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GNU is Not Unix Software Linux

FSF Releases AGPL License For Web Services 276

Posted by kdawson
from the when-view-source-isn't-enough dept.
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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FSF Releases AGPL License For Web Services

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  • by jkrise (535370) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @05:42AM (#21418249) Journal
    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.
    • by jrumney (197329) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @05:51AM (#21418313) Homepage

      Can someone explain exactly how a license can extend Copyright?
      I think the author of TFA meant copyleft.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @06:30AM (#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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by bytesex (112972)
        Factory classes generating objects ? Not likely. Surely you should know better. You meant 'interfaces', didn't you ? Factory classes generating interfaces that /might/ wrap the native boolean class. But can also provide the boolean getIsTrue() and getIsFalse() method for other objects. Very usefull class indeed. - whistles -.
    • by m2943 (1140797)
      The same way a license extends to extracting dollars out of your wallet: you can only copy the software if you agree to the license terms, and the license terms require you to do something (which, coincidentally, actually has to do with making available software to others).
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        The license doesn't extract money from your wallet, the copyright does.

        This is an important distinction because you can place any license you want on something that is in the public domain and it is up to the user is they want to spend money or follow the license. So no copyright, not enforcements of license or fees.
  • really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @05:43AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DirtyHerring (635192)
      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        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
        • by LingNoi (1066278)
          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 licen
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by pongo000 (97357)
        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 l
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hacker (14635)

          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.

      • On the face of it this licence sounds like a Good Thing. However, it also sounds worryingly close to an EULA... :(
        • by Sancho (17056)
          It is a EULA, which is a great departure from the GPL of old.

          Of course, web applications break the model. There are two users--the host is using the application to interact with the user, and the user is using the web application to interact with the host. It's a really weird situation. That said, I kinda like the separation of the old days, because frankly, where does this end? Should the user get a copy of Apache just for visiting a website? If the website interacts with a database, should they get a
          • It is a EULA, which is a great departure from the GPL of old.

            But EULAs (should be) unenforceable since there is no way to prove the user agreed to it.

            Distribution licences, such as the GPL, work on the fact that without the licence you didn't have the rights to distribute the software, so if you are distributing it by extension you must have accepted the licence.

            EULAs take away rights that you had anyway, so there is nothing forcing the user to agree to it since they can still use the software even if they
  • 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.
    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @06:20AM (#21418469) Journal

      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.

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

        May your AGPL'ed code always be updated by your end users :D
        • by doti (966971)
          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: (Score:2, Informative)

            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 Corresp

            • by doti (966971)
              Yeah, but the parent was talking about GPL, not AGPL.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by sumdumass (711423)
                The parent also got a few other things wrong with it too. He said

                "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."

                A user never had to honor the GPL and the GPL never required a User to give changes or anything back.

                Something that is disturbing here, if your company uses AGPLed software and components inside the company, how does the give out source apply? The people working there are agents of the sam

      • by kestasjk (933987) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @06:59AM (#21418717) Homepage

        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)
      • by sw155kn1f3 (600118) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @07:12AM (#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?
        • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
          Yes - the same as the GPL.

          You have to be careful of which licenses you use. If you're unsure.. consult a lawyer.
        • "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
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            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 this set of options is EXACTLY why many co
      • 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 nigh

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jellomizer (103300) *
          Hence part of the problem with GPL and AGPL. Is that FSF assumes that everyone is thinking on the same wave they are which is untrue. Most people/companies would be OK to honor the use of GPL Code but as it keeps on getting stricter and removing loop holes it is just turning people and companies off towards it. I know you bring up Big Face Less corporation steeling as much code as possible and making a system that will make million of dollars off the work of some poor GPL developer who put his heart and
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sumdumass (711423)
            I think your reading too much into things. The FSF seems to want to shoot themselves in the foot whenever possible. They got their fame and fortune being the underdog and claiming that everyone was out to get them.

            Whenever there is a certain level of success in the free software/GPL front, they pull some stunt and take it backwards. It seems that their goal is more to perpetuate their notoriety then to help mom and pop shops. Just look at some of their actions recently, they attacked novell for something th
            • by Sancho (17056)
              If you think that GPLv3 pushed the masses away from using Linux, you may want to seek psychiatric help.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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 cod
  • by Iloinen Lohikrme (880747) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @05:57AM (#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.

