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Re: Affero General Public License

<quote who="Jeremy Hankins" date="Wed, Feb 08, 2006 at 09:06:39AM -0500">
> 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).

This is a *very* bad idea IMHO for two reasons.

First, it's a poor reading of copyright law. Software is, at least in
the US, a literary work. A classical example of copyrighteable public
performance of other types of literary works is reading the text of
the poem in a public park. To make the jump from this to interacting
with a piece of software over the net is creating new law.

The bigger problem is that by arguing for this type of new law, we are
arguing for an expansion of existing copyright law. I'm sure that MS
and many other ASPs who want to bring copyright into the interactions
between software on their servers and their users would welcome
this. We should not. Arguing for stronger copyright as a means of
getting stronger copyleft is a self-defeating, poor strategically, and
ethically indefensible.

Now, if through no effort of our own and inspite of our community's
opposition, copyright ends up being extended in this way, we should
consider taking advantage of it in the same way that we are using
copyright as the basis of copyleft. Of course, there's a world of
difference between using a bad thing against itself and arguing for a
bad thing because we might be able to do so.

If this issue is truly important to us, I think we should be able to
sustain a minor barrier to modification that falls below the "loss of
freedom threshold" in the same way that GPL(2)(c), the advertising
clause, copyleft, unremoveable copyright statements and licenses, and
other sometimes annoying clauses that we believe support our movement
and are ultimately in the best interests of software freedom. I'm not
claiming that I've found language that does this. I am saying that I
think it's possible.


Benjamin Mako Hill

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