License for web application

David Johnson david at
Sat Feb 9 22:11:07 UTC 2002

On Saturday 09 February 2002 03:34 am, Emiliano wrote:

> What I want to accomplish is that if someone deploys a changed version
> of my application he'd be required to publish those changes (or at least
> send them to me and license me to use them in my free version), and that
> the visitors of the generated pages would have a way to identify the
> original author (me) even if the app was changed.

I don't know of any existing OSS license that does this. Rumour has it that 
the next version of the GPL will have something to this effect.

There is great controversy here. In order to restrict the usage of the 
software in this manner, it seems that you have have to restrict public 
performance. You can certainly do this under copyright law, but it brings a 
whole new wrinkle into Open Source.

It's doubtful to me that usage of the typical web application counts as 
public performance. The reason (IMO) that public performance is addressed in 
copyright law is not to lay claim to performance itself as an exclusive right 
of the author, but protect the exclusive right of distribution. For example, 
during a music recitial the music itself gets distributed as sound. But for a 
(typical) web application, no part of the software gets distributed or 
transmitted. An exception would be a web application that actually sends 
source code to the user, such as a java applet.

Unlike other forms of copyright material, which are wholly content, software 
bridges the domains of content, service and tools. Content is the only thing 
that copyright is interested in. Usage of the software does not affect 
content, which is why no Open Source license restricts usage.

David Johnson
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