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

Smith, McCoy mccoy.smith at intel.com
Wed Aug 14 15:50:57 UTC 2019

There are posted archives of the license-review mailing list going back to December 2007, which is when Russ Nelson set up the new system:  https://lists.opensource.org/pipermail/license-review_lists.opensource.org/
Looks like AGPLv3 was submitted in January of 2008, and there was a bit of discussion about it into February:  https://lists.opensource.org/pipermail/license-review_lists.opensource.org/2008-January/000058.html

Interestingly, I didn’t see AGPLv3 in any of the License Committee reports of that era.  And I couldn’t see, through the Wayback Machine, that AGPLv1 ever got on the OSI list (although I haven’t done a comprehensive search of those archives).

FWIW, it does not appear that there was much of a discussion of the network access clause in 2008, although there was precedent for that in the External Deployment language of OSL circa 2005.  Perhaps there is discussion there, if one were to search the Wayback Machine archives of the mailing lists.

From: License-discuss [mailto:license-discuss-bounces at lists.opensource.org] On Behalf Of Russell McOrmond
Sent: Wednesday, August 14, 2019 6:58 AM
To: license-discuss at lists.opensource.org
Subject: Re: [License-discuss] Discussion: AGPL and Open Source Definition conflict

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<mailto: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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