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Re: Affero General Public License

<quote who="Jeremy Hankins" date="Sat, Feb 11, 2006 at 10:34:48PM -0500">
> "Benj. Mako Hill" <mako@debian.org> writes:
> > <quote who="Jeremy Hankins" date="Wed, Feb 08, 2006 at 11:35:55AM -0500">
> >> Isn't this exactly what the Affero bit and GPLv3(7d) do?  They also
> >> "bring copyright into the interactions between [ASP software] and
> >> [...]  users".
> >
> > No. They provide a narrowly defined restriction on modification --
> > something uncontroversially within the exclusive rights of copyright
> > holders today. The fact that it's being done to preserve freedom is no
> > different than earlier copyleft. Both merely piggyback on what we
> > already have.
> Others have already made the point that the AGPL is not a narrowly
> defined restriction -- that it's actually quite significant and
> ill-defined under certain circumstances.

Narrowly defined is subjective. I'm not disagreeing with your
interpretation of the AGPL but it's clearly narrow relative to most
blanket restrictions on modification which are the norm in software
licensing and which the FSD/DFSG/OSD were attempting to create an
alternative to.

> But the question of whether this is a use restriction or a
> modification restriction is an interesting one.  I believe that it is
> an attempt to accomplish a restriction on use via a restriction on
> modification.  The intent behind both the AGPL and GPLv3(7d) is fairly
> easy to summarize: don't offer this software as a service to others
> unless you also offer the source.  Unfortunately, offering the
> software as a service to others is neither copying nor modification.
> So any attempt to put this restriction naturally into a license will
> be a use restriction (or possibly a public performance restriction).

Under this logic, copyleft is also a use restriction. It bars
proprietary use of free software.

> That is what the AGPL does, and what GPLv3(7d) seems to encourage
> others to do.  It's something that might conceivably be possible, but
> Very Hard.  That's why I very much doubt that it is possible to
> implement this restriction as a restriction on modification without a
> lot of unintended consequences.  If it's to be done at all, I think it
> best to simply go ahead and make it a use restriction (or possibly
> public performance); the end result will be much cleaner and simpler.

I think this is short sited. Arguing for a use restriction (something
not within the realm of copyright) means we cross into the world of
implicit contracts and private ordering. When we do this, the legal
foundation upon which we build our licenses get shakier. I've already
explained why I think that the arguments in favor of public performances
of software is both a hair-brained and wrong legal interpretation and a
very dangerous and short-sited legal tactic. 


Benjamin Mako Hill

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