GPL License with clause for Web use?

MJ Ray mjr at
Wed Nov 21 11:03:02 UTC 2007

Ciaran O'Riordan <ciaran at> wrote: [...]
> The debated point is whether or not giving others public access to run the
> software on your computer is a private use of the software.

I'm not sure it is.  I think the debated point is whether free
software can be required to have a particular feature.

In the past, it's been a "show terms" feature, which seems pretty
basic attribution info and can be tolerated in free software.

In this AGPL case, it's a "download source" feature, which I think
goes beyond attribution and so beyond acceptability.

In future cases, a "comply to standard X" feature requirement will
almost certainly be tried: we have already seen programs under such
terms and usually rejected them as not free software.

Why should AGPL be on the acceptable side of the line?
Because an FSF board member once liked that feature requirement?

> If a developer thinks that's a private use that should not require making
> the source available, they should use the plain GPL (or the AGPL and just
> not add any "get the source" feature).  If a developer thinks that's a
> public use, they can use the AGPL.

Surely that choice is only open to initial developers?  Trying to be a
good cooperator, I'd like to avoid reinventing wheels these days, but
if all the wheels have been made AGPL, we're doomed to repeat work.

> The two licences are compatible, so people can make this decision without
> creating any legal barriers to sharing or collaboration.

Huh?  Can I take code from an non-free/AGPL'd web app and put it into
a free/GPL'd web app without having to move to AGPL?  I doubt it.  The
AGPL seems to give an escape route from free/GPL to non-free software
that wasn't present with GPLv2/AGPLv2, killing one of GNU GPL's unique
selling points.

MJ Ray tel:+44-844-4437-237 -
Webmaster-developer, statistician, sysadmin, online shop builder,
consumer and workers co-operative member -
Writing on koha, debian, sat TV, Kewstoke

More information about the Discussion mailing list