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FSF Releases AGPL License For Web Services

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the when-view-source-isn't-enough dept.

GNU is Not Unix 276

mako writes "The Free Software Foundation has released the Affero General Public license version 3. The license is essentially the GPLv3 with an added clause that requires that source code be distributed to users that interact with the application over a network. The license effectively extends copyright to Web applications. The new AGPL will have important effects for companies that, under the GPL, have no obligation to distribute changes to users on the Web. This release adds the license to the stable of official FSF licenses and is compatible with the GPLv3."

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"The license extends copyright to Web apps" (4, Interesting)

jkrise (535370) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418249)

Can someone explain exactly how a license can extend Copyright?

The owner of the copyright might extend terms in his license, not the other way round.

Re:"The license extends copyright to Web apps" (4, Informative)

jrumney (197329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418313)

Can someone explain exactly how a license can extend Copyright?
I think the author of TFA meant copyleft.

Re:"The license extends copyright to Web apps" (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418535)

Normally, copyright wants nothing to do with web apps. It's like, "Oh my gosh! This PHP code is total shit! I won't have a thing to do with it. It's just dirty!". Other times it's like, "This enterprise Java app is waaaaaaaaaaaaay too over-engineered. We have factory classes for generating factory classes for generating factory classes for generating objects that wrap the native boolean datatype. Fuck this stupidity!" Then it goes home and watches TV.

So a group like the FSF will have to come along and rough up copyright a little bit. Only if copyright is legally forced to deal with the mess that are web apps will it bother to do so. Even then, I'm thinking it'll resist somewhat, since I'm pretty sure it doesn't want to have to associate with such pathetic programming.

really? (5, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418255)

The new AGPL will have important effects for companies that, under the GPL, have no obligation to distribute changes to users on the Web

Only if they use it. No-one's under an obligation to use a new version of a licence, and if they don't like the terms, they may steer clear of it to start with.

Re:really? (3, Insightful)

DirtyHerring (635192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418407)

You write ReallyCoolWebTool and license it under the AGPL. GreedyBastardCompany wants to use and change it. Now they have the choice between releasing their source code, or not using it at all. That was different with the GPL.

Re:really? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418505)

You write ReallyCoolWebTool and license it under the AGPL. GreedyBastardCompany wants to use it. Now they have the choice between releasing their source code, or not using it at all. That was different with the GPL.

Fixed for you. This version of the GPL goes above and beyond what the GPL has traditionally concerned itself with, distribution.

So I'm wondering, do you have to provide the source code only if the user can directly use the program through a web service or does it account for indirect access? If I'm taking advantage of a service my webhost provides and through that offering some functionality to users who visit my site do I need to obtain the source for that service from my webhost and then pass it along to the user (assuming it's covered by the APL of course)?

Re:really? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418631)

I way I see this is that if you make changes which are publicly viewable then you have to re-distribute those changes. If you don't make changes then no one is going to come knocking on your door.

I don't really see the need for this license. I've been writing PHP code for years and this has never been a problem. When I worked for GreedyBastardCompany I was looking for a free captcha to use. If it was licensed under the AGPL I would have looked for something else more work safe. Luck had it that it was licensed under the GPL so I took the code and incorporated it into our site. The captcha wasn't very good though so I made it better and gave the code changes back to the author. This is basically what AGPL forces you to do but when you do web work everything is so customised that it wouldn't work any better then the GPL does.

The web development community is great at giving back code changes so I do question the need for this license, especially if it gets in the way of writing a commercial site on top of an AGPL web framework (which is the point of most web frameworks, to make you write commercial websites faster in a team environment).

There are exceptions though. I think this would be a GREAT license to use when launchpad.net goes open source. Bug tracking, Time Tracking, Project Management, etc. These would be great to license under the AGPL.

Why? Well look at what happened to sourceforge.net...

Re:really? (1, Interesting)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419183)

You write ReallyCoolWebTool and license it under the AGPL. SmallNonprofitOrganization wants to use and change it. Now they have the choice between releasing their source code, or not using it at all. That was different with the GPL

Post-mortem:

SmallNonprofitOrganization discovers bandwidth costs have soared due to extra bandwidth required to support downloading of modified code. SmallNonprofitOrganization decides it's not worth the hassle, ditches ReallyCoolWebTool for a more "user-friendly" closed source license. F/OSS loses yet another potential convert.

Re:really? (2, Informative)

hacker (14635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419271)

SmallNonprofitOrganization discovers bandwidth costs have soared due to extra bandwidth required to support downloading of modified code.

Then SmallNonprofitOrganization uses any of the hundreds of services out there to help them, like:

  1. Coral Content Distribution Network [coralcdn.org]
  2. SourceForge.net [sourceforge.net]
  3. SourceFubar [sourcefubar.net]

...and so on. Barring that, they just ask a member of the FLOSS community to host it for them, gratis, in exchange for some mention on their website or other non-financial gratification.

Re:really? (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419223)

On the face of it this licence sounds like a Good Thing. However, it also sounds worryingly close to an EULA... :(

Re:really? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419227)

Nothing prevented someone from drafting up such terms before this AGPL.

Great example of the FSF opening up to others. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418261)

I think it's great that the FSF has opened up to different views on how Free Software should be protected without compromising the fundamental principle of copyleft. The GPL -> AGPL compatibility gives a real chance for different software groups to work together. I'm going to relicense all my perl modules under this.

was I the only one.. (0, Offtopic)

TheJasper (1031512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418265)

who read Afro gpl the first time around?

Re:was I the only one.. (1)

Slashidiot (1179447) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418317)

Nope. I spent about 5 seconds thinking if this would be like the GPL, but funkier...

compatible with GPLv3 ? (1, Interesting)

bill_of_wrongs (761897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418273)

It has an additional requirement that GPLv3 doesn't have. Maybe I'm just stupid but I don't quite see how it can be compatible since GPLv3 doesn't allow additional requirements.

Re:compatible with GPLv3 ? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418365)

There's a special clause written into the GPLv3 which permits compatibility with exactly this one license. See http://gplv3.fsf.org/ [fsf.org] for more info.

Re:compatible with GPLv3 ? (1)

bill_of_wrongs (761897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418567)

Ah yes, section 13, thanks AC !

Re:compatible with GPLv3 ? (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418443)

The GPL doesn't allow additional restrictions on users. The additional requirement of the AGPL gives users an additional freedom, and the GPLv3 was planned with this in mind already (the GPLv2 is not compatible with this, which was part of the motivation for creating GPLv3).

Re:compatible with GPLv3 ? (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418943)

It's a restriction. You can't use it unless you distribute the source. Previously you could use it and not distribute the source, provided you didn't distribute the app.

Re:compatible with GPLv3 ? (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418993)

Legally, public performance is not normal use.

Re:compatible with GPLv3 ? (1)

serialdogma (883470) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419431)

How is that related?
This means that if somebody writes a DHTML listbox control, releases it under this license; and some company uses this listbox control on their web-app, then they would have to provide the full source of their web-app under the license. But the the DHTML listbox control only runs on the client, the client already has the source code for the listbox control, it is not a public performance.

