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[P]
FSF Endorses New "GPL+Web Services" License, Requests Comment

By greenrd in News
Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:26:12 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

The GNU General Public License (GPL) is a very popular license for open source software and free software - perhaps because it is one of the strongest open source licenses in terms of forcing published derivative works to remain open source. However, there is one perceived "loophole" in the GPL that has hindered the Free Software movement's goal of freeing users from proprietary software: the fact that the GPL does not apply to executable code running on an Internet server if that code is never physically distributed.


For example, a tech news site like ZDNet could in theory take SlashCode, make proprietary modifications, and use their own "ZDSlash" without releasing any source. RMS has indicated that the FSF will address this loophole in the next version of the GPL. However, GPLv3 has been a long time coming, and in the meantime, a company called Affero has decided to take the initiative (supported by the FSF) with their own license. They have issued a joint press release and are asking for public comments.The relevant new clause in the AGPL appears to be:

d) If the Program as you received it is intended to interact with users through a computer network and if, in the version you received, any user interacting with the Program was given the opportunity to request transmission to that user of the Program's complete source code, you must not remove that facility from your modified version of the Program or work based on the Program, and must offer an equivalent opportunity for all users interacting with your Program through a computer network to request immediate transmission by HTTP of the complete source code of your modified version or other derivative work.

In plain English, the way this works is that Affero's free software - which is a web application - creates a link on each page allowing the user to download the source code. Derived works based on Affero's software would be allowed by the license to remove virtually any feature except this one. (For other programs using the AGPL which don't provide a facility to download their own source code, this new clause would have no effect.)

The license doesn't say anything about delays, so it appears to mean the latest up-to-the-second version must be provided for download.

In the past there has been some debate as to how to enforce a condition such as this, given that arguably the modified work is not actually being "published" in a legal sense, and therefore copyright law might not apply at all. Unfortunately, since the GPL and AGPL are not shrinkwrap End User License Agreements, but are instead "permissions" specifying the conditions under which a work may be copied, if copyright law does not apply then the AGPL clause would be unenforcable.

However, this is implausible. It seems there should be some way of crafting the license to achieve the desired effect - because, for instance, it is not legal (in the US) to reverse engineer Microsoft Internet Information Server, patch the code, and run the modified version on a public server. In any case, the good thing about licenses (from the Free Software movement's point of view here) is that even if companies believe they might be partially unenforcable, there is a strong impetus for "playing it safe", given the very high financial penalties specified in recent US copyright law.

It's also, in my opinion, a canny PR move for Affero, which is a Free Software company with an interesting business plan: allowing people to conveniently reward helpful contributors on mailing lists and webboards etc. by donating to good causes of the contributors' choice. I'm am in no way suggesting that they invented a new license just for the PR value, though!

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Poll
Affero.net's service is...?
o An excellent idea 10%
o A good idea 21%
o A good idea, but not profitable enough for a business 13%
o A bad idea 23%
o A stupid idea 30%

Votes: 46
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o ZDNet
o GNU General Public License (GPL)
o Free Software
o RMS
o license
o joint press release
o public comments
o Affero
o Also by greenrd


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FSF Endorses New "GPL+Web Services" License, Requests Comment | 55 comments (55 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Not a lawyer, but: (2.83 / 12) (#1)
by inerte on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 03:55:43 PM EST

~~~~
you received
~~~~

If I download it's still considered received?

~~~~
it is intended
~~~~

If it's not intended?

~~~~
to interact
~~~~

if it doesn't interact? What's interaction?

~~~~
with users
~~~~

If it's not users? What's an user? Anyone that makes a pageview? Anyone that clicks on something? Search engine spiders?

~~~~
through a computer network
~~~~

What if it's not a computer? A PDA? A cell phone? Radio broadcasting software? Television?

~~~~
you must not remove that facility from your modified version of the Program
~~~~

Does this only means that I need to give the source if there's an interface on the original program to get the source? If it doesn't, I don't need?

If it's a template based system, and without modifying any source code, I manage to create a template that doesn't have a link to get the source, it's still acceptable?

~~~~
request immediate transmission
~~~~

Only request? This means that people can request the source, but they don't need to get? I don't need to give to them?

~~~~
by HTTP
~~~~

Again, wap, radio, etc, etc...

This license seems to me too much for Affero's taste. It doesn't look like something is built to protect a lof other software, and thus, thank you... I don't see people using it much. At least in the way it is. I will post my comments on the website you gave us the link.

