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Re: The ASP nightmare: a description

On Thu, 2003-03-13 at 15:05, Joe Moore wrote:
> Jeremy Hankins said:
> > "Joe Moore" <joemoore@iegrec.org> writes:
> >> Jeremy Hankins said:
> >
> >>> Take this to the logical extreme where everybody starts doing this
> >>> and every Free program has several ASP versions, and you have the ASP
> >>> nightmare.
> >>
> >> How is this different (from a licensing perspective) from a
> >> publicly-accessible shell server?  Assume for a minute that all the
> >> GPL'd binaries on the server are chmod a-r, so no user can make a copy
> >> of the binaries (just to avoid the distribution issue).  This is
> >> exactly the line of thinking that caused problems with the LPPL 1.2
> >> (where their definition of distribution included making software
> >> available on a shared system)
> >
> > I don't know.  Is it?  Should it be?  I'm uncertain.
> I personally don't see a difference between a public-utility type service
> that gives CPU resources to remote users by running ASP code and a
> public-utility type service that gives CPU resources to remote users by
> running shell code.  (at least from a licensing standpoint)
> > I think that so long as the source for these programs are generally
> > available there's no real problem.  The problem shows up when someone
> > uses this technique (which could be a web server or a shell server) to
> > make the programs available for use but intentionally restricts access
> > to source & binaries.
> Well, the current (and probably future) version of the GPL requires a lot
> more than "generally available".  It requires equivalent access (at least)

Good grief!  So then any machine I own or control which is going to be
accessed by anyone besides myself, who has the possibility of copying
any binaries from it (current GPL) or has the possibility of running any
binary on it (hypothetical future GPL), said binaries including, say,
the network stack which responds to a ping over the network, must have
the source code installed on it so that any other user accessing that
machine may copy it as well, so as to satisfy "equivalent access".  But
my Zaurus doesn't have enough storage space to even keep the source code
on it, so connecting my Zaurus to the 'net where someone else might
connect to it, even contrary without my permission, is in violation of
the GPL.  

I looked up public performance on Google, just to see what I could see,
and found that public performance is interpreted rather liberally, at
least in the context of music, so that public performance is any
performance of the work in the presence of persons outside one's
immediate family and close acquaintances, including otherwise "private"
members-only clubs.  The music industry has long asserted control over
"public performance", and a few years ago suffered a PR black eye the
size of Texas when they sued the Girl Scouts for singing songs around a
campfire.  This is also why, in "family" restaurants, the staff sings a
house song celebrating the patron's natal anniversary, rather than
"Happy Birthday" when such occasions arise - it's so they don't have to
pay royalties every time they sing it.  

This is just the result of the music industry engaging in a scope creep
w.r.t. "public performance", and is partly due to the fact that "public
performance" is not very well defined in the law.  Personally, I think
that the chance is quite high that someone could fall afoul of the
public performance clause of the hypothetical GPL-3 just as easily as
falling afoul of the public performance clause attached to music.  Do we
*really* want to call it "Free" when doing the equivalent of playing the
radio too close to customers violates the license?

Brett Glass[0] is starting to make sense to me.  That is a truly
terrifying thought.

[0] Moderately well-known anti-GPL troll, often found on ZD-Net boards.
All other anti-GPL trolls are small and cute in comparison. 
Stephen Ryan                                        Debian Linux 3.0
Technology Coordinator
Center for Educational Outcomes
at Dartmouth College

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