Or in the case of server side code being released under the license, the only thing the client uses or gets is the the output, and in most cases the output of a server side library is not protected under the copyright of the library that created it. For instance if you create a picture in PhotoShop, then Adobe would have no claim to it.

Re:compatible with GPLv3 ? (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419003)

It places restrictions on the kind of changes you are permitted to make (i.e., it infringes freedom 1 and maybe 3). Like the AC says, it is only compatible with GPLv3 because both it and GPLv3 explicitly say that it is.

Doubt (1)

ScorpFromHell (837952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418277)

The new AGPL will have important effects for companies that, under the GPL, have no obligation to distribute changes to users on the Web.

What does this mean now? If I release a web service under AGPL, do I have to distribute the changes or not?

Sorry, am not a native English speaker. IANAL too.

Re:Doubt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418385)

Not if you are the copyright holder.

The licence only applies to other people who distribute (and, in this case, use) your software. The copyright holder can do whatever he wants, including selling the product under a different licence.

Depends a bit on what you do (5, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418469)

I write a web based application, say forum software, and publish that under the regular GPL.

That means you can take the source code for my software and modify it and use it. BUT because you never distribute that modified code (you only run it on your own server) you don't have to honor the GPL and disclose your modifications.

This is extremely common lots of websites use GPL software but never contribute back their own changes.

IF I write my forum software under the AGPL and you modify it for your own use, you now have to distribute those changes. Roughly the same as if you had modified a client program.

HOWEVER your question is slightly odd, if you release a web service under AGPL then you are the original author. As the original author (as long as no others contribute code to you) you can do what you please. Just because version 1 of your software was under X license doesn't mean version 2 has to be.

What I think you meant to ask was "If I build a webservice with software that is licensed under the AGPL, do I have to distribute changes I make to that software".

The answer to that is YES.

Although I presume they will allow you to modify the config file and keep it private, bit of a security nightmare if you have to distribute the bit that contains your passwords ^_^

Basically this is the GPL for software where the end-user only gets the end-result, not the actuall program.

It is an intresting idea, the GPL works because it en-forces users to be contributors as well. There is a reason MS and Apple love BSD and IBM loves the GPL. Why should software like forum software be different?

As a web developer I like the idea. When I release a web-app and you modify it, you now have to give that code back. Seems only fair, why should web-apps be different?

If you don't like the idea, well then don't use AGPL licensed software. Write your own or use software under a different license.

Re:Depends a bit on what you do (1)

ScorpFromHell (837952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418549)

Mod parent up!
Thanks a bunch for the explanation :)

May your AGPL'ed code always be updated by your end users :D

Re:Depends a bit on what you do (1)

doti (966971) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418655)

The overall post was good, but this part

"the GPL works because it en-forces users to be contributors as well"
not only is untrue, but also fails to make any sense.

It forces nothing to the user. The restriction is only upon distribution: if you distribute the software, modified or not, you must make the source code available.

Re:Depends a bit on what you do (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419319)

No, no. Grandparent is correct. The restriction on AGPL is not only upon distribution. If you modify the code and put it on your website for users to interact with, then the special clause in the AGPL says that you have to distribute it:

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. This Corresponding Source shall include the Corresponding Source for any work covered by version 3 of the GNU General Public License that is incorporated pursuant to the following paragraph.


So this common Slashdot meme about the GPL does not apply to the AGPL.

Re:Depends a bit on what you do (4, Informative)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418717)

What I think you meant to ask was "If I build a webservice with software that is licensed under the AGPL, do I have to distribute changes I make to that software".

The answer to that is YES.

Well you can relicense it and remove the AGPL license at a whim, and relicense it as you like.

This license is targeted pretty much at developers like myself; I have a project called phpDiplomacy [phpdiplomacy.net] , and it's currently licensed under BSD.
Using the GPL seemed pointless, because I'm not worried about people selling the code. I am only concerned about someone taking the code, modifying it, running it on their server and making money off it, but not releasing the changes. Because it's a server-side app they wouldn't have to distribute the source to make money off it, so they have no reason to distribute changes.
So for me having a license was only about making sure people couldn't take the code and claim they wrote it, and that's pretty much all BSD does.

I'll probably move from BSD to AGPL now, once I've read it over thoroughly (and hopefully once it becomes OSS approved), and I can definitely remove the BSD license (or any other license) from my own software. I can add and remove licenses as I please, as the copyright holder.
The only restriction on me is that if someone already has a BSD licensed copy now I can't say "Your copy is now AGPL licensed", I can only license future releases differently.

(IANAL YMMV)

Re:Depends a bit on what you do (3, Interesting)

sw155kn1f3 (600118) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418777)

What really disturbs me is that if someone makes use of, say Perl modules, released under AGPL, even if you're not directly using them, and not even aware, this makes all your custom app code AGPL too?
Or this is LGLP-like license, where you can freely use LGPL libraries and keep custom code private?
Can someone explain if this is going to happen?

Re:Depends a bit on what you do (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418959)

Yes - the same as the GPL.

You have to be careful of which licenses you use. If you're unsure.. consult a lawyer.

Re:Depends a bit on what you do (1)

FooBarWidget (556006) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419163)

"even if you're not directly using them, and not even aware, this makes all your custom app code AGPL too?"

No it doesn't. This is one of the many FUDs spread against GPL and related licenses. Your own software will never, EVER, suddenly and magically become GPL/LGPL/AGPL/WhateverPL.

What could happen is that you'll have a license violation. You can choose how you want to solve this violation:
1. Relicense your application under a compatible license. Again: this is completely up to you! Nobody can force you to relicense your software.
2. Remove any dependencies on the library in question, by rewriting (parts of) your code.
3. Ask the copyright holders of the library in question whether they'll grant you a commercial license, possibly for a fee.

and now why this won't work.. (2, Insightful)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418859)

Maybe I am wrong here but if your code is..

<?php
echo 'blah';
?>
and then you see that I have done all this awesome stuff with your AGPL code and demand the changes, could I just give you..

<?php
include 'mycode.php';
echo 'blah';
?>
Since you have to redistribute changes not your own files it doesn't seem like this license would be much use, just like how GPL2 isn't much use stopping DRM'd linux kernels.

If however I am wrong and you have to redistribute mycode.php I can see this being a real nightmare for programmers who have incorporated all sorts of code into their project.

Re:Depends a bit on what you do (2, Interesting)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418933)

I've GPL'd some of my code and I adore OSS both philosophically and for all of it's practical glory.

However I am not sure how I feel about this. Simply because with GPL code you're talking about something that someone is going to be running on their own machine and for their own purposes. If there is a problem with a locally executing program the user deserves to be able to fix it themselves. There is also trust issues that OSS goes a ways towards fixing. With the source code available you can audit the code for security issues or even intentional malice on the part of the author etc.

