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Re: Affero General Public License

Benj. Mako Hill wrote:
> <quote who="Steve Langasek" date="Mon, Feb 06, 2006 at 06:20:25PM -0800">
>>On Tue, Feb 07, 2006 at 02:00:03AM +0000, Kai Hendry wrote:
>>>There is a python library I want to package (#349763) that uses the
>>>Affero General Public License (AGPL).
>>>I thought I should just check with you guys if the license is OK for
>>No, it is not.  The requirement of source redistribution to third
>>parties that you are not distributing binaries to is incompatible with
>>the DFSG.
> I don't think that issue is a closed one. As you and others have
> mentioned in other threads, the GPLv3 will probably have a Affero-type
> clause. Several people, at least, have spoken up in favor of this sort
> of clause being both in the spirit of the GPL and the DFSG.

There are two separate, mostly-independent issues with the AGPL:

1) The issue of whether this type of clause is OK at all.  This is
certainly an open issue.  I lean towards saying that it is theoretically
possible for such a clause to be free but that no such clause has been
written in an existing license.  I think the most likely way to achieve
a free clause of this type would be to base it on the GPL and phrase it
in such a way as to impose exactly the same clauses which apply to
distribution, along with all the proposed alternatives.

2) The specific clause written in the AGPL.  Even if the answer to (1)
is that such clauses are fine in general, the particular clause in the
AGPL makes restrictions pertaining to particular technologies.  It is
not possible to modify AGPLed software in such a way that it no longer
contains an HTTP server.  This seems quite obviously non-free.

> Even if there was some sort of rough consensus on the AGPL in the past,
> I think that we need to *at least* discuss this a bit more and and a bit
> more widely before we risk writing off some large future subset of GPL
> works as being non-free.

I believe issue 1 merits further discussion.  However, regarding issue
2, I don't believe the clause in the AGPL is anywhere near free, and I
don't see how any possible reading of the DFSG could permit it.

> As it turns out, I tend to be of the opinion that it is important enough
> that users be able to have access to the source code of the programs
> they use that we can probably sustain a strictly targetted and flexibly
> defined limit on modification that serves only to protect this freedom.

Are you suggesting that such restrictions are acceptable under the DFSG,
or are you suggesting that such restrictions might be beneficial and
thus we should adapt the DFSG to permit them?

> We did something similar both for copyleft in general

True.  However, note that copyleft seems to be specifically permitted by
the DFSG, since it only requires that modifications and derived works be
distributable "under the same terms as the license of the original

> and for
> GPLv2(2)(c) in particular.

Bad example; if that clause were in any other license, it probably would
have been declared non-free a long time ago.

- Josh Triplett

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