And AGPL it is

It’s old news, I know, but I have been fighting with flu in the last few days. For those of you Open Source fanatics living in a cave or being struggling with seasonal influenza, the FSF just released the final version of their Affero license, that is GPL virality extended to network use. Whatever network use means, that is.

I’ve been ranting at length in the past about the various gripes I have with AGPL and friends, so I’m not going to reiterate. At the end of the day, everyone is free to choose their poison, and after all one more license with highly dangerous terms is going to bring some nice business to Open Source consultancies like us. It would have been nice, though, that the final version of something coming from the FSF was clear from ambiguity: alas, that’s not the case. We still have the SaaS loophole defined as “remote interaction through a computer network”: maybe I should blame my non-native English, but I have to say that I’m at loss when it comes to understanding what this exactly means. My lawyer background makes me extra paranoid, so I will have to interpret the above statement in the most restrictive way, that is covering internal use (such as corporate software used by employees alone). This basically means that if you install some AGPL software on your corporate server, and dare to perform some local modification (say you add support for your SSO system), you are legally bound to provide means for your employees to download (and then redistribute) the artifact, nevermind the possibility it contains confidential information you really don’t fancy giving away.

The solution, just like with GPL, is simple: stay away from it. That stuff not only it’s viral, it’s highly contagious as well: don’t touch it even with a 6ft pole. Or surrender to whomever is going to sell you a license under different terms. Practical? Not at all. Fostering collaboration? Don’t even try that joke on me. Securing revenue streams for proprietary vendors using Open Source mostly as their marketing ploy? Indeed.

At a very least, information will be free. No one will be able to use it under any practical terms, but it will be free. Worth the fuss? I doubt it. Meanwhile, as the Open Source industry keeps lobbying for more convoluted licensing terms and the SaaS giants rejoice around nifty yet of little use APIs, the real issues of Saas, the one that really affect the general public such as open data access, are out there in the cold. Oh well, maybe it’s just this flu making me grumpy…

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