GPLv2 'web-app loophole'
david at usermode.org
Tue Aug 7 02:08:36 UTC 2001
On Monday 06 August 2001 04:01 pm, Abraham Ingersoll wrote:
> We (Dajoba, LLC) publish web-based software under the GPL. We recently
> ...we simply want to feel out people's attitudes
> regarding this 'web-app loophole'
Cool! I have some attitudes and opinions on this, and since you asked, I'll
dump them on you. Remember, you asked!
When one makes a modification to GPLd code and distributes it, who has the
right to demand the sources? The recipient. When Alice gives a copy to Bob,
it is Bob that demands the source from Alice, and not the other way around.
It would be nonsensical if Alice gave a copy to Bob and then demanded the
sources from Bob. Ridiculous.
Yet that is what demanding the modifications for the web-app implies. You are
asking your competitor for the modifications, yet it was you that distributed
the program to them. You have things backwards. What of those that make use
of your competitor's web-app? If they have received a copy from your
competitor, then they can indeed demand the sources. But they have NOT
received any copies of the program from your competitor.
If a friend comes to my home and I give him a copy of a modified emacs, then
I have to give him the sources if he asks. But what if he merely came over to
use my computer? What if he said "now that I've used your copy of modified
emacs, you must now give me your modifications"? I would tell him to shove
off! The web-app "loophole" is the exact same situation, but in a larger
I have heard the argument that the user has less freedom when they use a
closed web-app. But I have never understood how. With normal software, the
user would have less freedom with a closed application because they are not
in control of their own property (their copy of the software). But in the
case of the web-app, the software is not in the possession of the user. To
make an analogy (apologies to Bob Young), I do not want to own a car with the
hood welded shut. But I could care less if Avis or Hertz welds their cars'
hoods shut. Those aren't my cars.
Regulating the public performance of software is a very dangerous thing for
any Open/Free license to do, because it would be for the first time
regulating how an application can be *used*.
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