--
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
Plato

Hi (4.22 / 9) (#5)
by truth versus death on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:26:26 PM EST

Please use quotes or italics for quoted material. Your squiggles are annoying the hell out of me.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
Or blockquotes (5.00 / 6) (#6)
by rusty on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:32:57 PM EST

Blockquotes are also good style for longer chunks of quotation. See the list of allowed html below the comment box, and I agree, the squiggles are not particularly fun to read. This isn't email, use the power of html! :-)

Oh, and for people who aren't familiar wth html, Allowed HTML is a link to a convenient page explainng what the tags do and how to use them.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

But also annoys me (none / 0) (#17)
by inerte on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 06:27:12 PM EST

One thing, newlines aren't transformed to double <br>s or paragraphs in <p></p>.

I do agree it might look ugly the character ~, but I lose the track if I ctrl+v "<p></p>" and put <i> and </i> between quotes.

I just put ~ because it was the easier way for me to separate text.

Or, Scoop should transform newlines. I know it's forbidden here, but do it like Slashdot ;-)

--
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
Plato
[ Parent ]

So do it this way: (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by nstenz on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 08:48:31 PM EST

<blockquote><i>
     ...quote...
</i></blockquote>

<p>
yadda yadda yadda

I do it all the time, and it works just fine. I can see I'm not the only one on K5 who does it this way, either. It's almost a pseudo-standard.

[ Parent ]

I know how to do it (none / 0) (#24)
by inerte on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 08:57:14 PM EST

I just don't like to wast time on it.

Yes... it's a harsh concept, but, I am not as confortable writing in html as I am, just... writing. Half of my text would be stylish work.

At least for me, breaking newlines as <br> would be sufficient. Putting <i> and </i> isn't as hard as separating everything.

Maybe a third option would be good?

--
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
Plato
[ Parent ]

Please dont kill my link (2.66 / 3) (#2)
by imrdkl on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:12:22 PM EST

I've spent untold hours trying to make this stupid thing do what I (and others) want it to do, and if you like it enough to use it for your web, then please let your web users where they can get it for themselves.

Sounds fair. I think Stallman might even could use this as the seed of his own changes, although I suspect he plans something a bit broader than this.

What if... (2.50 / 2) (#3)
by etherdeath on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:21:37 PM EST

a site was built where most of the site was built with other technologies. When you paid for a registered account, you gained access to other parts of the website and these parts use code are like those described in the article?

Wouldn't that kind of setup circumvent the intent of this license, which is to make publicly available modified works based off something with this license? It doesn't take much imagination to see that the main benefit of the for pay area of the this theoretical website would be to gain access to the modified code.

Maybe I'm not making any sense.

Well... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by Kugyou on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:48:15 PM EST

I think that might be why the bit about equivalent opportunity is in there - to say that you can't take Slashcode or scoop, make a free/pay site using your mod of it, and only release the mod to the paying users. If the entire site is a pay site, then I think the definition of "user" would also shift - I wouldn't consider "looked at the front page/samples gallery" to be a "user" of an images site, but that may be subject to lots of legal quibbling, squalling, and mewling-like-children. Of course, IANAL, so I may have missed the memo that set legal precedent on how you may define a "user".
-----------------------------------------
Dust in the wind bores holes in mountains
[ Parent ]
It's like selling GPLed software (5.00 / 2) (#13)
by greenrd on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:51:19 PM EST

Wouldn't that kind of setup circumvent the intent of this license, which is to make publicly available modified works based off something with this license?

No. It's exactly like selling GPLed software. If you want to get some GPLed software which costs money to download, all you have to do is find someone who will give it to you for free (or low cost). Then you can copy it as many times as you like to other people. Thus the price can be expected to drop to zero.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

doh! (2.00 / 2) (#4)
by spacejack on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:23:41 PM EST

So that's why GPL code is so much more popular on the web -- you don't have to release your modifications!

i dont like it... (3.33 / 6) (#8)
by zephc on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:48:50 PM EST

what if i modify slashcode for my own server, i have to gather all that crap together to make it available to any joe blow that wants the source? why can't i just point them to the original slashcode source? what a waste of my time.

No (4.66 / 3) (#12)
by greenrd on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:46:49 PM EST

The new section only applies to modified works. If you don't change the source code of Slash (configuration files don't count, AFAIK), or link any new code to it, you don't have to do anything, not even link to the original code.

If you do modify it, and then run your modified version on a public server, you have to share your changes. It's an extension of the "share and share alike" philosophy the GPL is based on.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

You poor little guy (3.40 / 5) (#15)
by Hong Kong Phooey on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:57:48 PM EST

Imagine, actually having to comply with a license. We can't have that can we?

