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AGPL and Debian


recently we, your mostly friendly Ftpmaster and -team, have been asked
about an opinion about the AGPL in Debian.

The short summary is: We think that works licensed under the AGPL can
go into main. (Provided they don't have any other problems).

The concerns people have expressed with regard to this license relate to
the only § in it which is different to the GPL:

|| 13. Remote Network Interaction; Use with the GNU General Public License.

Citing the three main concerns from Bug #495721:

> 1) It can might add a cost to the usage of the software that restricts
>    its usage.
[this is also raised in #506042]

We do not think that this is a severe enough problem to restrict the
freeness of a work licensed using the AGPL.
 - Offering a publically accessible network service already comes with a
   cost that might be hard to calculate. Think about DDOS attacks for

 - For practical matters the distribution costs via the internet are
   close to zero for free software. While bandwidth does cost money, and
   having a (say) 20MB app downloaded a million times would create a
   large cost, the license text reads "from a network server at no
   charge". This means it is not required to be your own server, so you
   can use any of the free services, like Alioth, Savannah, SourceForge,
   Launchpad or Google Code. While those are only there for Free
   Software - that is the case for AGPL applications.

Considering those points, the requirement to make the source available
does not seem to be one which restricts the usage of the software in any
way related to us and the DFSG.

> 2) It might forbid private usage of software that uses any kind of
>    network.

We do not see that it would forbid the private usage of the software. If
you use the software privately, the users of that software are a pretty
limited group. And as soon as they can reach your system to use the
software that means they are able to either download the source from your
private server or get a link to a download location on a machine
accessible to them.

Why might it forbid the private usage of software? Section 13 only
requires to offer the source to the users of your service. As such you
only need to give it to the limited user set your private usage has.

Also, we tend to agree with the FSFs opinion that a client does not need
to provide you access to the source of the servers it interacts with, see

> 3) It might contaminate unrelated software.

We aren't sure that this is much different to the "normal" GPL. It is a
copyleft license after all. So unless someone declares the GPL non-free
thanks to that, we disagree with applying it to the AGPL.

In conclusion we will continue to access AGPL works into main subject to
the rest of the checks that we also normally perform.

bye, Joerg
Could you please add me to the mirrors@debian.org alias. I'm not receiving
enough spam.
  -- Andrew Pollock

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