With web services we are talking about applications that do not run on the user's machine. Thus the server-side code doesn't really do them any good anyway. Any code that does execute locally (markup and client side scripts etc.) is available to them.

So this is pandering exclusively to the original authors who demand any modifications that you make to their code, since it in no way benefits their users. I realize that is a part of the original GPL, but I'm not sure it is in it's spirit. The original GPL says that if you DISTRIBUTE your modifications that you must also provide the code. To me that says "the users of MY software deserve to have the code available to them so that they have a complete 'product' that they can do whatever they want with. So if you distribute a modified version then the users also need to have the code to your modifications otherwise you do not have permission to distribute a modified version of my software".

The AGPL on the other hand is saying that "even though the code does absolutely no good to your users, even though you are offering a service and not an application you must still release any modified versions of this code because I gave you the original code and I want your modifications back".

I am not saying that it is good or bad. I am not even sure how I feel about it. I'm just not certain that it's in the spirit of the original GPL. I'm sure others will disagree.

Re:Depends a bit on what you do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21419083)

Write your own or use software under a different license.


Why not use something someone else writes and uses a different license?

The FSF is going crazy... they're spinning themselves out of orbit.

Ugh (-1, Troll)

SamP2 (1097897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418325)

Unless I misunderstand the word "users", isn't this a complete defiance of the spirit of the GPL?

The GPL is and has always been passed to DERIVIATIONS of an application, not work created USING the application.

Are you saying that if I, say, use an AGPL-licensed currency converting web service on my ticket reservation site, I must release the WHOLE site under the AGPL?

That's like making a GPL paint program that forces users to release pictures created with that program under GPL. Or a compiler that forces you to release any code compiled with it under the GPL. Or a free paint brush given to me by Walmart on the condition that anything I paint with that brush becomes Walmart's property for kindly letting me use the brush.

The difference between protecting modifications of the software, and forcing WORK done with the software to be released under the GPL is HUGE. Its one thing to say that if I modify a free program I must make the modification free, and a COMPLETELY different thing to say that I lose the copyright to anything I create with the software.

Not to mention that it totally kills all of the FSF's wooing of the private sector by telling them to use Free software instead of proprietary. While the private sector, producing work using free tools, is usually not really interested in modifying (or holding copyright) on the modification of the tools they use, they DAMN WELL care about the copyright to the WORK they produced using their time and money, and if you tell them that they must release the rights to their work by virtue of using Free tools, they'll just laugh at your face and move to the next vendor, Free or not.

Yes, I know it's "just" for web services, but as the old saying goes, bad things don't become better online.

I'd be very glad if it was just me misunderstanding the license, rather than an outright attempt by Stallman to impose his Communistique vision of "freedom" upon the world.

Re:Ugh - Be GLAD (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418387)

> The GPL is and has always been passed to DERIVIATIONS of an application, not work created USING the application.

this remains true

> Are you saying that if I, say, use an AGPL-licensed currency converting web service on my ticket reservation site, I must release the WHOLE site under the AGPL?

no. have a read of the license and you will find it's only the one application. The new license is actually almost exactly identical to the GPLv3

>The difference between protecting modifications of the software, and forcing WORK done with the software to be released under the GPL is HUGE.

You are right and the FSF agrees. FSF licenses make it impossible to force work done with the software and not embedding parts of thw software to be controlled.

> I'd be very glad if it was just me misunderstanding the license,

Be glad :-)

Re:Ugh - Be GLAD (1)

SamP2 (1097897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418425)

Nice to hear, but pardon my ignorance, why the heck does it then refer to those who modify the program as "users"?

Users are those that use the software to produce their own work. If the license doesn't apply to them, but only to those that make changes to the program, it shouldn't refer to the developers as "users" but "authors", "contributors", or "producers of derivative work".

Re:Ugh - Be GLAD (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418565)

Yeah, you're right, the FSF article does overload the term "user" in an unhelpful way.

Re:Ugh (1)

m94mni (541438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418409)

It means that if your ticket reservation site is a derivative of some AGPL code (in the usual GPL sense), you must release your derivative work, even though you never actually distributed it, only allowed access across a network. Nothing else.

Re:Ugh (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418451)

It depends what you understand by the spirit of the GPL. If you read the GPL version 2 that came out in 1991, the preamble makes it pretty clear:

the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software--to make sure the software is free for all its users.
If all its users are to have the freedom to share and change the software, then that would include users who are accessing it over a web service. So this is a logical step to ensure freedom for software users.

Are you saying that if I, say, use an AGPL-licensed currency converting web service on my ticket reservation site, I must release the WHOLE site under the AGPL?
I don't think that is the case - just the source code to the currency converter itself, and any modifications you have made to that converter. Of course if you take the converter's source code and include it in your own code then you must be careful - but that is true with almost any software.

Re:Ugh (1)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418463)

No.
Yes.
No, no, no, no, no....

We're not talking about work created using an application, we're still talking about derivations of an app.
It's just that this app is a web-thingy app, and will never be "distributed" to users, but will just provide some kind of service to them.
So that according to the GPL, devs are not obliged to release modifications they made to the code, and can get away with the "free beer" part without caring much about the "free speech" one.
As always, if this license doesn't suit your needs, don't use it.
AGPL is no more "viral" than GPL is, it's just appropriate for "free as in free speech" web-apps development.

Re:Ugh (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418537)

Are you saying that if I, say, use an AGPL-licensed currency converting web service on my ticket reservation site, I must release the WHOLE site under the AGPL?

I'm not sure about that one, but even if it were true...

That's like making a GPL paint program that forces users to release pictures created with that program under GPL.

No, it's nothing like that!

What this licence is saying - as is quite clear in TFA - is that if I host an AGPL application, and you log in to my server and use it, I have to provide you with the source code to the web service that you are using including any modifications I have made to it. This means that you can check for vulnerabilities and exploits etc.

As to whether I have to licence my entire server under AGPL if I use a small AGPL component, well that's a different issue and the article doesn't say whether the licence requires that or not.

No you troll (3, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418603)

This guy is trolling, he purposefully misreads the license and tries to introduce the old troll that GPL software means that what is produced with that software must be GPL'ed as well. This is offcourse complete and utter nonsense, but it is a regular troll that usually gets modded down pretty quickly.

He just tries a new angle with the AGPL. To make it clear for those who don't understand the license. Slashdot is run on custom code, lets say that it is released under the GPL, you can now take that code, install it on your own server (scream a bit as you release what you have just done) and run your own site with it (although it never will be quite like slashdot unless you hire a finite number of monkeys as your editors). So far so good. Now you modify this code. To hide your shame you don't actually distribute the code in question, just run it on your own server. A GPL license in this case would NOT force you to release these modifications, the GPL only triggers when you distribute the code/program to others. Google for instance uses a modified GPL code, but because they don't distribute are under no obligation to distribute the modified code (they do distribute some of it although they don't have too).