[ Parent ]
One question... (5.00 / 7) (#9)
by HoserHead on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 04:55:11 PM EST

...that remains about this new license is whether it is DFSG-free. There is a definite question about this, because the license is telling you what you can and cannot do, and there has been precedence to declare any license which tells you "You may not remove this link/button/image" or "You must leave this in" (such as, for example, the OpenDivX license, which says you have to maintain compatibility) non-free. In this case, it seems that the license violates Section 4, Integrity of the Author's Source Code, since it restricts how things can be modified, and arguably Sections 5 and 6, because it might be necessary for someone to remove this link. Note though that I don't speak for Debian, although I am a Debian developer.

I don't see anything in the debian-legal archives about this particular license, but I'll be sure to bring it up when I go home. It would be very strange for the Free Software Foundation to endorse a license which is considered by Debian to be non-Free.

It should be noted by those not in the know that the DFSG are generally accepted to be the required criteria for a Free Software license. It's the document upon which the Open Source definition was based, and it's policed by Debian maintainers, who by and large are some of the most license-aware developers available.

It is arguable (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by imrdkl on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:23:11 PM EST

that the User Interface is also licensed with the code. This is asking that the the identifying mark on it not be removed, that's all. Or, at least, that's all it seems to me. I think some are reading more into this than is here, if this is all there is. It's not requiring even that the source be available for local download. Only that the link, or text, or "signature", if you like, on the UI not be removed, presumably so that the user can download the code (and UI) from the homepage, imho.

[ Parent ]
DFSG = Open Source (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by AndrewH on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 05:45:25 AM EST

Given the bad blood between the FSF and the Open Source people, is it conceivable that they’ve endorsed a licence that fails the Open Source Definition, and therefore the DFSG, not to retain rights for the copyright holder but for the sake of not being Open Source?
John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr — where are you now that we need you?
[ Parent ]
Almost certainly not (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by HoserHead on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 06:17:27 PM EST

The Open Source Definition is not the same thing as the DFSG. It was only based on the DFSG.

I'd be willing to bet that this license does validate as an Open Source license, actually: in general the DFSG is more restrictive than the Open Source Definition. Case in point: The DFSG considers the Apple Public Source License (APSL) non-free, but it is an approved Open Source licence.

[ Parent ]

Two precedents (none / 0) (#55)
by dark on Thu Apr 04, 2002 at 01:38:39 PM EST

The original Zope license had a very similar clause, and it was considered not DFSG-free by Debian. It included a "This site made with Zope" link on generated pages, and the license forbade you from changing the code to remove that link. The most striking analogy (IMHO) was to compare it with a word processor that puts "This document was made with WordBuster" on all documents it creates. The Zope license was later changed to remove this requirement.

On the other hand, this is not the first time the FSF endorses a license that fails the DFSG. The debate about the GFDL (GNU Free Documentation License) hasn't concluded yet, but it's likely that the use of Invariant Sections will be considered non-free.



[ Parent ]

Great (2.00 / 1) (#11)
by trhurler on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:25:15 PM EST

Just what the world needs. An FSF endorsed license that claims to do more than just regulate redistribution. Is Richard Stallman going to start wiping his ass with the text of the US copyright laws, too?

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

I think (none / 0) (#14)
by greenrd on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 05:54:59 PM EST

that's what RMS has wanted to do ever since he started his religious crusade ;)

After all, if copyright law didn't exist (and corporations weren't allowed to use violence or extortion to achieve the same ends) there would be little need for the GPL... right?


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

I don't think so (3.40 / 5) (#16)
by trhurler on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 06:25:16 PM EST

Eliminate copyright law, and people can still make you sign a contract before they'll give you the goods. The contract can be a lot more restrictive than copyright.

The GPL is an excellent method of circumventing any such attempt to impose a contract, but it needs copyright law to work. I personally don't like the GPL, because it is annoying as all hell to keep track of what code is and isn't subject to its provisions in a large software project, but I do understand it and respect the way it only makes legally proper claims. This new thing is no such beast; it makes claims that the law does not support, I think.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Not quite (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by Eloquence on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 11:36:19 PM EST

Eliminate copyright law, and people can still make you sign a contract before they'll give you the goods. The contract can be a lot more restrictive than copyright.

While that's true, it's enough if a single person breaks the contract to make the whole thing useless, since anyone can then legally redistribute the information without signing it. Furthermore, anything but a click-through EULA will probably be too much for most types of content, and click-through contracts are of questionable legal value.
--
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
[ Parent ]

Two things (none / 0) (#36)
by trhurler on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 12:11:32 PM EST

First of all, the place you really make money is corporations. Get them to sign once, and then they can never again accept an illegal copy, let alone make one. I suspect that if I were a magical being and could offer Microsoft a world where no business ever cheated on licences, but all individuals got Microsoft software for free, they'd probably jump on it in a heartbeat.

