[License-discuss] Intimacy in open source

Gil Yehuda gyehuda at oath.com
Thu Jan 10 16:35:54 UTC 2019

First time posting to this group. I hope the subject line got you to read
further. I'm not asking for legal advise, but posing a question about a
phrase used in AGPL/GPL v3.0 and hoping to get insight on how to interpret
it properly. The phrase is "intimate data communication" as found here:

For example, Corresponding Source includes interface definition files
associated with source files for the work, and the source code for shared
libraries and dynamically linked subprograms that the work is specifically
designed to require, *such as by intimate data communication *or control
flow between those subprograms and other parts of the work.

When I read this, I interpret *intimate data communication* as the
relationship between a database driver and a database. That's the role of a
driver -- to have intimate communications with the DB so that your calling
application can bind to the driver, not the DB. I'm asking this group: is
my interpretation sound?

Some licensing models seem to play on the edge of this license term by
separating the database license from the driver license. Specifically: the
older license model for MongoDB has the database under AGPL and the driver
under Apache. ScyllaDB is an AGPL database that uses the Apache Cassandra
drivers. Amazon's new DocumentDB seems to be something of this sort too
(although not AGPL). Normally two works could have two licenses -- but then
there's this phrase that could restrict one of the works to be considered
"corresponding" to the other.

For example: If I create a database under AGPL terms and you create a
driver for my database and then distribute both, does the "intimate data
communication" term in my database's license cause your driver to become a
Corresponding Source to my work? Seemingly yes. If so, the license schemes
that leverage Apache drivers for AGPL databases must rely upon the
coordination or pre-agreement to allow this exception. Not that it's
invalid, but that it's brittle (i.e. the parties that coordinate can do
this, but a new party might inadvertently be mis-licensing their code).
Alternatively, "intimate data communication" means something else (and thus
databases and their drivers are separate works that are merely packaged
together) -- in which case I'd love to understand what "intimate" means.

(Again, I'm not seeking legal advice. But I'd love to hear informed
perspectives on how to read this phrase properly.)

*Gil Yehuda: *I run the open source program office at Yahoo --> Oath
--> Verizon
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