"source code" button

Marc Rauw rauw at xs4all.nl
Fri Apr 5 00:41:20 UTC 2002

[third try; the first ones apparantly didn't get through]

> Marc Rauw wrote:
>> "If the Software is intended to interact with users through a computer
>>  network You must ensure that all users are also able to receive the
>>  complete Source Code of the Software by means of a medium custorarily
>>  used for software interchange, without any charge beyond the costs of
>>  data transfer, and present a prominent notice to the users explaining
>>  this."

David Johnson wrote:

> Here's the big problem with this clause: I can ignore it with impunity!
> Unlike the proprietary world, the Open Source world does not
> impose contracts on unwilling participants. You are required to
> accept any Open Source license in order to use any Open Source
> software. You won't necessarily have the right to copy,
> distribute or modify the software, but you can still use it.
> That includes using it on a publicly accessible server.
> In order for your clause to work, you must have the download
> mechanism a part of the software. That way, in order to bypass
> the download "button", you must first modify the software. And
> the recipient doesn't get the right to modify the software
> without first accepting the license. But you have to do this
> right or it won't work.

It took me some time to ponder about this problem, but I am finally
beginning to see the possible loophole here. Let's see if I get it right
now. First: I think you actually meant to say "You are _NOT_ required to
accept any Open Source license in order to use any Open Source software",
didn't you? Ok, in that case, assume we have a copyleft license which
contains this suggested clause - 'License X'. Then I see two (or actually
three) possible scenarios:

1. A software package has been designed from the start to function as
webservice. Being software that is 'is intended to interact with users
through a computer network', it must display an appropriate notice if it is
to be distributed under License X. Any derivative work should also do that
(as long as it stays interactive in the sense of this clause), due to the
copyleft restrictions. As far as I see, there's no loophole here.

2. A software package that has not been designed to function as a webservice
is converted into software to drive such a service. If the resulting
derivative work is distributed, then the copyleft clauses will protect the
licensing terms, which implies that the derivative work, now also being
software that is 'intended to interact with users through a computer
network', must display the requested notice in order to comply with all
terms in License X. However, if the derivative work is _not_ distributed but
merely 'used' as webservice, such a notice is not required. Indeed, that's a
potential loophole.

However, I think this last scenario will also form a loophole for the
proposed clause 2(d) of the AGPL. I really don't see an easy way out here,
except for an obnoxious clause that requires all modifications to be
returned to the original author - not a very attractive option, in my

(BTW: according to Richard Stallman my clause wouldn't work under copyright
law, so perhaps there is a more fundamental problem here that I don't
understand yet.)

Marc Rauw.

PS, for the record: I didn't create the suggested clause as an explicit
response to the AGPL, because at the moment I wrote it, I didn't know the
AGPL existed. My suggestion should be regarded as an independent effort to
achieve a comparable goal. However, I did change the first line after
reading the AGPL.

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