Second, while I wish it weren't so, the trend in current US law is to allow all manner of non-signature things to serve as a signature, so I suspect clickwrap will be upheld. The only problem it faces is minors, really, and even if the solution sucks, we've had a "standard" solution to the problem of minors taking actions they're not allowed to for a long time. Namely, hold the parents responsible:)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
In a non-copyright world, the rules are different (none / 0) (#42)
by Eloquence on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 02:15:01 PM EST

1) While you are correct that such contracts can be made (although their legal validity tends to decrease with their scope), I see no reason for a company to sign any of them, as it can be expected that, in a world without (C), any non-customized software can be easily acquired for free without signing the contract.

2) Correct. This is still a young field, though, and it will get interesting once someone tries to sue for large damages if he has previously waivered that right with a click-through contract.
--
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
[ Parent ]

I think you are too optimistic (none / 0) (#44)
by trhurler on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 04:40:40 PM EST

The truth is, no company is going to willingly provide support for their software unless you're willing to sign a contract, and the truth is, no big company is going to use a product unless they can get support. Maybe you can buy support from some fly by night outfit consisting of rms, esr, and a couple of linux fanboys, but do you really think General Electric, General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, and so on are going to do so when, for a fee that to them is probably not unreasonable, they can get support from the actual producers of the software?

Or are you one of those idiots who actually believes that someday an open source product is going to replace Microsoft Office in common use?

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Hey you (none / 0) (#45)
by Ken Pompadour on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 05:16:41 PM EST

You might have missed this, so I thought I'd point it out.

...The target is countrymen, friends and family... they have to die too. - candid trhurler
[ Parent ]
In the immortal words of trhurler, (none / 0) (#46)
by trhurler on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 05:20:06 PM EST

Eat a dick. You are funny and/or relevant in precisely the same way that rusty is a cubicle wall.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
I tire of these petty arguments (none / 0) (#47)
by Ken Pompadour on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 05:26:17 PM EST

Therefore I suggest a truce.

...The target is countrymen, friends and family... they have to die too. - candid trhurler
[ Parent ]
Support (none / 0) (#48)
by Eloquence on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 07:07:58 PM EST

It's a cost-benefit question: Do you want to pay for all releases of a product for years to come and get support from the producer, or do you get the product for free and support from a third party (could be a competitor of the producer, or anyone else)? There are some other points, though, namely that proprietary software would be more and more tied to net services, so that it's hard to just copy it, and that necessary customization is another good way to prevent piracy.

Or are you one of those idiots who actually believes that someday an open source product is going to replace Microsoft Office in common use?

Open source on corporate desktops doesn't look likely to me right now, but that's only because there's no single big corporation pushing it and the community is not organizing itself properly (lack of standardization, collaborative funding). OpenOffice is funded by Sun, and Sun seems to turn into crap everything they touch, so I'm not counting on them either.
--
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
[ Parent ]

That's a myth. (4.20 / 5) (#18)
by ucblockhead on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 06:36:53 PM EST

It is untrue that without copyright law there'd be no need of the GPL. If there were no copyright law, I could take the Linux kernel, modify it to my heart's content, sell it, and then refuse to give you the source for my changes.

Yeah, you could legally use the modified source if you could get your hands on it, but if I keep it on my own encrypted hard drive, how are you going to get it?

That's the basic problem with the whole "end copyright" theory. It assumes that because someone has the legal right to use something, that they'll automatically get physical access. That's not true with source for compiled software.

Sure, the end of copyright would mean that I could take the Windows source and modify it as much as I want without fear of legal threats. But how do I get the Windows source? Do you think Microsoft will make no effort to keep it secret?
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Not using assumptions (5.00 / 2) (#19)
by marx on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 07:39:28 PM EST

I could take the Linux kernel, modify it to my heart's content, sell it, and then refuse to give you the source for my changes.
The problem with this kind of argument is that you're using the assumption (that there's no copyright law) for one part of the situation, but not for the other.

If there was no copyright law, there would be no companies selling copies of software. You say that you would sell it, but who would buy it? Noone would buy it.

What you could do is make modifications, and give away only the binaries. Ok, so you can be an asshole, but you're not going to have a very large effect on the world doing this.

Sure, the end of copyright would mean that I could take the Windows source and modify it as much as I want without fear of legal threats. But how do I get the Windows source? Do you think Microsoft will make no effort to keep it secret?

There would not be a Microsoft, at least as we know it, in the first place, so this situation is unrealistic.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Why not? (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by ucblockhead on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 08:09:46 PM EST

What makes you think no one would sell software?

