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Re: Is AGPLv3 DFSG-free?

On Mon, 15 Sep 2008 11:24:52 -0500 Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso wrote:

> 2008/9/13 Francesco Poli <frx@firenze.linux.it>:
> > On Wed, 10 Sep 2008 20:36:54 -0500 Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso wrote:
> >> I have been interpreting the AGPL, and so far have not been challenged
> >> on this interpretation, that these additional costs can be transferred
> >> onto third parties for whom the cost is probably negligible, like code
> >> hosting sites.
> >
> > I think this thread already saw more than one explanation of why this
> > is not necessarily possible.  For instance:
> > http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2008/09/msg00016.html
> Alright, let me see the objections in that message...
> On Mon, 1 Sep 2008 05:39:59 -0400 Daniel Dickinson wrote:

Please do not mis-attribute your quotes: the objections you are quoting
are mine, not Daniel Dickinson's...

> > * if the application runs on a resource-limited server (think about
> > a small embedded system...), I cannot use the same host
> So? Put it up in Sourceforge or another server. What's the big deal
> about using another server? The indefinite article "a" in the AGPL
> clearly allows this.

The "big deal" is caused by the fact that the other options have
issues, as outlined below...

> > * if I don't want to publish the application (but only distribute it
> > to my users), I cannot use a public hosting service
> Sure you can, just use an authentication system. There are many public
> hosting services that allow you to enforce an authentication system.

An authentication system somehow linked to the network application own
authentication system, so that when a new account is created for the
application, the new user is granted access to source hosted on the
public service?

Technically possible, but a bit complicated...
I don't know how many public hosting services allow such a setup, but
forcing me to adopt a complicated mechanism seems to be a
significant restriction on my act of running the application.

> > * if I cannot afford the costs of ensuring it is available as long as
> > the application runs, I cannot use another host owned or hired by me
> Againt, those costs can be transferred to other agents for whom the
> cost is presumably negligible.

The fact that I can dump the cost to other (generous) people, does not
mean that the cost does not exist.
There's a source distribution cost associated with the act of running
the application, whoever is willing to pay that cost.

Moreover, those "agents" (i.e.: public hosting services) are not going
to ensure that the source is available as long as the application runs.
I haven't seen any convincing argument that this is not a issue.

> 2008/9/13 Francesco Poli <frx@firenze.linux.it>:
> > On Wed, 10 Sep 2008 20:36:54 -0500 Jordi Gutiérrez Hermoso wrote:
> >> For instances where the maintenance could be cumbersome, I think the
> >> alternative methods of providing source, such as all at once when you
> >> first transfer the software, could be effective.
> >
> > Suppose I never first transfered the software: I just run the
> > application on my server.  Your alternative method does not apply.
> That's true, but you received the AGPLed software somehow in the first
> place. Perhaps it's not fair of me to assume that if you were able to
> receive the software, you cannot use the same symmetrical method to
> distribute your modified source. But again, I have difficulty
> envisioning a system where you're able to run a server that everyone
> in the world can use to interface to but you cannot provide code to
> anyone who uses this globally-available code.

There seems to be some misunderstanding here.
You were suggesting that, for difficult cases, one can always provide
source when he/she transfers the software.

I was simply pointing out that this alternative method (even assuming
that it actually is a way to comply with AfferoGPLv3 Section 13!) is not
always a viable option.
Suppose, for instance, that I downloaded the source for the
application, modified it, compiled it and installed on my server; the
modified application now runs on my server, where remote users from all
continents access to it, but I haven't ever transfer the (compiled)
application to any remote user.  In this case, the alternative method
you suggest is not applicable.

> > And anyway, a work cannot claim to be Free Software, while forbidding
> > some scenarios just because they are "weird".
> Yes you can. Suppose aliens invade the Earth, closely monitor all
> network traffic as well as sneakernet and instantly destroy anyone who
> attempts to distribute source, but allow distribution of binaries. Oh
> no! You cannot comply with the GPL anymore without being vapourised!
> Clearly the GPL is non-free in this scenario.

No, it isn't.
In your example, the restriction is external to the license: the GPL
cannot be blamed, if some external entity effectively forbids the very
concept of Free Software.

 The nano-document series is here!
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
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