IF however the slash code was released under the AGPL you would be forced to distribute your modifications.

BUT at no point would the END result of the code/program fall under any license other then that which you choose. In this case, the HTML pages created would OFFCOURSE not fall under the AGPL or GPL or ANY license unless you choose one yourselve. (does machine created content fall under basic copyright?)

This is very clear from the license text and only a deliberate misreading by someone wishing to troll could result in any other explenation.

The GPL/AGPL are about the program/code, NOT about the results of the program/code. Anyone who tries to claim something else is an idiot.

It says a lot about slashdot moderation that this tired old troll was modded up. He tries to disguise himself by saying that he is happy to be corrected but before without trying to link Stallman to communism (the gpl is far closer to the true idea of a free market) and without having spouted a lot of outright crap first.

Now if you excuse me, I have to use windows for an hour as punishement for feeding the troll.

Almost correct, but... (1, Insightful)

SamP2 (1097897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418799)

This guy is trolling, he purposefully misreads the reply in question and tries to introduce the old troll that anyone questioning any aspect of GPL must be Windoze fanboy. This is offcourse complete and utter nonsense, but it is a regular troll that usually gets modded up by other fanboyz pretty quickly. ...

This is very unclear from the license text and only a deliberate misreading of the parent post by someone wishing to troll could result in any other explenation for a complete bs of a reply.

All debate about GPL on /. must be of admiration and awe, with not a single word of criticism or questioning. Anyone who tries to claim something else is an idiot.

It says a lot about slashdot moderation that this tired old troll was never modded up in the first place, but he's too kneejercked to actually check that before posting a flame He tries to disguise himself by saying that he is a defender against the defamation of free software but before without trying to link questioning of GPL to heresy (the gpl is far closer to God than Jesus is and without having spouted a lot of outright crap first.

Now if you excuse me, I have to use windows which (gasp) is not released under GPL for an hour as punishement for being the troll.


There, fixed it for you.

No, no, no. (2, Interesting)

skrolle2 (844387) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418767)

No, no, no, you've completely misunderstood it.

The GPL, and all other licenses based in copyrights, only kick in when you perform the actual copying. Say, for example, that you modify MySQL somehow. If you acquired MySQL under the GPL, and you wish to DISTRIBUTE this modified version, you have to abide by the GPL, and give out the source-code for your modifications alongside. This is the only way the GPL can kick in currently, when someone wishes to distribute modifications of GPL software.

But say that instead of modifying MySQL and making a downloadable application that runs on the user's computer, I make a web application. I still use MySQL on my server, and I use my code for the actual web application, and this combined essentially forms a derived work of MySQL, and if I were to distribute this application, I would also have to give out the source-code for my web app for free. But I'm not distributing it, I'm only making it available through my website, and because GPL only kicks in during distribution, I'm free to use as much GPL software as I possibly want for my web application without ever releasing any source code.

This is what this AGPL wants to stop. If MySQL was distributed under it, then everyone who built a web app using MySQL, would also have to give away the source code for their web app, if they make it available to users.

Needless to say, this is not going to be very popular with companies. I can't imagine Google or Facebook or MySpace or similar websites ever wanting to give away their source-code, since it contains all the trade secrets, everything that gives them the edge over the competition. I work for a small company and we have our own web application that is backed by some GPL software, but we would never want to give away the code we made ourselves, that would be suicide for us as a company.

Re:No, no, no. (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419471)

If MySQL was distributed under it, then everyone who built a web app using MySQL, would also have to give away the source code for their web app, if they make it available to users.
Or they will have to pay for a commercial license. Spookily, something aimed at strengthening the sharing aspect of the FLOSS movement may just also increase revenues for companies with FLOSS products tremendously ; any commercial concern who doesn't want people to see their secret sauce is going to have to cough up for a license.

Specific to RDBMs ; GPL only kicks in if you compile in GPL code, or if you link directly to a GPL licensed library. Most RDBMs software is not directly linked to the application it is serving data to ; clients use sockets to communicate with MySQL. Now, if you link the GPL licensed MySQL client library, your code would also be subject to GPL ... if it wasn't for the specific exception [mysql.com] that MySQL make for FLOSS projects only.

If you link commercial code to a MySQL client library, you're going to have to pay for the licensed version. But nothing actually stops you from writing your own client library. In fact, nothing stops a third party from writing a compatible client library and distributing it under commercial terms at a cost lower than the price that MySQL AB are charging, because communicating over a socket is not linking. You just can't fork the MySQL code to do it. I'd imagine it would be far easier than doing the same thing for Oracle or SQL Server, simply because the protocol is much better documented (you can look at the source, the best source of documentation there is). Not that you'd bother for MSSQL or Oracle because the cost is in the per-CPU license.

So as a commercial concern your options are not "dump MySQL or post our source on the web". They are
  • Give some money to MySQL AB for this marvellous product that helps us make money too
  • Dump MySQL and port to another RDBMs which may also go AGPL (Postgres) or cost lots of money (MS, Oracle, etc)
  • Write our own MySQL compatible client library
  • Post our source in compliance to AGPL, thus contributing in a way other than money

If MySQL goes AGPL, it just means that the free ride isn't free anymore ; you pay for the software with something, whether that be money, effort, or source sharing. And that's the whole idea of copyleft licenses. It's not about getting a free ride ; it's about getting a ride and paying it forward (or backward, or sideways ; just so long as you don't pocket the proceeds and give nothing back).

Re:Ugh (2, Informative)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419151)

The GPL is and has always been passed to DERIVIATIONS of an application
The GPL is about enforcing give and take in the "free software" community, you get to use and modify the communities code on condition that when you release an improved version your users get the source to those modifications under the GPL (and hence can feed the code back to the community if they wish which if there is more than a handfull of them one of them probablly will).

The problem has been that companies are making improvements to free software but getting arround the requirement to release the source to those improvements to thier users by operating on a service model and not giving the code to thier users in any form (either source or binary).

Afaict there is no requirement in the license to release your website data or the source to other apps on your site in the license (though things could get tricky for tightly integrated sites, the license doesn't seem to do a good job of handling them).

YAVL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418333)

Yet another viral license.

Might be usefull for companies too... (4, Interesting)

Iloinen Lohikrme (880747) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418341)

This might be useful for companies too. We have in example been thinking about releasing our software in open source to expand the usage of our software and to gain more knowledge in the markets about us. However as we are business and a rather small one, releasing the software in example in GPL would be more or less commercial suicide, as our software is purely web based, some bigger service company could just take it and give nothing back...

I really have to read more about AGPL. I think that by combining AGPL + MPL + strong attribution clauses, for us and maybe to many more small developers it could come more lucrative to open source our software, because we still would get changes back, we would have more freedom and we would get attribution for our work. Definitely very good for FSF to publish this license. I really think that in time as there comes more licenses that cover different things, it will come more and more easier and secure to publish software and other works in open source.