They certainly could. A hypothetical Microsoft in this situation would merely be more security concious when it came to their software.

Why would no one buy it? People buy closed-source software today... The only reason people might not buy it is if they can get the exact same thing for free because the source is available. But just because it anyone can legally copy it does not mean it is available!

That's the error. End of copyright does NOT mean all source code is immediately available.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Because (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by Hong Kong Phooey on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 10:29:49 PM EST

But just because it anyone can legally copy it does not mean it is available!

Sure it means that. A 100% sure copyprevention sytem has not yet been invented, and it mol lieky never will be. And if there is no copyright a large company would just have to buy one copy for all of their employees without fear of gettin' busted by STASI^H^H^H^H^HBSA.

[ Parent ]

Piracy (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by marx on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 12:06:58 AM EST

Why would no one buy it? People buy closed-source software today...

Yes, but today we have copyright laws. Without copyright laws you can freely copy software, "piracy" would be legal. I hope you're not suggesting that people would pay Microsoft money for their software when they could copy it for free from someone they know.

End of copyright does NOT mean all source code is immediately available.
No, but it means it's legal to copy binaries (and source code). Thus there would be no companies selling copies of binaries, because noone would buy their copies, they would copy them themselves.

That's the thing you're missing in your argument. Copyright doesn't only apply to source code, it also applies to binaries. Therefore the "software companies" as we know them today could not exist without copyright laws, because then their business models would suck tremendously.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

thank you (2.50 / 2) (#31)
by streetlawyer on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 03:02:16 AM EST

Thank you very much for making a point, clearly, which is always tragicallly missed by the anti-copyright gang.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Not good. (5.00 / 3) (#20)
by Sunir on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 07:48:25 PM EST

Configuration data.
  • Case 1. A simple CGI script is placed under the GPL+WebServices for whatever hippy reasons. The configuration parameters are global variables.

  • Case 2. A common idiom for Perl scripts is to make the configuration files even more Perl because you can just do $config;.

Now suppose that configuration data is your merchant account number and identification information. Or your private key. Maybe the court will agree with the original author that you have to release your proprietary merchant account information to the public.

HTTP

Why HTTP? What if you want to use this license over a computer network not based on HTTP? Could a Jabber service reuse this? You can't change the license because it's copyrighted. (Well, maybe you can make a trivial modification, but let's pretend.)

What it might say is that you must provide access to the source code in a channel similar to the "opportunity to request transmission" required in the license. But I'm sure that's even too naive. Suppose the original code provided access to the source on a web server, but as an IRC bot operator, you don't have a webhost convenient to you?

What's interaction?

"If the Program as you received it is intended to interact with users through a computer network"
What does that mean? Zawinski's law states that every program expands until it can read mail, and I'm sure that means sends me. If I e-mail you from a GPL+WebService program, that you've modified, does that mean the recipient gets to make demands from you?

Now, I'm sure that you're going to get me on the "opportunity to request transmission," but let us visit Section 3.

Requesting transmission

Section 3b gives you this option for redistribution of the source code.

Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,
That sounds like an opportunity to request transmission. Thanks to our friends' poor English, they wrote their section 2d in the passive voice.
any user interacting with the Program was given the opportunity to request transmission to that user of the Program's complete source code
That might be better if they said, "the Program gave any user interacting with it the opportunity . . ." as that makes it clear that it's the Program that has to do the giving, not merely anyone, including the original author.

And of course, we might want to make it clear what an "opportunity to request" was. Does that include a security hole? Do I have to honour the request? I could submit a comment to request the source code here in a comment, but that doesn't mean I get Kuro5hin, inc's merchant account number.

I think the mechanism for request must be clearly intended as such, not just an "opportunity." And that means more legalese is required.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r

That's called linking. See the GPL FAQ. (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by pin0cchio on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 08:15:33 PM EST

Case 2. A common idiom for Perl scripts is to make the configuration files even more Perl because you can just do $config;

That's called linking. RMS and Eben Moglen have already covered the implications of linking to .dll or .so files: anything you link to has to be either GPL compatible or part of "the operating system". (What constitutes an operating system? I smell loophole.) I see no reason for courts to decide that #includeing configuration files doesn't constitute linking to them.


lj65
[ Parent ]
That's nice; the FSF is wrong. (5.00 / 6) (#27)
by Sunir on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 11:38:21 PM EST

The GPL FAQ isn't a legal opinion, and neither is anything I will write, but I think it's bogus.

If the program dynamically links plug-ins, and they make function calls to each other and share data structures, we believe they form a single program, so plug-ins must be treated as extensions to the main program. This means that linking the GPL-covered plug-in with the main program would violate the GPL.
It's pretty trivial to see why. Suppose instead that the DLL was not GPLed, but the main program was. Since they are a single program, that means the DLL must be released under the GPL. Let's say that you can't convince the author to do this. Are you screwed?