  • Ug (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pat mcguire (1134935) <pjm2119&columbia,edu> on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @06:15AM (#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: (Score:2, Troll)

      by jrumney (197329)
      If your "private development" in use on a public website, then it isn't really private.
      • 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: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Ciarang (967337)
          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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Just Some Guy (3352)

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

        That's just bizarrely wrong. By your logic, Coca Cola's formula isn't really a trade secret because regular people can buy it. I'll happily give our customers the output of our internal algorithms, but my boss wouldn't be too keen on giving them the algorithms themselves considering they're how we stay in business.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sayfawa (1099071)
      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 t
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by pat mcguire (1134935)

        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

        • by sayfawa (1099071)
          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?
    • if it's made for self consumption then you won't be allowing public access to your website and this wont be an issue.
  • 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?
    • by Sancho (17056)
      The theory is the same as with any EULA (the AGPL is truly a EULA, unlike the GPL.) The AGPL allows you to use the code if you give the code back to any of your users. If you refuse to do that, you are violating the license, and thus you have no right to use the software.

      It's the same thing as Microsoft saying that by using their software, you absolve them of any wrongdoing. It's part of the license. If you try to sue them, you're in violation, and thus never had a right to use the software in the first
  • 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 o
    • by niceone (992278) *
      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
      • by Bill Dimm (463823)

        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?
    • 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 t

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

        At what point does a license become ridiculous? Car manufacturers don't get to dictate how you're allowed to modify your car no matter how much they might want to. Sure software authors have a legal right to do that, but why do you seem to be saying that doing so is morally defensible? It's just an artifact of twisting a system meant to protect artistic expression to also protect useful tools.

    • by AusIV (950840)
      The AGPL is not new. It's exited for the GPL v2 for quite some time, all this does is create an AGPL for GPL v3.
  • by IBBoard (1128019) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @06:49AM (#21418657) Homepage
    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.
    • by LingNoi (1066278)
      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 f
      • by IBBoard (1128019)
        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
        • by LingNoi (1066278)

          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.

          and why would you care about that if they did? What difference does it make if someone has improved their code privately (part of freedom 3) but doesn't want to release it? It has no effect on you, the software project or the open source community.

          The only way this could have an effect is if they want

          • by IBBoard (1128019)

            and why would you care about that if they did? What difference does it make if someone has improved their code privately (part of freedom 3) but doesn't want to release it? It has no effect on you, the software project or the open source community.

            But it does. It has the effect that the project could be improved in some way but hasn't been, despite the fact that those changes are being used in a public (i.e. website powering) location.

            When you make private changes to a GPL app you aren't forced to distribut

  • Is this an EULA? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @06:57AM (#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?

    • by xtracto (837672)
      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
      • by sqlrob (173498)
        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).

        I agree as well, but someone did point a reason out to me. Most of the terms are inapplicable to an end user, except one - the warranty disclaimer.
    • by john1040 (1191701) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @07:56AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PhilHibbs (4537)
      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.
    • 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.

      • 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 interpr
        • by MobyDisk (75490)
          IANAL.

          First, the FSF extended their definition of derived work...Now, they're invoking the madness that modifying but not redistributing software is against the license

          I've never heard of the 2 interpretations you just mentioned, so I'd love to see a link on it. It sure sounds like complete gibberish to me. Firstly, the FSF can "extend their definition" of derived work all they want, but that doesn't change the law. And copyright applies only to the distributor, and that's been a corner stone of free software for a while. I can, and have, modified commercial copyrighted software on my PC before (hacks, patches, etc.) That's legally protected, and I can't imagi

  • This is pointless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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 capabi
  • 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 a
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by petermgreen (876956)
      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.

  • "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.
    • "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...)

      • by pongo000 (97357)
        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...
  • 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

  • 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 SSHin

    • by AlXtreme (223728)

      This is exactly identical to you SSHing into my console server, running a terminal app, and me handing back its output.

      Similar, but not exactly. In this case if the terminal app would be licensed under the GPL I would have the right, as a user, to request a copy of the source code of that terminal app.

      The identical case would be for me to SSH into your console server, me giving some input file to you while you actually run the application and hand me a copy of the application's output.

      I understand what the

  • It's bad enough that a 2 million line program written from scratch would suddenly be infected by the GPL by including a 1 line file, but now we are supposed to propagate the virus with our web servers? I am perfectly happy to allow the GPL and its descendants to exist but I am reluctant see its roots dig deeper into the minds of ill-informed developers who do not realize the only goal of this license is to see how far it can spread. Before anyone tries to flame me be aware I am simply expressing my opinion
  • 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 Corr

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