[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

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

Steve Lamb wrote:
>> 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.

Your definition of "user" seemed backwards to me, because you use the word to
describe the service providers rather than the users of the service. But after
reading your email, I understand the distinctions you make between the user of
the actual software (the service provider) and the user of the remote service.

You seem to have a three-entity model of the situation (1) the upstream
developer of the software who licenses it to the (2) service provider (who you
call the "user" of the software), who allows access to the program remotely to
(3) the service users. You are in favor of the upstream developer licensing the
software to the service provider by the terms of the GPL, so that the service
provider can make improvements to the code, and if they decide to re-destribute
that code to another service provider they will include their modifications per
the terms of the GPL. But you don't think the service provider should be
required to make those changes available to the users of the service. Is that

I can understand that. But I would argue that using (interacting with) such a
service causes a binary to execute on the remote server, very much like invoking
a local binary. The AGPL ensures that modifications to such binaries are
contributed back to the community anyway.

If I were going to code something like an on-line spreadsheet program, and I
don't want a company like Google taking it as a base for their own proprietary
program to run their service, then the GPL doesn't help me at all (even though
that is the intended goal of the GPL). I need something like the AGPL. Which is
why I think the AGPL should be an option and should be considered Free.

>>> 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
> developer.

Understandable. Fortunately, the AGPL uses the wording "remotely through a
computer network (if your version supports such interaction)," which implies
that you have intentionally made access to your custom application possible over
the network. It doesn't require you to do anything in the case of me entering
your home and using your program on your development machine.

>> 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.

I would suggest the operators of slot machines not migrate their systems in that
direction. I'm not arguing that the AGPL makes sense for every software package
out there. Some systems just don't lend themselves to openness.

>  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?

What happens when systems migrate to AGPL software? I think vendors and service
providers which maintain AGPL software will be under more restrictions to
contribute their improvements to the public, and the users (aka: potential
service providers) of those services will benefit from those improvements. What
do you think will happen?

But again, I don't advocate that every program that can be run remotely be
licensed by the AGPL. Leave it to the original developer's discretions based on
the applications of the program. But recognize it as a viable option for
programs included in a Free operating system.

>> 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.

Again, it depends on who you think the "true" users are. I guess that's all our
disagreement comes down to: I like that the AGPl extends rights to users of the
service; you don't. You probably won't base any projects on AGPL code; I might.
It should be an option for Debian software.

> [...]

(Everything else you wrote was clear, and highlighted the differences in our
opinion over who the users of the software is. I think it's the person logging
into Google and sitting in front of the slot machine; you think it is Google and
the casino.)

- Chris Burkhardt

Reply to: