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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] RollApp: proof that we need to deprecate GPL f

From: Mike Gerwitz
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] RollApp: proof that we need to deprecate GPL for AGPL for everything
Date: Sun, 13 Sep 2015 01:06:50 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/25.0.50 (gnu/linux)

On Sat, Sep 12, 2015 at 09:38:17 -0700, Aaron Wolf wrote:
> — complete SaaSS to the extreme (see
> ).
> They aren't illegal, and they do mention "Open Source" at least (which
> isn't absolutely legally required), but they avoid even linking to the
> websites of the software they host.

Keep in mind that the AGPL's extra requirement only applies if the
software is _modified_.[0]  But this is still an important
discussion.  Perhaps it even highlights an issue with the "modified"

From glancing briefly at this site, it seems that it allows remotely
executing and rendering software for display on the client (within a web
browser).  So this would be a similar concept to SSH'ing into a server
and running software either on the command line or via X11 forwarding:
no software has been distributed to the user that is interacting with

So while the concept in itself isn't anything new---it's just rendered
in a web browser rather than, say, by an X11 client---I still agree with
you on the more general issue.  We can expect this type of trend to
continue, but not only because of the SaaSS push and "thin"/"dumb"
clients: it's also an easy way to circumvent the most important
provisions of the GPL.

The user still wouldn't be able to run their changes to the software on
the original service, but that's a property of SaaSS; she could still
run it on her own hardware.  (I know you know all of this; I'm just
trying to avoid unnecessary replies from others on these points.)  So
just saying "SaaSS is bad, don't use it" isn't the solution: many users
will choose to use it, just as many users choose to use proprietary
operating systems; we don't forsake those users and tell them "you've
already scarified your freedom; there is nothing we can do for you".  On
the contrary, we support those platforms if at all possible so that
those users can enjoy those fundamental freedoms in whatever environment
they decide is acceptable to them.  All-or-nothing is not realistic and
works against our cause.

I'm not saying that is being done here.  But to further Aaron's point,
we're at risk of moving in that direction.

> The only legitimate reason for GPL (without the A) today is to preserve
> compatibility with existing GPL projects. All new projects, and all
> projects that can feasibly switch without forking problems need to move
> to AGPL. It has *nothing* to do with whether or not the software is
> *designed* to be run on a server, *all* software should be AGPL.

I do see a couple issues that immediately stand out that would need to
be heavily considered:  The first is license compatibility with _other_
free software licenses, such as the Apache License v2.  The second is
how adopting the AGPL too aggressively too soon might work against our
goals by having more people avoid the software more aggressively than
they avoid the GPL today.  With that said, for the latter case, we have
two major categories to consider:

  1. Standalone software; and
  2. Share libraries.

For standalone software, as a _user_, it would seem that the only way
you'd have reason to avoid AGPL'd software is to exploit precisely this
situation.  So that works toward our goals, not against them.

But we have license compatibility issues for AGPL'd libraries and for
standalones using other libraries with which the AGPL may not be
compatible.  We have a similar issue today with GPLv2-only and GPLv3
software, and often times over another strong philosophical reason:
Tivoization.  And just as the GPLv3 adapted to a new reality, so too
should it to the issue of SaaSS.  Does a step to encourage AGPL
provisions present a similar philosophical challenge to Tivoization, or
is it greater?

That's not to say that the AGPL's provisions will always be appropriate,
just as the GPL's are sometimes not: the LGPL is used in certain cases
for legitimate reasons (such as glibc), and linking exceptions are used
with the GPL (such as for the GCC Runtime Library Exception).


Mike Gerwitz
Free Software Hacker | GNU Maintainer
FSF Member #5804 | GPG Key ID: 0x8EE30EAB

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