No, and let me tell you why. The main program and the DLL are separate works. Merely because we can think of the main program and DLL as having separate authors with separate licenses demonstrates that. You can't make the GPL infect other programs post facto.

References on computers come in all shapes and sizes. From an array index, to a pointer, to a function call, to an object, to a DLL, to a component, to a distributed component, to a database, to a server. It goes on and on. If we take this further, we start questioning whether a web browser like IE can or cannot make a socket connection to a GPLed web server.

Copyright and fair use are meant to deal with quoting, but that's not what's really the intent here. We're dealing with execution, which is more like reading.

Suppose Alice writes a book that refers to a passage in Bob's book. When reading Alice's book, Cathy comes across the reference. Enticed, she puts down Alice's book and reads the long passage in Bob's. Done, she returns to where she left off in Alice's book.

It's ludicrous to think that Alice (or Cathy) violated Bob's copyright. Now, suppose Cathy was severely disabled, so she had a machine that read the book out to her. It also automatically followed references when encountered and read those out. It's still not a violation.

Suppose us lazy people liked this machine, and it became the next craze. Authors begin to write conscious of the machine, and idiot post-modernist wankers even make little games about it. Still violating copyright? Or are we boiling a frog now?

This issue isn't fictional. It's about to become real. It's not going to be long until your browser spiders the links from a page just to provide you with a hint of what's underneath before you waste a click. It's not the fault of the author of the web page that you're reading someone else's work in the middle of hers, it's your fault for reading it that way.

Like I said, computers have lots of references, but it's not the author's problem that the user is following those references--if we take my magic machine as the model.

Before you do, or don't, consider one last argument. Computers are good at following references, but bad at defining boundaries. There's simply no complete way to describe where one piece of software begins or ends. It should be clear that the concept of a file isn't powerful enough. Nor is a process. Nor is even a computer.

Our brains are wired to think of things in the real world, but this ain't there. Even the notions of file, process, and computer are fictions--metaphors--to grab hold of what is fundamentally a slippery infinite tape.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Insightful -thanks (none / 0) (#34)
by greenrd on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 08:45:34 AM EST

You've crystallised exactly what I've been thinking about the GPL for a long while.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Plugins (none / 0) (#38)
by jck2000 on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 04:40:47 PM EST

I agree with you that the problem with applying the GPL to plugins is difficult. It is even more acute in those circumstances in which a GPL project is coded to use a pre-existing non-GPL plugin API. The existence of the GPL project certainly could not contaminate pre-existing non-GPL plugins that had been coded to this standard. On the other hand, in those circumstances where the GPL project's plugin standard was unique (and arguably covered by the GPL itself), it seems more reasonable to treat the plugins as derivative works.

[ Parent ]
Won't work (3.00 / 4) (#28)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Mar 20, 2002 at 11:59:01 PM EST

I'm sure there are many reasons this won't work, but I thought of one right off my head. If you're like me, you hard code passwords into your web applications.. every app I write has the password b7c674nr hard coded into it. So if someone downloads the source, there's the password! Clearly I can't allow everyone on the web to find out my secret password.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
Uh, just put it in a text file... (none / 0) (#43)
by snowlion on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 03:50:38 PM EST

...and load into memory dynamically.

Problem solved.


--
Map Your Thoughts
[ Parent ]
I am all for it.. (1.25 / 4) (#30)
by flesh99 on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 02:17:44 AM EST

Let the hippie (RMS) add this clause. It will only serve to get the GPL before a US court even sooner. Where it will never be upheld. Before I get the usual BS about me being anti-free software, let me state that I use the LGPL or a BSD style license for all of my original source that I do anything with outside of personal use. I could care less what people do with it. I just want the recognition from it. RMS pisses me off, he wants freedom but under his rules. Read: not really freedom just a new set of rules. Maybe if the GPL was knocked down he could spend some time looking for a shampoo he likes. Enough with the anti-RMS rant. Suffice it to say it is clauses like this that will keep people using BSD style licensing and slowly move away from the GPL as it too restrictive and to be honest self defeating.


It takes 47 muscles to frown, but only 4 to pull the trigger of a finely tuned sniper rifle.
Yes, enough. (none / 0) (#41)
by Jel on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 01:21:37 PM EST

Maybe if the GPL was knocked down he could spend some time looking for a shampoo he likes. Enough with the anti-RMS rant.

Yes, enough.

