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Re: Affero General Public License

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

> <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.

I think both of your points are good.  But:

> 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.

Isn't this exactly what the Affero bit and GPLv3(7d) do?  They also
"bring copyright into the interactions between [ASP software] and [...]
users".  This seems like an argument against both the AGPL and
GPLv3(7d).  Does it really matter whether the mechanism is via a
restriction on public performance, or via a restriction on use?  Both, I
think, are steps we should only take with great care, if at all.

As for whether it can be done via a restriction on modification, I have
serious doubts that it can be done in a way that is both weak enough to
pass DFSG muster and avoid practical problems, and strong enough to
satisfy those who are concerned about this loophole.  After all, if it
only restricts modification (as opposed to use) what prevents someone
from running the software behind a firewall that doesn't permit
transmission of source?

In the end, I think that those who are concerned about the ASP loophole
are missing something fundamental about how the free software community
works.  They fail to appreciate how much it is dependant on the good
will and respect with which we treat each other, and the social
pressures we are able to bring to bear on offenders against the
communities values.  Without that dynamic, free software would not work.
With it, I don't believe that the ASP loophole is a problem.

Obviously, the above is just my opinion.  In principle, I see no reason
not to make minor compromises in order to make the ASP loophole folks
feel more comfortable, and letting the community decide whether the
inconveniences are worth that extra peace of mind.  But I don't see the
ASP loophole as a problem itself, and I don't think that anything more
than minor compromises are called for.

> 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.

I don't know when you would decide that copyright law has been so
extended, but one could argue that it is in the process.  See the
APSL[1], for example.

[1] http://www.opensource.apple.com/apsl/
    Specifically, the definition of "Externally Deploy" (1.4) and the
    repeated references to permission to "perform" the software (2.1,
    2.2, and 3)

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

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