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Re: gpl and hosted apps

* David M.Besonen <davidb@panix.com> [060204 00:41]:
> does the gpl (v2 or v3-draft) address the issue of hosted apps?

The gpl v2 does so perfectly, the v3 draft currently has some clause
that will likely allow making programs non-free by restrict usage as
hosted application.

> specifically, does the gpl prevent someone from taking code, modifying
> it, and putting it on a server and charging people to use the app
> without making the source available?

No, the gpl v2 actually prevents people from making such requirements.
(As it is a copyleft license, not allowing it to make it non-free by
 adding run restrictions). The right to use run a program is the most 
important of all freedoms and a so basic one that some lists of freedoms
needed for free software even do not list it because noone thought
someone would try.

Also note hosted applications are no new things, they are even more of
a dying out thing, as in former times it was normal to not have your
own computer but use other people's computers. No free software license
ever saw a problem with those. Nowadays most people have their own
computers or could have them, usually comparable to most server systems,
so that the only hosted apps still existing or newly created are only those
where they hardware they run on is available for everyone. (Clusters for
(numeric) simulations, terrabytes of RAM for web-search-cache). So I
really do not understand the fuss about this topic.

Please also note that this "hole" is system-immanent and not fixable
without opening larger holes. There are basically two ways to address

1) Restricting your right to modify the program to not remove a way
   to request its source from it.

 This has to obvious draw-backs:
    - makes it hard to secure the application by restricting it to
    only do what it needs to do.
    - improperly worded may cause it to not be modifiable to things
    the writer has not considered. (Which is hard to get around)
    - make it unsuitable for places with limited hardware/software

 So you sacrify many freedoms, and it does not even work, because:
    - people might use firewalls to block ports to get the source from
    - people might only open it through proxies or filters to the
    network that do (perhaps additionally to some security checks)
    do filter all requests for source out).
    - unless it is a scripted language or you have requirements
    to include the source code in the object, or do some checksumming
    code over it or other things, that will all make the 
    "improtperly worded" above almost certain, people might just delete
    the source from the server running the program making it return
    empty data.

 Thus many obnoxious requirements with no real gain 
                =>      surely non-free in my opinion

so we get to
2) Restrict your rights to run the program

  I really hope I do not have to tell why this is evil, evil, evil.
  (Just as a hint: In some jurisdictions classical copyright law
   might not restrict running at all, so restrict it more than with
   no license at all, which could lead to click-wrap, restrictions
   to not give it to anyone not accepting the license, ...)

  Bernhard R. Link

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