I'm a good coder these days, making a decent living from my expertise. I learned most of that expertise by experimenting with Free Software. The alternatives were way beyond my budget as a youngster. It was the duty of the public education system to see my talent, and provide me with the appropriate opportunities. But they didn't. RMS, and many people like him did.

Now, I'm not saying that Free Software wouldn't exist if it wasn't for RMS. But I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be providing the opportunities I had to so many people right now if not for his efforts. I'm also pretty sure that many more people would be putting up with Microsoft's abuse of power, rather than fighting it, if no one had provided an alternative.

As for shampoo.. well, I doubt his personal hygiene is quite that bad. But even if it was, I'd much sooner sit down to a meal with a decent guy who believes in and works for the betterment of society than I would with someone who only does things for personal recognition.

Maybe you didn't mean all of that. Maybe you're just trolling... who knows? What I do know is that RMS's reputation can take this bit of abuse. Maybe being that famous means he deserves some abuse -- like I say, he can handle it either way. As for your own admission of selfishness, well.. it's easy to see who you hurt with your post. I only hope you grow up enough some day to learn the difference between the friends who work for your rights, and the enemies who take them away.



[ Parent ]
My rights? (none / 0) (#49)
by flesh99 on Sat Mar 23, 2002 at 03:25:38 PM EST

RMS does not fight for freedom. He tries to force it, and by definition forced freedom in not freedom. You pulled out one small chunk of my post in order to slam me. You conviently didn't quote the part where I stated I release everything I do under a BSD style license. I do support free software, I just do not support the GPL as I do not believe in forcing other people to adhere to my values.

I also believe in the right to close source, i.e. to own something you create. I do not fight for everyone to open their source because it is their right to close it if they wish. RMS preaches that we do not have a right to keep our source closed, and that is where I begin to have a problem. I take the time to post about the GPL and take an admittedly cheap shot at RMS and that is all you can comment on?

Before you start talking about rights and freedom you might want to learn the definition of freedom, if we didn't have the right to close source then we would be losing freedom not gaining. Force fed rights are not rights either, rights are exercised by choice not by enforcement. RMS does not want freedom, he just wants a different set of rules. If you subscribe to that, then bully for you, but do not attempt to convince people that you stand for their rights and freedoms.


It takes 47 muscles to frown, but only 4 to pull the trigger of a finely tuned sniper rifle.
[ Parent ]
Yes, apologies, but.. (none / 0) (#50)
by Jel on Sat Mar 23, 2002 at 05:05:22 PM EST

Yes, you're right... I didn't give you enough credit for your comments on licensing. I not only see your point on freedom, but agree that there is an issue there. Whether or not I think the GPL, in particular, infringes on freedom in that way... well, I don't know. You might be right, you might not -- it's a very fine line, taking away freedom from one person to ensure the availability of certain freedoms to others. Either way, you do have a point there, and I respect that.

However, that's not what I was getting at. I mainly mentioned GPL licensing with respect to RMS's foundation of it, to back up his standing as an individual. Essentially, my whole comment was defending RMS, not so much attacking your other comments. That's why I took your attack of RMS out of your overall comment, and why I didn't reply to every comment you made. That fact is, it's just not cool to insult a guy like that in a public forum for something as trivial as his personal grooming habits.



[ Parent ]
It was supposed to be funny (none / 0) (#51)
by flesh99 on Sat Mar 23, 2002 at 07:31:08 PM EST

Cut a break man it was supposed to be funny at it's worst. I suggested he buy shampoo, I didn't get all personal with him. If you have seen pictures of him you might tend to agreee and jsut not want to voice you opinion about it. It was just a jibe, nothing more. I have never smelled the man, although know people who have, but I won't comment on that here, as you are right it is not the place for it. It was meant as a joke, nothing more.

Always remember, somedays even patchouli isn't enough....


It takes 47 muscles to frown, but only 4 to pull the trigger of a finely tuned sniper rifle.
[ Parent ]
Fair enough (none / 0) (#52)
by Jel on Sat Mar 23, 2002 at 10:59:40 PM EST

Fair enough. And yes, I've seen pictures =)



[ Parent ]
See (none / 0) (#53)
by flesh99 on Sun Mar 24, 2002 at 02:29:39 AM EST

You know what I mean....


It takes 47 muscles to frown, but only 4 to pull the trigger of a finely tuned sniper rifle.
[ Parent ]
No no no (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by Uri on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 06:58:43 AM EST

Part of the point of the GPL is that it allows in-house development, without the onus of having to distribute the product externally. Otherwise, every little source customization you perform (UI changes, context-specific patches) would have to be distributed (which costs money), removing one of the main benefits of Free Software.

