[License-discuss] Discussion: AGPL and Open Source Definition conflict

Brendan Hickey brendan.m.hickey at gmail.com
Wed Aug 14 14:16:38 UTC 2019

Since we're piling into the AGPL, I think it's instructive in the dangers
of "upgrade clauses." Clause 13 of the GPLv3 allows for linking AGPL, GPL
and (transitively) LGPL code. This allows AGPL developers to freeload on
GPL code without contributing back to the commons.


On Wed, Aug 14, 2019, 09:58 Russell McOrmond <russellmcormond at gmail.com>

> I would also like to see some documentation of the thinking that went into
> OSI's approval of the AGPL, to better understand the precedent that they
> were setting (or even if the precedent setting nature of this approval was
> understood).  While it is obvious that there is a serious conflict in the
> case of common internet protocols, the same problem exists with any network
> interfaces using any protocol.
> What exactly does the AGPL intend when the software itself is a library
> that does not itself have any network interface?  In my case one example is
> https://github.com/artefactual-labs/mets-reader-writer which is a library
> that should have been licensed under the LGPL or even GPL, but where the
> AGPL was unfortunately chosen making the library too risky to use.
> On Wed, Aug 14, 2019 at 9:36 AM Howard Chu <hyc at openldap.org> wrote:
>> Clause #10 of the definition https://opensource.org/docs/osd
>> 10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral
>> No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual
>> technology or style of interface.
>> I note that the Affero GPL https://www.gnu.org/licenses/agpl-3.0.en.html
>> clause #13
>> 13. Remote Network Interaction; Use with the GNU General Public License.
>> Notwithstanding any other provision of this License, if you modify the
>> Program, your modified version must prominently offer all users interacting
>> with it
>> remotely through a computer network (if your version supports such
>> interaction) an opportunity to receive the Corresponding Source of your
>> version by providing
>> access to the Corresponding Source from a network server at no charge,
>> through some standard or customary means of facilitating copying of
>> software.
>> violates the OSD clause #10. This issue arose specifically in the case of
>> OpenLDAP when
>> Oracle relicensed BerkeleyDB 6.x using AGPL. There is no available
>> mechanism in the LDAP
>> Protocol to allow us to comply with clause #13 of the AGPL. I believe the
>> same is true of
>> many common internet protocols such as SMTP, FTP, POP, IMAP, etc., which
>> thus now precludes
>> servers for these protocols from using BerkeleyDB. It appears to me that
>> AGPL is plainly
>> incompatible with the OSD and should not be an OSI approved license.
>> This is no longer a pressing issue for us since we have subsequently
>> abandoned BerkeleyDB
>> in favor of LMDB. But I thought I should point it out since it may affect
>> other projects.
>> --
>>   -- Howard Chu
>>   CTO, Symas Corp.           http://www.symas.com
>>   Director, Highland Sun     http://highlandsun.com/hyc/
>>   Chief Architect, OpenLDAP  http://www.openldap.org/project/
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> --
> Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant: <http://www.flora.ca/>
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