[License-discuss] Intimacy in open source (SSPL and AGPL)

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Wed Jan 23 15:59:55 UTC 2019

On Wed, Jan 23, 2019 at 1:27 AM Bruce Perens <bruce at perens.com> wrote:

It's not fair to blame FSF for what the court did in an entirely unrelated
> case.

On the contrary, alas.  The FSF's GPL FAQ says:

By contrast, pipes, sockets and command-line arguments are communication
> mechanisms normally used between two separate programs. So when they are
> used for communication, the modules normally are separate programs. But if
> the semantics of the communication are intimate enough, exchanging complex
> internal data structures, that too could be a basis to consider the two
> parts as combined into a larger program.

Of course, data structures themselves can't be interchanged over a pipe,
only representations of them.  ASCII text giving information about
available print queues is just as much a representation of the system's
undocumented internal data structures as anything else.  (Dr. Google
informs me that NET PRINT is no more.)

And I think it is fair to blame the FSF for introducing an undefined term,
not known to be a term of art, into the GPL3, and thus putting a weapon
into the hands of those who use the GPL solely for commercial advantage
and/or employ the SCO business model.

Nor is it fair to say that FSF wants to sue you until your eyes bubble.

I thought that using a classic P.G. Wodehouse-ism would be enough to
indicate that I wasn't _entirely_ serious.  Though now that I look it up,
it was Asimov (who is known to have been a PGW fan) who used it in
connection with a threatened lawsuit, _God v. Satan_, over Satan's
delinquent payments for upkeep on the Heaven-Hell Bridge.  Of course God is
doomed to lose because he can't get a lawyer.  :-)

Rick Moen wrote:

There is little
> reason to think judges will ever be impressed by coders' ideas
> concerning internal vs. external APIs, different sorts of linking,
> wrappers, remote calls, etc.

Well, some reason.  Industry usage is an accepted source of the
meaning of undefined terms in contracts, along with common usage,
prior dealings, etc.  The trouble is that "intimate data communication"
_has_ no industry usage.

John Cowan          http://vrici.lojban.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
After fixing the Y2K bug in an application:
        WELCOME TO <censored>
        DATE: MONDAK, JANUARK 1, 1900
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