are the differences between the two?
- 3 Legal or illegal?
- 4 Is it legal to sell a copy of FlightGear, whether re-branded or not?
- 5 Has VirtualPilot3D paid any money to FlightGear for the rights to the program?
- 6 Why do the FlightGear developers allow this?
- 7 Is there any relationship between the makers of VirtualPilot3D and the FlightGear Project?
- 8 Has VirtualPilot3D contributed to the FlightGear project at all?
- 9 I have purchased VirtualPilot3D. Can I get a refund?
- 10 This whole situation makes me upset! What can I do?
Review of VirtualPilot3D
VirtualPilot3D is a commercial product very heavily based on FlightGear. Investigation by a number of FlightGear developers has found no difference between this and the FlightGear v1.9.1 release (which is an outdated version of FlightGear, released almost half a decade ago) other than a change of name. VirtualPilot3D is in no way endorsed or supported by the core FlightGear development team.
Given the similarities between VirtualPilot3D and the old version of FlightGear, we would recommend that prospective buyers download the latest FlightGear version for free and satisfy themselves that the old re-branded FlightGear version distributed under the name VirtualPilot3D provides worthwhile value for money before purchasing it. Even if you are certain that you want to run FlightGear v1.9.1, you can still download this freely from the web, without having to spend any money.
What are the differences between the two?
As far as we have been able to make out, the only difference between FlightGear v1.9.1 and VirtualPilot3D is a change in name throughout the software, and the fact that you have to pay for it.
Legal or illegal?
The GNU GPL license, under which FlightGear is released, allows reselling under certain terms. The main issue that FlightGear developers have is the misleading marketing tactics used by pro flight sim that target unsuspecting users who aren't yet familiar with FlightGear. This is primarily an ethical, not a legal issue.
Is it legal to sell a copy of FlightGear, whether re-branded or not?
Yes, provided the seller is in compliance with a number of conditions detailed in the GPL. In fact, those interested in receiving a DVD containing FlightGear may do so through the main FlightGear website, and directly contribute to the project (though they may want to wait for the upcoming release in the new year).
Has VirtualPilot3D paid any money to FlightGear for the rights to the program?
No. No such payment is required, as FlightGear is GPL software. No such payment has been offered, no such payment has been made. Any claims by VirtualPilot3D that they support the FlightGear project are entirely wishful thinking on their part.
Why do the FlightGear developers allow this?
The freedom to modify and enhance FlightGear is a core part of the project, and of open-source in general. Restricting the modifications that are allowed and what people can do with the software goes against that ethos.
Is there any relationship between the makers of VirtualPilot3D and the FlightGear Project?
Has VirtualPilot3D contributed to the FlightGear project at all?
I have purchased VirtualPilot3D. Can I get a refund?
That is something you will have to take up with the distributors of VirtualPilot3D. They guarentee a 60 day money back trial period, though some that have purchased FlightProSim have had trouble getting a refund and claim that FlightProSim did not respond to their requests for a refund. If you are having difficulty getting VirtualPilot3D to cooperate and refund your purchase, you may want to call your credit card company or eWallet processor (ClickBank, PayPal, Skrill) and cancel the transaction.
This whole situation makes me upset! What can I do?
First of all, the main problem here is the marketing tactics used by VirtualPilot3D which exhibit very dubious ethical values. The FlightGear development teams feels the best way to combat this problem is through positive FlightGear marketing and by honestly pointing out that VirtualPilot3D is simply a rebranding of an already free flight sim called FlightGear.
We want all of you to stay positive, to be honest and to be fair!
If you want to help combat misleading marketing, let's all get the word out about FlightGear. FlightGear doesn't have the kind of advertising budget that the VirtualPilot3D guys do. We need you!!! Please post wherever you can on web sites, forums, blogs, facebook, etc. We don't mind if someone chooses to buy VirtualPilot3D, in fact that's great, as long as they have complete information in advance and aren't being misled by a slimy sales pitch that sounds too good to be true.
So let's get the word out and try to make sure that VirtualPilot3D has to market to an "educated" audience!