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Re: Web application licenses

Andrew Suffield <asuffield@debian.org> writes:

> On Mon, Jul 26, 2004 at 10:22:37AM -0400, Brian Thomas Sniffen wrote:
>> I just don't see how compelling source
>> distribution from a networked provider actually increases freedom --
>> since I don't care about changing the code I have, I care about
>> changing the code *they* have.
> Here's the loophole:
> Take a GPLed application. Modify it. Do not release the source, or the
> binaries. Run the application on your own servers, and sell accounts
> to use it (via ssh, vnc, or whatever).

Yes, that's fine.  I don't see that as a loophole.  Because you're not
just providing me with access to the program -- you're providing the
CPU cycles to run it, and maybe the database it operates on, and
access to other resources which are important for its operation.

And you've got to *keep* deploying more servers to make this work, and
can't sell or rent any of these servers to others without your code
getting out.  Several people tried this model during the .com boom.
It didn't work.  They ended up switching to entirely proprietary
software so they could lease and sell hardware without losing control
of their code.

> All these sort of licenses are trying to block this, and variations on
> it. I've never actually seen one that worked without being grossly
> overbearing to the point of being non-free.

Even if that business model did work, and this were an active threat
to freedom, how does forcing distribution of the source code get
freedom to the users?  If it did, as in the case of the GPL -- they
already have and can run the software, so getting them source lets
them modify it -- then I'd reluctantly support this.  I'd believe you
when you say it's necessary to protect freedom.

But in the current circumstances, I don't see anybody losing freedom
to this hole, and I don't see a way to get those hypothetical people
freedom by compelling source distribution


Brian Sniffen                                       bts@alum.mit.edu

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