Next-gen GPL license (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418417)

GPL : release changes if you publish GPL-derived code.
?GPL : refer to your GPL-based/derived software X as GPL/X.
AGPL : release changes if you do not publish AGPL-derived code.
nxGPL: release changes if you publish non GPL-derived code.

Ug (3, Insightful)

pat mcguire (1134935) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418441)

I've been against this clause ever since I heard GPLv3 was adding compatibility. One of the important parts of the GPL is that it allows private development if the changes weren't distributed - this is an important thing, as there's no user to protect if it's made for self consumption. The four freedoms that RMS always speak of aren't threatened by this, as the user is the same as the writer - there's no oppression that needs to be stopped here. The addition is a corruption of the GPL, changing it's purpose from one of freedom for all users to the coercive obtainment of the source code at any cost.

Re:Ug (1, Troll)

jrumney (197329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418479)

If your "private development" in use on a public website, then it isn't really private.

Re:Ug (1)

Jon Peterson (1443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418681)

Err, sure it is.

Let's suppose you and some friends want to hack on something. A bit of private development. So you set up a normal webserver, but stick password control on it, so only 6 of you have access.

Well, the AGPL covers that, because it covers anything that is remotely accessible over a network.

Re:Ug (2, Informative)

Ciarang (967337) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418721)

So you have to release the source code to the six of you that can access it. You already have it. What's the problem?

Re:It's a new license, doesn't affect GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418581)

Then don't use this new license, but stick with GPLv3 which doesn't have that clause.

Re:Ug (1, Insightful)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418663)

Okay, imagine the following scenario: you code some software that allows people to do some horrendously complicated and hard mathematical problems. You release it under the GPL and give it to the Gnu Scientific Library [gnu.org] . Some commercial company, like Maple or Mathematica, takes it and installs it on their computers. Then they start charging people large amounts of money to go to a web site, enter in their math problem and have the website spit out the answer after their in-house computers have crunched out the solution using your code. At first it's fine, because anybody could have got the answer from GSL tools as well.

But then the company makes some changes that allow it to solve an even greater range of problems. Now people have to go to them for this extra functionality, that they built off of your code. Even you have to pay them money to use this extension of your code. That's ok with you? It's a violation of the GPL in every sense except the technical one.

Re:Ug (2, Insightful)

pat mcguire (1134935) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419089)

My problem is that the clause is too broad. I'll quote it here to point out what I mean:

"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. This Corresponding Source shall include the Corresponding Source for any work covered by version 3 of the GNU General Public License that is incorporated pursuant to the following paragraph."

It covers anything that the user has any contact with on the server. I don't have a problem with the producers using a tweaked kernel version to support the server that it's running on or them adding a module to mySQL to support whatever they're doing without necessarily being forced to give that away for their competitors. As for the objects that the user directly interfaces with, yes, I think you are correct on that account.

I suppose therefore that the license has it's place as long as it's chosen carefully - I know the kernel won't be leaving GPLv2 , but there's lots of system level software that would take away from the freedom of the producer to use it as they wished if they were forced to give it away. I suppose that the compatibility clause in GPLv3 is the best middle ground for code that doesn't need the protection of AGPLv3, as I would think most user-oriented applications would. COngratulations, you've converted me.

Re:Ug (1)

pat mcguire (1134935) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419219)

Actually, nevermind, there's no use in trying to protect the usage rights of the providers, since they'll simply modify the code under AGPLv3 so that it's useless without the underlying code that they're not required to release. AGPLv3 for all, then.

Ah!!! This hurts my head worse than constitutional law...

Re:Ug (1)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419311)

I think I see what you mean. Sorry for getting all preachy. I guess the phrase "interacting with it remotely through a computer network" needs to be clarified. It's not clear how much code "it" refers to. I probably wouldn't have a problem with a company using a slightly tweaked kernel to run their servers and their services either. But maybe the authors of this new license would?

Re:Ug (1)

LatePaul (799448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419383)

It's no more a violation of the GPL than any company using modified GPL software for competitive advantage. Replace the website above with a call-centre where you phone in your question and staff use the program in-house to answer your queries. What's the difference? And that's always been possible with the GPL.

It doesn't even have to be a service industy - you could, in theory, make kernel changes that improve your linux performance that has the knock-on effect of allowing you to make an extra widget an hour (unlikely, but theoretically possible). And no-one else would have that advantage because you don't have to release those changes unless you distribute your new kernel.

It seems to me that if what you really want is to always get the changes returned back to you then you should write that into your license (and there are already licenses that do this).

Re:Ug (1)

cronostitan (573676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419423)

Well.. I am very torn on this. Sure.. it doesn't seem to be fair at first glance.

But as you wrote the original software you have the users community in your hands in the first place. If you keep on developing your software you will keep that community. Most OSS companies are not so much worth because of the sofwtare itself but because of the community that gathered around a software.

Since I am a project leader for a web application software I considered to use the AGPL license long time ago. But since the community and the software is evolving so great it would only limit people in the freedom to customize software to their needs. As most people do dirty hacks anyway instead of a generic expansion that would serve alot more people. And since I keep evlolving teh software with new features the corporations using it have not much choice but giving the mods back to community because re-patching the new version is too much effort compared to the 'givinng-back' alternative.

Re:Ug (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418677)

if it's made for self consumption then you won't be allowing public access to your website and this wont be an issue.

Use and copyright (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418449)

As much as I welcome this license, and as important as I think it is that web services aren't used to deny people the basic freedoms that every software user should enjoy (especially if that software IS free software to begin with)...

Can someone explain to me just how this license can actually be legally binding? We were always told that merely *using* a piece of software did not require accepting its license, and - furthermore - that this was not due to a special clause in the GPL, either (in fact, that would've been impossible, since you'd have to accept the license for that clause to have any effect). This made sense: after all, copyright is about copying/distributing/conveying things (like software), not about regulating use of copyrighted works. You can read a book without needing a license from the publisher; you can use software without requiring a license as well (copying it to your own computer may be another matter, though).

So how can the Affero GPL stipulate that you need to convey the source code of the software you're using to power your web services when you're not actually distributing that software? What would keep $EvilCorporation from simply saying "we do not accept the terms of this license; therefore, we have no right to distribute $UsefulSoftware written by $PhilanthropicHacker, but we still have the right to *use* it, which is all we do when we use it to power our web service"?

Re:Use and copyright (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418573)

Can someone explain to me just how this license can actually be legally binding?

Copyright law allows the copyright holder control over public performance of their work.

Re:Use and copyright (1)

Pofy (471469) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419263)

>Copyright law allows the copyright holder control
>over public performance of their work.

But how is this public performance of the work? I am no expert or even that much knowledgable about "web services" but to my understanding the whole issue comes from the fact that the program (the work) is NOT run publicly but on your own servers, only the result, output, of the program is ever public, or is some compiled version of it sent to the users of the service. After all, if the work WAS performed publicly, it would not be unkown or secret and everyone would have access to start with it. So feel free to tell were I am wrong, I would be happy to know.

