Having dwelt further on the topic of legally distributing source code and binaries of open-source software even when initally behind a paywall, I feel my various points have distilled into one larger idea:
Having unspoken expectations, rules etc promotes the reality of an “in” club.
Allow me to back up slightly. We can all agree that distribution of the binaries is 100% legal even if the developers or other users might take issue with it. Because one user has exercised that right, that user has been chastised in response. Yet, another user who has, in essence, done exactly the same thing (perhaps asking beforehand as a courtesy), is not publicly wrist-slapped.
Therefore, we have an “in” club culture that could form or has formed. The route that each user took to make the binaries public is neither here nor there as both are entirely legal processes but, and very importantly, the reaction to both has been very different based on unspoken rules/ideas developed from inside the organization.
Perhaps we can begin to see why there is confusion about Ardour’s license/status when these expectations/rules are not visible from the outside. I think it goes beyond the simple confusion of a paywall.
So, I’m no longer suggesting what route to take in terms of donation or paywall but simply saying that no one should be made to feel guilty for doing exactly what the gnu.org website states is one of the foundations of the GPL license which is “the freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbors…”, especially if that response comes from an insider expectation that runs counter to the spirit of the chosen license.