Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Affero is out for discussion

The first discussion draft of the GNU Affero General Public License (GNU AGPL) is now available. Based on version 3 of the GNU GPL, the AGPL includes terms to ensure that users who interact with software over a network can receive the source for that program. The ability of webservices provider to not provide source has long been a contentious issue (noted on this blog previously, and remarked on by Tim O'Reilly as "pockets of proprietary opportunity"). Now comes the free software community's response to this issue. I expect the discussions on this to be quite interesting largely because the question of how the user "interacts" with the software in question is a tricky one (how direct such interaction should be remains vague) and also because it seems web services would provide greater opportunities for circumvention of the AGPL's terms. Still, with the draft out for discussion, some of these issues should get sharpened. With web services on the up and up, something like the Affero was going to be required eventually, and it poses a very particular challenge to get its terms clear and legally workable.


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