Re:Use and copyright (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419413)

When a radio station plays a song, they play it in a private studio, and beam the results of playing it out to all their listeners. This is classed as public performance, and needs separate licenses beyond the usage rights that owning the CD gives you.

what about config files? (1)

baboonlogic (989195) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418459)

Config files can contain secrets such as mysql passwords, etc. And modifying them is definitely modification of source code. I wonder how they get across that one...

Re:what about config files? (0)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418661)

Information wants to be free. Back in the day, RMS didn't password his account and he didn't mind if people logged in under his name.

Re:what about config files? (1)

Jon Peterson (1443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418665)

Good point. In many high level languages (esp. PHP) configuration is done though a block of simple code that just sets variables. So, such apps would have to specifically exclude the config file from the remit of the license. Sounds like a minefield to me.

On the plus side, should be fairly easy to comply for Javascript :)

Re:what about config files? (1)

nihaopaul (782885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418945)

config-dist.php

make a new file named config.php with maybe settings that are needed, ta da, a file you created

fwiw

will it hold any water? (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418495)

Last time I checked copyright didn't extend to the output of a programme, otherwise Microsoft would own all of your .doc files and everything produced by gcc would have to fall under the GPL.

How can the AGPL work in practice?

Re:will it hold any water? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418787)

Last time I checked copyright didn't extend to the output of a programme, otherwise Microsoft would own all of your .doc files and everything produced by gcc would have to fall under the GPL.

How can the AGPL work in practice?


Tbe AGPL is not about output, it's about modification.

The difference between the GPL and AGPL is that the GPL only cares about distribution. You can modify as much as you want, as long as you don't distribute, there is not limit. The AGPL expands the "distribution" part to running it on a web server, where people don't download the program, they only use it, thus it is technically not distributed. With the AGPL you still have to give them the source, including modifications.

Swell (1)

Jon Peterson (1443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418639)

Great! I spend 12 years (count 'em) working to convince first developers, then managers, then commercial directors, and then, finally, lawyers, to see the benefits of open source, and not to fear it. And then this. Great. Thanks.

In an attempt to make life simple for simple folk, I've spent 12 years explaining that there are three kinds of free software:

Public domain software - no copyright, no nothing. Rare and not very useful, but it does exist. Well, it did exist until universities wised up to what some of the faculty were doing.

BSD style software. Free to use, free to make proprietary derivations.
GPL style software. Free to use, but distributed derivations must also be GPL

Now this. It's no longer about distribution, it's about use. Not only that, but we aren't talking websites, we're talking any remote network access. 'Remote' is not defined in the license, so it's while localhost is probably excluded, I've no idea what the status of an intranet would be. What about the intranet of a multi-national?

Bah. So, I run a search engine that's AGPL'd. Cool. Folk can search my site. Then I find a bug, and fix it on my copy of the search engine. Now, I'm in breach of license unless I add some stupid 'download my forked version source code here' link to my site. And I have to keep that link there until the main branch accept my bug fix and release a new version, whereupon I must upgrade to the new version (possibly including other stuff I don't want) until I can get rid of the link.

Re:Swell (1)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418801)

Now this. It's no longer about distribution, it's about use. Not only that, but we aren't talking websites, we're talking any remote network access. 'Remote' is not defined in the license, so it's while localhost is probably excluded, I've no idea what the status of an intranet would be. What about the intranet of a multi-national?

IANAL, but it seems to me you only have to give the "users" the source. On an intranet all the users are in the company, so there is no need to release the source outside the company. From the 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

Re:Swell (1)

Bill Dimm (463823) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419205)

IANAL, but it seems to me you only have to give the "users" the source. On an intranet all the users are in the company, so there is no need to release the source outside the company.
But, do you need to release it to any employee who asks for it, and may they then take it with them when they leave the company and go to work for a competitor?

Yeah so? (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418851)

Basically you are saying, don't use software if you are not willing to follow the license.

If you can't live with the AGPL, don't use software licensed under it. The spirit of the GPL was that if you modify code, you share it. This has now just been updated to reflect web apps that previously were immune to it.

Don't like it, don't use it. Same as with GPL software.

If you want to dictate license terms, write your own software. You can then set any license you want on it. So what if some people don't want to play by the license I choose, let them go somewhere else. Let them negioate with closed source companies about the license. Let them pay me. My code, my license. Your project, your choice as to wether to use my software, but on my terms, not yours, else I will see you in court.

What you claim is 100% correct, the scenario is EXACTLY what must happen if you use AGPL code on your site. Why should it not? Why should you be free to modify MY code, profit from that for free and not have to share it back? If I wanted that I would have chosen a different license. Who are you to tell me how to license my code?

I can't make you pick my code, but you can't make me pick your preffered license.

Re:Yeah so? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21419283)

Don't like it, don't use it. Same as with GPL software.
You do not have to accept the GPL if you want to use a GPL-ed software. Show me any instances where GPL is neede to accepted before a program can be used. It kicks in only when you want to distribute. Surely you need to do that.

If I have to accept AGPL just for using it (like most Microsoft EULAs), one of the best points of FOSS has just died. Even MS-PL did not require you to do that (so are GPL or BSD or Mozilla etc). Freedom to use any open-source programs has just gone out of the window.

AGPL and projects like phpBB (2, Informative)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418657)

I can see where this would be useful.

Say you've got forum software, like phpBB. Lots of people put modifications into it and lots of people release modifications. There are also lots of people who hack in large custom mods and gain from the phpBB base while not releasing anything because it is GPL. If phpBB was AGPLed then major changes like that would have to be released and so anyone modifying, for example, a forum script to turn it into a CMS would have to release their modification. That would then stop people having to re-implement the same CMS functionality just because no-one wanted to release it.

Okay, so it's not necessarily going to be a winner in all cases, and it may dissuade some people from using a script, but I can see where it might be useful.

Re:AGPL and projects like phpBB (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419009)

phpBB and the modifications are written in PHP. PHP is plain text scripting code. Could you be more specific about what you mean?

Are you talking about forcing people that customise their own phpBB board but don't release their code for distribution? You are not talking about people that release modifications on the phpBB forum at all. You want to force the phpBB user admins to release their private modifications.

So you're saying that:
- Someone that put a lot of effort into making a new theme for their own forum should be forced to release that theme for everyone's use.
- If someone makes a web game that incorporates a phpBB board they should be forced to give up their web game code.
- If someone makes changes to anything of phpBB and is hosting it on their own website and handing out html pages to people they should give up their private modifications so that you can use it on your own phpBB forum.

That's just freeloading on other's hard work and it would destroy phpBB which is already just a platform for spammers anyway.

I hate opensouce users that contribute nothing towards a project but demand to have everyone's toys. These users kill my enthusiasm to work on the open source web projects I do have.

I know exactly what I'd say if someone showed up at my phpBB forum and demanded my code that I had put months of work into and wasn't related to any open source work.. "f*ck off". It's my code, I have a copyright over it and can do what I want with it.

