Barriers to an ASP loophole closure (was Re: OSD && DFSG - different purposes - constructive suggestion!)
Anthony Towns <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
> This detailed wrangling is really missing the point that I'm interested
> in, though. Is there a _fundamental_ difficulty with such licenses?
Is it users of programs or owners of copies of programs that should
have freedom? As far as I can see the answer is clearly users.
Currently those two groups are roughly the same, and the second group
is *much* easier to draw a line around. So we use ownership of a copy
to pin freedoms to.
But if we imagine a world out of an ASP nightmare we're no longer
giving users freedoms because there's no distribution of software to
those who use the software. Say someone makes a version of latex that
will transparently read and reproduce Word documents (substitute
whatever killer feature you like). They put it behind a web interface
that allows you to edit documents and save them on their server, and
outputs obfuscated postscript so you can print them out. This is
pretty clearly not the intention of the copyright holders, and it's
clear that a standard copyleft license wont help them.
I hope this world (where most software use follows the pattern of the
latex example above) doesn't happen, and I honestly don't think it
will. But reasonable people can and do disagree. If they can find a
way to tie the freedoms of the DFSG to users of software rather than
possessors of copies of software, should that make their software
It's clear that's hard, and it may be so hard it's not possible in a
free license. But if someone could jump all the hurdles:
* Find a way of laying out who the users of software are that matches
our intuitions on the subject (we'd have to think very carefully
about edge cases here),
* Find a way of safeguarding the important freedoms (including access
to source) for these users,
* And do all this without increasing the burden on the distributor (or
software provider) beyond that which the GPL already places (e.g.,
passes the dissident test, no restrictions on modification, etc).
If all of this could be done, would the license be DFSG free? For
what it's worth, I don't think AJ's snippet does it (for reasons
others have enumerated).
I think the answer is yes. It's *users*, not copies, that should have
freedoms. But I admit I'm not clear how it could be done.
But plenty of people are going to continue to try to "close the ASP
loophole." And that's not a bad thing -- the community's simply
working in parallel. But in the process they're going to come up with
a lot of bad, non-DFSG-free licenses.
So we have three meta-options:
* Decide that freedoms *should* attach to copies rather than users
* Decide that there's no way over the hurdles I listed above, so we
should just hope (and maybe do more than hope) that the ASP
nightmare never happens.
* Think about how or whether the hurdles could be jumped. If we can
come up with a way, we should tell folks about it. Otherwise we
should be prepared to look at the licenses that attempt it on a
I'm for option 3, or possibly option 3 followed by 2.
> Basically, as far as I can see, the dissident test is exactly equivalent
> to saying "we don't want to close this ASP loophole thing".
I don't think this is true, if you accept the substitution of users
for copy holders. With the GPL distributors have an obligation to
people they've given a copy to. With an ASP-loophole-closing license
that worked, copy holders, or folks that make their software available
for others to use, would have an obligation to people that use their
software (on their server, not the same software on some other server,
of course). But they would have no obligation to folks who use
software provided by someone else's server, or don't use the software
at all, nor would they have an obligation to let anybody use the
software on their server.
Jeremy Hankins <email@example.com>
PGP fingerprint: 748F 4D16 538E 75D6 8333 9E10 D212 B5ED 37D0 0A03