Can Affero-like limitations be free?
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?
I firmly believe that the former is true. GPLv3 Affero-style clauses
provide a minor restriction on modification that is designed to
provide the users of software with source code and the ability to
modify that code.
I believe the goal is noble and in the spirit of copyleft, and I also
believe that the reason there is no example of a DFSG-free license that
implements it is because it's impossible.
Fundamentally, the whole idea is worthless without a use restriction, not
just a modification restriction. Even if we forgot that limiting the
types of modifications allowed is non-free, the restrictions necessary to
make actual running systems behave as desired are ridiculously non-free.
Here are some cases to keep in mind when designing such a clause:
1) works derived from both AGPL and non-free sources (say statically
linked or actual source commingling with a non-free TCP/IP stack). Under GPL,
these systems can be created and used, but not distributed. AGPL makes
them completely illegal.
This gets to the quesiton of "full source code". This is (mostly) clear
when talking about distributing source for objects you distribute. It's
not at ALL clear which source code must be distributed for a running
2) someone leaving in the feature that allows a "user" to get full source,
but only running it on a system where the feature is irrelevant (kiosk, or
just firewalled to block the source-retrieval URL).
3) who exactly is a "user". This is not an easy definition. If I use a
browser to hit a page that says "403 access denied.", am I a user? If I
look at a page over my friend's shoulder, am I a user?
It really comes down to "the requirement is meaningless because it's
trivial to work around, or the requirement is far too invasive and
Mark Rafn firstname.lastname@example.org <http://www.dagon.net/>