If there is a mod that you want opensourced then you make it. PHP isn't exactly the hardest scripting language and you can get a lot done in a short time.

Re:AGPL and projects like phpBB (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419281)

If (and it's a big 'if') phpBB were to use the AGPL then yes, those bullet points are pretty much what I'm saying. The theming might be different, though, since the theme isn't normally (AFAIK) licensed under the GPL. What I'm talking about is that this kind of license would ensure that all modifications should* be released in the mod area of the script's website.

As for open sourcing mods, I've already released several for Invisionboard v1 when I was in my teens, a couple for phpBB, I've helped fix bugs in phpBB mods, and I'm working on my own project at the moment that will be released as LGPL (because I want people to be able to reuse the backend library if they want). I may use open source, but I also like to try to contribute back where I can.

As I said at the end of my previous post, there would be some degree of putting people off if you required them to release their modifications, but at the same time it does ensure that no-one makes great speed improvements and keeps them to themselves. The same argument could be made for GPLing an application - any changes you make have to be distributed when you distribute the app, which might put a lot of people off using and modifying your app. People still seem happy to use GPL, though.

I'm not entirely sure where I wasn't being clear and where I mentioned the PHP language.

.

* 'should' rather than 'must' because if they make a sufficiently small change then it may not be obvious and people may hide it and pretend they never did it.

Is this an EULA? (3, Interesting)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418703)

The trouble with this is that the people purportedly bound by the license are users, not distributors. The GPL works because the people in question are distributing copies and thus need a license. People installing software on a server are not.

In the USA, you have the legal right to make copies of software for the purpose of using it. Copying it to your server is not copyright infringement. Running it is not copyright infringement. You don't need a license. So what compels AGPL users to accept this license and be bound by its terms? Where is the consideration?

Re:Is this an EULA? (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418891)

Yeah, that is a very interesting point. GPL is supposed to affect distribution of software. That is why some people (I am among them) argue that it is stupid to show the GPL when users RUN a program, and to make them click accept (it gives the false sense that they have to agree to a lot of crap before using the software... similarly to closed source EULA).

However as you point out, with web software the end users ARE the system administrators! say for example that Moodle started to use the license. The end users are the people that install the software on their servers. This AGPL license will in such case block the USAGE of the application instead of the distribution. Therefore it seems quite plausible to call it an EULA.

AGPL is not enforceable (Re:Is this an EULA?) (4, Informative)

john1040 (1191701) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419019)

I posted this comment on the FSF's site during the commenting period for the AGPL and I will reproduce it here:

AGPL is not enforceable in the United States

Disclaimer: IANAL

I did some research on case law and I found that AGPL is not enforceable in the United States.

As I understand it, under US law there are four legal positions in which a party can find itself with respect to a copyrighted computer program it possesses:

1. Copyright owner
2. "Owner of a copy"
3. Governed by a contract such as an EULA
4. Unauthorized possessor

Dismissing 1 and 4 as irrelevant to the discussion, we find that a user of AGPL software will be in either position 2 or 3.

The AGPL is not an EULA.

Neither the AGPL, nor the GPL, nor the LGPL are EULAs. They are not contracts. So we conclude that a party which uses AGPL software is an "owner of a copy."

The AGPL purports to restrict one's right to modify software that runs on a public server. It bases this on copyright law, which restricts the right to make derivative works.

However, 17 U.S.C. 117 (a)(1) gives the "owner of a copy" of a copyrighted computer program the right to modify the program if "... such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner"

Aymes v. Bonelli, 47 F.3d 23 (2d Cir. 1995) said that: [b]uyers should be able to adapt a purchased program for use on the buyers computer because without modifications, the program may work improperly, if at all. No buyer would pay for a program without such a right.6[The defendants], as rightful owners of a copy of the plaintiffs program, did not infringe upon the copyright, because the changes made to the program were necessary measures in their continuing use of the software in operating their business and the program was not marketed, manufactured, distributed, transferred, or used for any purpose other than the defendants own internal business needs. (as quoted in http://www.copyright.gov/1201/2006/comments/granick_wirelessalliance.pdf [copyright.gov] )

This right to modify was broadened in Krause v. Titleserv 03-9303 http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/2nd/039303p.pdf [findlaw.com] Discussion: http://www.techlawjournal.com/topstories/2005/20051107.asp [techlawjournal.com]

Krause is important to AGPL because it includes the use of software over a network. The court found that the "owner of a copy" of a computer program could add new features essential to its business -- including customer modem access to use the program -- without permission from the copyright owner.

Krause was sited recently in a similar case: Weitzman v. Microcomputer 06-60237-CIV, 2007 WL 744649 (S.D. Fla. March 6, 2007). http://www.thelen.com/tlu/StuartWeitzmanVMicroComputer.pdf [thelen.com] The established law of the land in the United States is that the "owner of a copy" of a computer program has the right to modify that copy for its business needs. The AGPL cannot restrict this right without being an EULA and using contract law.

So, a SaaS provider that is the "owner of a copy" of an AGPL computer program has the right to modify its copy of that program to further its business needs, and it does not require the permission of the copyright holder to do so. This means that it does not have to provide the source publicly for any modifications that it makes. The only way to prevent this is to use an EULA and contract law.

Re:Is this an EULA? (2, Interesting)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419031)

A lot of the data that a web service sends to the data is client-side code, and even the rest of the markup transmitted was mostly created by the developer of the web service code. I think it is this distribution of code that allows the AGPL to put requirements on the operator of the web service. If they go through and replace all the data that is transmitted to the user, then I guess they could ignore the AGPL since they are not distributing anything that is covered by copyright law.

Re:Is this an EULA? (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419133)

In the USA, you have the legal right to make copies of software for the purpose of using it. Copying it to your server is not copyright infringement. Running it is not copyright infringement. You don't need a license. So what compels AGPL users to accept this license and be bound by its terms? Where is the consideration?

It doesn't say that *you* have to provide the source, it says the *program* has to provide the source. Changing the program to *not* provide the source would be making a derivative work, and therefore require permission from the copyright holder. (Of course if the program uses external facilities to provide the source, I don't really see how the license can prevent you from breaking those facilities...)

Unless john1040 is correct, in which case the whole thing falls apart.

The path to the dark side... (2, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419361)

This is another step down the path to the dark side.

First, the FSF extended their definition of derived work to include programs that were compatible with GPLed code but didn't actually contain any GPLed code, bringing the horrors of interface copyrights into the FSF's fold.

Now, they're invoking the madness that modifying but not redistributing software is against the license, which is a tool used to lock end-users in by denying them the right to modify commercial software.

These kinds of clauses and interpretations strengthen the dead grasp of Microsoft and other companies that want to use software patents, interface copyrights, and onerous and offensive non-modification clauses to keep users from modifying their own software. One day, I can see the LPF in court, attacking some onerous license, and their opposite number pointing out that the same clauses were right there in licenses drawn up by the same lawyers working for the FSF.

