Re: ASP loophole - where is the line
On Thu, Mar 13, 2003 at 05:08:10PM -0800, Mark Rafn wrote:
> The problem that is fundamental (for me, at least) about the "ASP
> loophole" is where to draw the line. I'm currently of the opinion that
> distribution is a good line and any other is fuzzy, but I'd kind of like
> to be convinced otherwise.
> Here's the continuum I see:
Here are some more cases to the end of the spectrum w/o forced
a-6) Joe uses no GPL software at all, but his ISP is using a GPL
server or router in the path between Joe and his customer.
a-5) Joe uses no GPL software on his computer (he may be running
Windows etc.), but his firewall computer is running GPL software
and was modified by Joe.
a-4) Joe did not modify the typesetting software, but he did
modify some other GPL code supporting the task, such as the
kernel or libc (ignoring the Linux kernel license exception and
LGPL linking exceptions for this argument, imagine the forced
distribution clause to go there too).
a-3) Joes only modification is to compile the software (a form
of modification under the GPL definitions).
a-2) Joes only modification is to pass arguments to
./Configure, thereby effectively changing some hardcoded paths.
a-1) Joes only modification is to change a few text strings and
> a) Joe opens a business "Joe's Typesetting Service". His customer brings
> in handrwitten pages, Joe uses GPL software (some of which he's modified
> to fit his work patterns) to enter, typeset, and print the documents.
> The printed documents are given to the customer.
> b) His customer brings in floppies with text files, and recieves printed
> c) Customer prefers Joe to give him a floppy with Postscript output
> on it instead of printed documents.
> d) Joe automates this conversion such that he can put a floppy into a
> drive and the textfile on the floppy will be replaced by a postscript
> file. This saves him a lot of time.
> e) To save further time, he allows his customer to put the floppy into
> the drive rather than interrupting Joe.
> f) The customer e-mails Joe a textfile and joe e-mails the output.
> g) Joe adds to his program the ability to e-mail the resulting postscript
> file automatically.
> h) Joe sets up a webpage which uses a mailto: form to send him the file.
> i) Joe sets up procmail to run his program when the customer sends
> j) His webpage is still up, now much more responsive.
> k) Joe converts his process to run as a CGI, accepting form posts and
> returning the Postscript immediately
> l) Joe adds an XML-RPC interface to his page.
> The challenges:
> In which cases should Joe be forced to give his program to his customer?
> Without mention of a specific protocol, please try to find a definition of
> "user" for a theoretical closure of the ASP loophole which would require
> Joe to give his program (including source, he wants to follow the GPL) to
> his customer.
> Mark Rafn email@example.com <http://www.dagon.net/>
And a different set of cases which don't fall at a particular
point in the above continuum:
x1) Joe is non-commercial, he typesets for charity.
x2) Joe is just offering the service of replying to e-mails
people send him (the continuum goes from manually answering
verbal in-person questions to Joe being www.google.com).
x3) Joe is not even doing that, he is just running a GPL identd
on his machine, and has hardcoded some of the responses to hide
his name from people like doubleclick.com. Should he be obliged
to distribute the patch that hardcodes removal of his name to
the very people he is hiding the name from (since those people
are the primary users of the service modification to not provide
There are even more extreme examples occurring in normal usage of
As for a ground for saying that forced distribution can be
against Debian rules, how about clauses 1 and 4 of the social
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