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Re: Affero General Public License

"Benj. Mako Hill" <mako@debian.org> writes:

> I don't think we need to turn this into a semantic argument about the
> term user.  The authors of the free software definition and both
> versions of the GPL think that users are people who, well, *use*
> software. "Use" in this case is defined according to the most common
> dictionary definition of that word.  This definition does not, it
> turns out, mention hardware.

Actually, I think that the semantics are an important part of the
discussion.  When you use an application provided on a web page are you
using the web server as well?  The TCP stack?  Are you "using" the
software that runs a phone service?  How about if that phone service
allows you to dictate the text of a fax to be sent?  How about, if in
addition to the text of the fax, you can select from a variety of
formatting options and achieve output similar to what one could from a
web-based openoffice service?  Where do you draw the line?

When you start to think about the continuum of possible scenarios it's
not at all clear how you could draft an affero-like clause that didn't
cause a lot of collateral damage and at the same time allow lots of

I agree with those who have said that, in principle, an affero-like
clause would be free, but that in practice it's not clear how it could
be done.

The only possibility that I can think of is to use an idea like "public
performance".  I.e., if the work is "publicly performed", source
distribution requirements would apply.  Public performance would
probably have to be defined in a way that takes into account the purpose
for which people are using the software (i.e., their primary purpose is
to use the software, as opposed to using the software only to facilitate
access to something else).

Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org>
PGP fingerprint: 748F 4D16 538E 75D6 8333  9E10 D212 B5ED 37D0 0A03

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