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Re: Do Debian's users care about the AGPL?

On Wed, Sep 03, 2008 at 05:23:06PM -0600, Chris Burkhardt wrote:
> Hi Steve. This is the first of your emails in this thread that I've seen
> make it to the list. 

    Probably me not hitting list-reply in mutt and Danial, correctly, trying
to bring it back to the list (though it really is a tough judgement call when
to do so)

> Steve Lamb wrote:
> > [...]
> > Lets take a simple example, Google's web-based spreadsheet.  Who is
> > using the software, you or Google?  Answer: Google.
> Your idea of "user" is strange to me.

    Why?  They're the ones using the software to provide the service.  The
person is using the service not the software.  If they were using the software
they would be running it on their hardware.  It is not that hard of a
distinction to make.

> > Really?  So the fact that you're provided access to a custom
> > application means you're a user and thus must have rights to the
> > source code?
> Yes, that's the spirit of Free software that the GPL and AGPL tries to
> enforce.

    AGPL, yes, which is where it oversteps the bounds.  The GPL no.  If the
GPL did it there would be no need for the AGPL.  And sorry, but when I program
a custom application on my machine for my use and you, in visiting my home sit
down and use that application on my computer does not mean you're a user of
it.  My machine, my application, my code, not distributed, period.  The moment
that distinction is lost is the moment my code will probably migrate to a
"less free" license because it is running roughshod over my freedoms as a

> I don't think anyone is suggesting that casinos should use AGPL licensed
> software on their slot machines (it would probably make gaming the
> random number generators and so forth too easy).

    Yet some are running on GPL systems now.  If those systems migrate to an
AGPL system what happens then.  You're right, no one is explicitly advocating
it which is why I said that they are unaware of the ramifications of what they
are pushing.  I know that some slot systems run on Linux.  Some ATM systems
are utilizing Xen to migrade from OS/2 based applications to Java based
applications.  I am aware of at least one in-room entertainment system (Aka,
the software that controls the Tv/PPV Movies in hotels) which is built on top
of Java.  Linux, Java and Xen are all FOSS.  Every single on of these is
"conveyed" to the end user and thus, under the AGPL, entitles the end user to
the source.  Are they under the AGPL now?  Of course not.  But adcovate the
license and have those systems migrade to it and what happens?

> There is nothing non-Free or
> against the DFSG about that.

    Yes, there is.  It oversteps the bounds of the developers and the true
users of the software to extend protections to the users of the service.

> Remember, the GNU GPL and AGPL are aimed at protecting the freedom of
> *users*, not of vendors.

    Correct.  The person sitting down in front of the slot machine isn't a
user of the software.  They are a user of the service.  The user of the
software is the casino.  The vendor in this case is the manufacturer of the
slot machine.  If you're advocating that the casino should have the source to
the machine then I'd agree with you (even if most gaming boards probably would
not since such software has to be certified as tamper proof).
> Again, that's a non-intuitive definition of "user". In context of the
> AGPL, the user is the person interacting with the software over a network,
> not the entity responsible for running the software. Here's an excerpt
> from Section 13 of the AGPL:

    No, it is rather intuative when you ignore the "convey" and focus on who
is actually running the software on the hardware they own.  In the Google
example who owns the hardware?  Google.  Who is running the software?  Google.
Who then is the user?  Google.  Simple.

> "Notwithstanding any other provision of this License, if you modify the
> Program, your modified version must prominently offer all users
> interacting with it remotely through a computer network (if your version
> supports such interaction) an opportunity to receive the Corresponding
> Source of your version by providing access to the Corresponding Source
> from a network server at no charge, through some standard or customary
> means of facilitating copying of software."

    Yup, this moves it down the chain which is why it over steps the bounds.
Given that almost everything these days has custom software which is not
*distributed* to run on the end user's hardware that is a huge leap in scope;
not plugging a hole.
> I understand why some people wouldn't want to participate in the Free
> software movement (less profit to be found here). But I disagree that it
> would be bad for society if the source to things like ATMs were open and
> verifiable.

    I happen to agree with you.  I do not share your notion that any joe
walking up off the street with an ATM card can demand the software off the ATM
machine right then and there.  I agree that the vendor who supplies the
software to the bank should also supply the source.  The bank is the user
providing the service.  The service, just because it is based on software,
does not nor should not convey the rights as a user to anyone for whom the
true user is extending that service.

         Steve C. Lamb         | I'm your priest, I'm your shrink, I'm your
       PGP Key: 1FC01004       | main connection to the switchboard of souls.

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