Don't fear one evil so much that you end up serving others just as great. Fear leads to hate, hate leads to anger, and anger leads to suffering.

option (1)

tizo (1099283) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418723)

It is just a new option. Developers who don't like it terms, can still use GPL3. Developers who want to receive modifications of their programs, used as network services, can use the new one.

This is pointless (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418771)

For the right to modify code to be useful there is an implicit assumption that the database under the program is available. What point is it for a web user, of any level of sophistication, to have the source for some web app, when he doesn't have access to the database it runs on? He can't reproduce his experience. He can only relaunch the same service on another URL with a different database on the backend.

This illustrates nicely that the purpose of the FSF is not to ensure users retain important capabilities, but to ensure that there is no copyright in any software work.

Re:This is pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21419409)

This illustrates nicely that the purpose of the FSF is not to ensure users retain important capabilities, but to ensure that there is no copyright in any software work.

Replace "any software work" with "software that the original author (you know, the owner of the copyright) has decided that he wants people to give back improvements to". Noone forces you to make changes to software under this license, just like noone forces you to use Windows.

Oh, and replace "no copyright" with "Following the wishes of the copyright owner", as he is the one who gets to choose the license in the first place.

Now for a contrarian view... (1)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418833)

I find this license rather onerous, as it basically categorizes the end-user as a distributor, even though no such distribution has occurred, and forces the user, solely on the basis of using the software, into the precarious position of also serving as a distributor for said software. I believe this violates the spirit of F/OSS in that using the software is no longer "free" (as in freedom), as there are now strings attached: Use this software, and you are now obligated to support a distribution channel as well.

What I predict will happen is that unsuspecting users, who are familiar with the traditional definition of F/OSS (or perhaps have just been turned on to F/OSS), will grab a piece of software licensed under the Affero license, believing it to be "free" when, in fact, it's not really "free". Said user, who might have been a vociferous advocate for F/OSS, will become disenchanted with the entire process as simply a "bait and switch" scheme and move on to some proprietary solution. Score for F/OSS: 0 Score for closed source: 1

I know there are those who will say "tough shit, should have read the license first." Those people will have lost the ticket to the clue train, because anyone who feels like they've been duped into this scenario (regardless of whether they have read the license or not) will become the worst type of enemy for F/OSS.

Say what you will, but this license is bad news.

Re:Now for a contrarian view... (2, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419309)

I don't consider a software as a service operator to be an "end user", they are a middleman providing users with the ability to use software that runs on thier servers. Software as a service was being used to essentially do an end run arround the GPLs requirement to provide the source code.

Misleading? (1)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418857)

"This license is essentially the GPLv3..."

Really? Then explain how this GPLv3 clause:

"You may make, run and propagate covered works that you do not
convey, without conditions so long as your license otherwise remains
in force."

is compatible with the new Affero license? Oh, that clause is not part of the Affero license? Then how can it be classified as "essentially the GPLv3"?

Very misleading. This is a sad day for F/OSS.

Re:Misleading? (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419177)

"This license is essentially the GPLv3..."

Really? Then explain how this GPLv3 clause:

"You may make, run and propagate covered works that you do not
convey, without conditions so long as your license otherwise remains
in force."

is compatible with the new Affero license? Oh, that clause is not part of the Affero license? Then how can it be classified as "essentially the GPLv3"?

Very misleading. This is a sad day for F/OSS.

Actually, that clause is in the Affero license. The only difference is that there is an extra section with restrictions on how you can modify the program. (Of course, I can have two sentences which are essentially the same (as determined by diff(1)) but mean completely different things, because the only difference is that one has the word "not" added to it...)

Re:Misleading? (1)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419203)

If that's the case, then the clause is not compatible with the additional conditions specified by the Affero license. Unless the word "convey" has now been redefined. In which case, the GPLv3 now defines "convey" differently than the Affero license. Legal hilarity ensues...

just another license (1)

dynomitejj (1113319) | more than 6 years ago | (#21418911)

Developers can release their software with whatever kind of license they want, but if they make it too restrictive, then less businesses will use it and they get less exposure, ect. I can't see, for example, google, using software written under this license and then turning over modifications that may have given them a competitive edge in the marketplace. They are going to choose to use a different software or write their own.

It's an Affero... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418977)

... disiac. Music to my years.

Politics and Computers (1)

raphae1 (695666) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419197)

Isn't anyone else tired of this continuous political manouvering that has FUCK ALL to do with software or computers? PD software was a great thing and has been around longer than the FSF. Open Source per se amounts to pretty much the same thing. GPL has been useful, but my reservations are growing together with the version number. And I really don't like the borg mentality. No, I'm not talking about M$Borg this time. At the end of the day, aside all the usual pubilicised reasons such as protecting the developer's rights, the GPL IS designed to force people into it. My standard response to people pushing me is "fuck you". That is if I we're not talking physically. Good ol' Stallman should maybe take a few months holiday in Russia or China and chill out a bit.

Does this solve a problem? Or create a loophole? (1)

hacker (14635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419401)

I see the value of this, for "honest" contributors and companies who wish to contribute back, and ensure that those contributions are kept public and available, but... have we just opened another loophole in the licensing?

Let's say I write NeatNewWebService v0.1, and I release it under the APL. Now LoathingBastardCompany decides they like it (and I should note, something very similar has happened before [gnu-designs.com] ).

LoathingBastardCompany takes the code, modifies it heavily inside their company, and begins using it, exposing it publicly to clients and customers.

How am I supposed to know that they're using it? How do I tell that my code is actually powering their web service? How can I enforce the APL, if there's no way to determine if it is indeed being used?

In a previous situation (see above), the company in question took our code, pulled out all of our names, ripped out the license file, changed a few About screens, and sold it to their customers and clients, at high costs. The only way we'd ever be able to gain access to the binary to debug it and find out that it was 100% our code, would be to pay that price to examine it. (In our case, they gave away our viewer code as demos to display their content (prepared with our distiller tools), so we found it easily).

But how does this happen when you're interacting with the APL code via a web service? And how do you do it, if that web service is in public, but closed usage?

FSF regulating usage is a horrible idea (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21419439)

The GPLv2 regulates distribution, not usage. Some people claim that GPLv3's new language exerts some control on how you use the software, although I don't quite agree with that. The AGPL does, though, and I hate it for that.

The huge problem is that it makes a special standard for web applications that nothing else is held to. If I host a web app and you use it, I'm not distributing that application to you - I'm running it on your behalf and giving you the output. This is exactly identical to you SSHing into my console server, running a terminal app, and me handing back its output. And yet because "web2.0" and all that crap is so hot right now, people seem to think it's new and different. It's not. It is the old client-server paradigm.

This is seriously screwed up and I think it's a horrible idea. I grok the GPL and love it, but this is way beyond its original intent. The GPL is supposed to give the end users freedom, not take it away. If I wanted to lose all control of the software I run, I'd just buy a copy of Windows and be done with it.

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