Running a commercial slahcode-based site is simply using the program for its intended purpose - it is not the same as trying to distribute it. How is the new license any different from forcing a webdesigner, who writes her pages with a customized build of a GPL'd HTML editor, to distribute all her customizations?

Just my 0.02,

Uri

Yes yes yes (5.00 / 2) (#35)
by mech9t8 on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 11:56:49 AM EST

How is the new license any different from forcing a webdesigner, who writes her pages with a customized build of a GPL'd HTML editor, to distribute all her customizations?

Put another way, how is letting remote users use a web application that, say, modifies graphics different from distributing a binary that allows users to modify graphics?

Certainly there are differences. In your example, the "customized build" person is the only one actually running the GPL code, whereas every user of the "new license" software is running the code. The only difference is where the code is running.

Likewise, with my example, the only difference is where the code is running.

Part of the point of the GPL is that it allows in-house development, without the onus of having to distribute the product externally.

That part is not changed. If you modify a "new license" web app for your personal use, you don't need to distribute it. Just like a traditional GPL app, you only need to distribute the source to those that use the software.

Technical and legal details of the license aside (I'm not sure how enforcable it is and whatnot), the proposed new license is completely compatible with the GPL's share-and-share-alike philosophy. You just need to think of modern web applications as what they are - *applications* being used by users - instead of as a bunch of static HTML pages.

And, of course, the new license provisions are entirely optional. So if you think of your web site as an output generator rather than an application, you can just release it under the GPL. However, as a web developer, I'm glad to see a GPL option available that recognizes my specific needs.

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

Let's Rephrase (4.00 / 2) (#37)
by Uri on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 03:53:21 PM EST

A better analogy in my original post would have been to changes made to a webserver. The distinction I was trying to make is between the software and its output - even if it is in the form of a service. After all, every time I open a web page, I am 'running' the webserver.

Now granted, some people may want a stricter license which lets them keep such services free, and not just the software. That's their right, but it's misleading, in my opinion, to call it Free Software.

Uri

[ Parent ]
I'll buy that... (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by mech9t8 on Thu Mar 21, 2002 at 10:23:57 PM EST

...but then, I don't really think the GPL is actually "free" due to it's restriction that you gotta distribute the source code.

Not that I want to get into *that* particular discussion. ;)

But I can see how the GPL, and not the proposed web app license, could be considered "Free Software" as it's commonly defined.

However, I think there are a lot of people who use the GPL not for some nebulous ideals about Freedom, but because they don't want evil people/corporations to take their work and make money off it without giving back to them. And, for that motivation, the current GPL doesn't serve the needs of Web application developers.

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

Interesting: AGPL is not GPL compatible. (none / 0) (#54)
by ghjm on Mon Mar 25, 2002 at 01:16:06 PM EST

I'm not a licensing expert, but as I understand it the AGPL is not GPL compatible.

The GPL requires that all derivative works are distributed under GPL. You can only combine GPL and non-GPL code if the non-GPL license allows you to re-license the combined work under the GPL. Conversely, the AGPL cannot allow you to re-license AGPLed code as GPL, or you lose the web services protections. (If you can just re-license under GPL, then the AGPL is pointless.)

So if you have some GPL code and some AGPL code, there is no license under which you are allowed to combine and release them as a new work. AGPL projects cannot build on or make use of the vast body of GPL code out there in the world, and likewise, the GPL community cannot benefit from the work of anyone who licenses their code using AGPL.

The Affero FAQ has this to say about compatibility:

Q: Is the Affero General Public License compatible with GPL V2?
A: Yes. This license constitutes GPL V2.X and the upgrade should be GPL V3. It should be upwards compatible with GPL V3 and later, not backward compatible to GPL V2. It "should" be, provided that GPL V3 has a provision which protects software that is run over networks and has a download source facility built in.
This is a somewhat bizarre statement. The question is, is the AGPL compatible with V2 (the current version) of the GPL? The answer starts out by saying "Yes" and then goes on to say that the AGPL is "...not backwards compatible to GPL V2." Which sounds a lot like "No."

What's more, the claim that AGPL "should" be compatible with GPL V3 is probably false as well. In the GPL V2, it is not sufficient that a license contain similar terms and conditions. The GPL states that all derived works must be released under the GPL itself. There is no provision for "or equivalent similar license". So, in order for the AGPL to be GPL V3 compatible, the GPL V3 will have to either (a) allow "or equivalent" licenses or (b) allow re-releasing GPL V3 code as AGPL. Neither of these seems very likely.

What I just don't understand is why the FSF is behind it. I feel like I must have misunderstood something.

-Graham

FSF Endorses New "GPL+Web Services" License, Requests Comment | 55 comments (55 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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