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FSF and Affero Announce A GPL For Web Services
By jonas, Section News
Posted on Wed Mar 20th, 2002 at 07:09:40 GMT
The FSF and Affero has announced a licensed called the Affero General Public License (AGPL). The license, a slightly modified version of the GNU GPL, includes a provision that prevents theremoval of any feature that enables a remote user to download the programs complete source code. Further information can be found in the FSF press release and in the license itself. The FSF is encouraging readers to send their comments to .


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FSF and Affero Announce A GPL For Web Services | 6 comments (6 topical, editorial) | Post A Comment
[new] Web services (#1)
by mda (#132) on Wed Mar 20th, 2002 at 20:54:02 GMT
(User Info)

They have this feature in their software where from any screen, you have access to download the full source code. It seems their addition to the GPL was a clause which says you can't take out that ability for the user to get the full source code. They also added a bunch of other stuff to the GPL, things like "from time to time we will change this license" and "if you want to use code in one of your programs with different terms, contact us" and stuff like that.

My initial reaction is that it's a well-intentioned effort done slightly incorrectly. I agree that we need to maybe make some changes to protect web services software and prevent people from saying that their web server, not the client, is running the software therefore they don't have to honor the GPL with respect to the client. I do think that the client should be considered the one "using" the software.

But they have something on each of their pages that lets people download the source code and they want to keep it that way? That seems silly. The GPL is all about giving people access to the source code if they want it. But it doesn't *force* the software maker to present that option at every turn. In my opinion, it's enough to put the GPL notice somewhere, and give people the option to get the source code, (not necessarily download - the GPL has provisions for making the source code available that don't necessarily have to be download) in a conspicuous place. What if I took their software and adapted the look and feel in a way that made their link on every screen a real pain in the ass? A person who changes the software should be able to control the look and feel.

Example: I take their software, change the look and feel totally, take out all of their links from each page to the download of the source. I also create an easily accessible, non-obfuscated page where they can easily see that the program is GPL'd, and that they have access to the source if they wish. In my opinion, this is complying with the spirit of the GPL, even though I removed their notices from each and every page. Notices on each and every page are overkill in my opinion.

Also, their clause saying you can't change the fact that each page gives the user access to the source is setting a bad precedent - EVERY PART of the software should be mutable in every way with the exception of the license. Why restrict certain modifications to the program that themselves will be released under the same license? That's not very GPLish. :)

What's important to me is that it's free software, and that I can easily get to a place where I can see that and have access to the source if I so choose. It is *not* important to me to have that trumpeted on every page, and actually it might get a bit annoying.

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[new] Interesting Idea (#2)
by alex (#9) on Wed Mar 20th, 2002 at 21:39:25 GMT
(User Info) http://www.alexhudson.com/

I do think that the FSF is running this idea up the flag-pole, as it were, as an interesting idea they may want to try. I think it's kind of cleverer than it seems at first sight, too. I think a client accessing a web service will legally constitute little more than an access device, so by displaying links to the source you're tying the client back to the source again by a method other than execution of the program.

It's also not as uncommon as you might think - a similar function is there on Sourceforge. Did you notice it?

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[new] Doesn't this conflict with the GPL? (#4)
by brian (#54) () on Thu Mar 21st, 2002 at 23:26:53 GMT
(User Info) http://www.network-theory.co.uk/

Presumably the added clause conflicts with the GPL and means that one can't mix GPL and AGPL code? If so, that would be inconvenient.

Generally I'm happy with the availability of free software for web development, so I don't personally see a need to extend the reach of the GPL as the present system works satisfactorily.

While there is a general GPL issue of local vs remote programs as network speeds increase I think the problem is more theoretical than practical -- the cost of providing a centralised service does not offer the same economies of scale as pure software. e.g. it's possible somebody could try to offer a "proprietary" enhanced version of a 'gcc compilation service' over the network for $5 a month but I don't think it would ever be economically viable so I don't lose any sleep over it.
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[new] Like this website (#6)
by a member of the hurd (#-1) on Fri Dec 10th, 2004 at 09:01:09 GMT

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FSF and Affero Announce A GPL For Web Services | 6 comments (6 topical, editorial) | Post A Comment
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