Re: Affero General Public License
"Benj. Mako Hill" <email@example.com> writes:
> <quote who="Jeremy Hankins" date="Sat, Feb 11, 2006 at 10:34:48PM -0500">
>> 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.
True. And it's certainly bad if, lacking an Affero-like clause, people
license their software in more proprietary ways. Unfortunately, we
can't meet everyone's licensing needs or wants in free ways, and some
people are simply never going to be comfortable giving up control of
their software to the community. The question (as I don't doubt you
understand) is whether we can help folks concerned about the ASP
loophole without sacrificing DFSG freedoms. That may depend on what
they're willing to accept short of complete protection against the ASP
>> 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.
No, it doesn't. Proprietary use (i.e., use of private modifications) is
very much permitted -- if it wasn't the ASP loophole wouldn't be an
issue. In fact, licenses that don't permit private changes (e.g.,
through forced distribution) have been considered non-DFSG free in the
past. What copyleft prevents is proprietary distribution of 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.
I don't disagree. But I think that encouraging a bunch of people who
don't really know much about licensing to try and solve the ASP loophole
when the rest of us haven't been able to do so is also very short
sighted. In order to be convinced that GPLv3(7d) is a good idea I would
have to see example wording that doesn't cause problems. And if we had
wording like that, why not include it directly in GPLv3 rather than
encourage amateurs (and a few experts) to come up with mutually
incompatible versions of which, best case scenario, one or two might be
The fact that no one, despite years of effort, has been able to come up
with a way to solve this problem is worth bearing in mind.
Jeremy Hankins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
PGP fingerprint: 748F 4D16 538E 75D6 8333 9E10 D212 B5ED 37D0 0A03