License for web application

Emiliano emile at
Mon Feb 11 17:13:30 UTC 2002

David Johnson 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.

I do understand these issues. The wrinkle for me is that if I don't
manage to address the issues as outlined above, I do not get to
distribute it as open source at all. The world at large won't care (the
software, as most software, probably won't make the 9 o'clock news when
deployed), but I would.


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