Questions / Concepts GPL. Was: Re: GPL License with clause for Web use?

Sam Liddicott sam at
Thu Nov 22 17:17:00 UTC 2007

* simo wrote, On 22/11/07 17:05:
> On Thu, 2007-11-22 at 15:36 +0000, Sam Liddicott wrote:
>> Because the FSF would lead the way in a future license subverting the
>> supposedly fixed terms of past licenses. 
> Until you keep thinking of licenses as *sacred text* you won't go far.
> Licenses are *means* for a goal.
> Licenses are not and cannot be immutable.
> Licenses *change* to adapt to new threats and changed legal frameworks.
I don't understand what perception you have that has caused you to say
this or why you imagine I think of them as sacred text.

I just don't like this specific change. I was a GPL3 fan until I
realised this implication.

it's not a general problem.

>>>> I don't like the idea that one license can restrict the terms of
>>>> another license.
>>> In fact this does not happen. The *requirement* is only for AGPL or
>>> combined works with the AGPL. But the work under GPLv3 even when
>>> combined remains under the GPLv3.
>> The fact that you use the word requirement doesn't change my internal
>> concern, it just makes me repeat it using different words:
>> I don't like the idea that one license can add place extra
>> requirements on use of software governed by another license.
> The GPLv3 *explicitly* allows these new requirements by the wording it
> used, it's not like an unrelated license can add new requirements.

That is *specifically* why I don't like it the GPL3.
But I don't see that the GPL3 needs to *explicitly* allow this.
I think the AGPL would "work" as designed even if the GPL3 did not
explicitly allow it.

>> if it works as I understand, then as a USER of GPL3 software (not
>> distributor) I have to provide it's source if I use it with AGPL
>> software to provide a web service.
> Under AGPL this kind of use is considered distribution or conveyance.
But is it considered so under copyright law?
> I totally understand your point, and I, personally, do not like much
> AGPL and will probably not use it, but this provision make sense if you
> look at the goals of a copyleft license which are to let users be able
> to get the source code of what they *use*.
> And you can't claim they are not *using* your software.
No, but I can (and do claim) that what many license adaptors have
considered "user" to mean does not include users of services provided by
the software. Mostly because they never considered it before.
>> I used to have to provide the source only if I distributed it.
> You have to recognize that SaaS is different from traditional software.
I do.
> you, as a distributor may not like AGPL, well then, don't use it. It's
> perfectly understandable. But you distribute your software already so
> it's not a big deal for you and your users, they can always get it.
I don't  use it. But GPL3/13 means I don't use GPL3 either, and I wish I
>> If so, then the AGPL is putting extra restrictions on my USE of GPL3
>> software by requiring that I meet the requirements of another license.
> As I said you are free to see a requirement as a restriction, it is all
> about point of view. 
and not about a word. It's the obligation that concerns me not what you
call it.
> Many BSD believers see all GPL requirements as
> restrictions, they are not right nor wrong, they simply have a different
> point of view.
I know. They simply use a different word.
>> Thanks what I meant.
> That was very clear to me :)
>> Previous licenses have been based on copyright, by granting
>> conditional distribution rights, but section 13 of the seems not to be
>> AGPL such a term, it restricts use regardless of distribution.
> It really depends on what you consider distribution.
It really depends on what the enforcers of copyright law in a particular
jurisdiction consider distribution.
>> Is this based on copyright permissions required to "install" the
>> software? Or does 13 affect non-distributing service providers?
> Copyright law is not clear enough and is too old to clearly define
> distribution in the digital age.
and, the same for the word "user" I feel.
> If you stream music from an internet radio station, are they just
> *using* the music? Or are they distributing it to you? In traditional
> terms that would be broadcasting, except that on the internet it can
> very well ber unicast.
well put.
> When your application sends down javascript or flash or even just
> html/css code snippets, are you *using* that software or *distributing*
> it?
> The answer is not simple at all, AGPL has one answer, GPL has the other
> one, that's why it make sense they both exist.
and this is why it also looks like (to so many) that the FSF may be
changing core values, because they came down on the wrong side of a
difficult and complex question.
> Once this is accepted, whether you like AGPL or not, then the matter is:
> is it so bad that GPLv3 can be used by such projects?
I want them to use it, I just want modifications to the GPL3 part to be
GPL3 licensed. Thats why I propose the AGPL link-exception alternative
to GPL3/13
> Again the answer is not simple at all, and probably really depends on
> what is your main field of interest. Yours is obviously the more
> controversial (web apps), and that's why the matter is so important to
> you.
> I think a very important consideration is how much probable it is for an
> AGPL project to be successful. So far I know (I am ignorant tho) of no
> really successful AGPL based projects. And given that most people really
> do not like AGPL too much, I think the possibility of AGPL becoming a
> problem for most people is almost irrelevant. It is a theoretical
> possibility yes, does it warrant all the fuss? I think no, I think it
> should just be one of the things you know and keep in the back of your
> mind.
I think that in an FSF mailing list it is very important to consider how
probable it is that a license will be accepted.
> Now a good question (imo of course) is this: what would FSF think of a
> GPLv3 license where the author indicates that the AGPL clause is
> evicted? Would that license be still compatible with normal GPLv3
> software? Would that make it more acceptable to you?
I think I'll pick this up in your answer to "pleasant solution", and
thanks for being pleasant.


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