GPL is basically the software equivalent of Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike.

Those who have a problem with it do so because they don’t want to share alike.

They want to take but not give.

So you decide how you feel about that.

@aral Entities providing services (Google & Co.) can use GPL projects without sharing alike. Why? Because the GPL applies only if you distribute software. If you run a service you just let the user interact with the software. You never distribute it.

What Google really hates is the AGPL.

@aral @t0k So AGPL is just GPL but better. Why aren’t more foss projects AGPL?

@loveb @aral AGPL has different 'trigger conditions' than the GPL. While the GPL requires to make the source available under the GPL conditions when the user receives the binary, the AGPL requires the same when the user *interacts* with the software.

Why there are less AGPL projects than GPL projects? Not sure. But
1) The AGPL is younger than the GPL and hence less known in many communities.
2) There is very strong corporate lobbying against the AGPL. Many got scared of it for no good reason.

@loveb @aral But fortunately there seem to be more and more notable AGPL projects: @nextcloud , Mastodon, @keyoxide , Pixelfed, (maybe we should start a list :) )

I think some people slowly start awakening and realize how important the APGL is for an ethical and non-abusive environment.

Especially for such server software the AGPL is the *only practical* way to give strong guarantees of openness to the users.

@loveb @aral @nextcloud @keyoxide The AGPL is also a way to minimize the risk of 'embrace, extend, extinguish' strategies. Some entity can fork an AGPL project like Mastodon, they can implement an incompatible network protocol but at least they have to share this protocol such that the rest of the world can - if needed - fix the incompatibility.

Also an AGPL project is much less in danger to be bought by some abusive entity. But of course only if the copyright owners cannot be corrupted.

@loveb @aral Google wants to use FOSS without sharing. They can easily to this because Google mostly runs services and does not distribute software.

That's what they say. But when you read it keep in mind that this text should stop people from using the AGPL.

For them it seems to be a law of nature that code of their services cannot be open.

share alike doesn't mean *must* share, mind you; it means if you choose to share, share it the same way.
it's *freedom* to share, not *obligation* to share, unless it's abused to gain power over remote users.
subjecting users through SaaSS is unethical, for the same reason that subjecting users through nonfree software is: it's the *user*'s computing. which is reason for AGPL to exist and be adopted for software that would otherwise could become SaaSS
but CC-BY-SA is not as good for free software as copyleft, because though it covers the copyrights angle, it doesn't cover technical means to deprive users of freedom, such as the need for source code to make the freedoms viable, or other technical roadblocks intended to prevent their enjoyment

@aral I've heard open source devs say "big companies won't touch (A)GPL with a ten foot pole", but as an argument *against* using it. They seem to believe it's a badge of honor for a FAANG to appropriate their work, which is just... wild.

@ttiurani @aral This gives me a reason to prefer the AGPL. I did not think it would make much difference in my telephony projects, which are GPL, when the server is also on-premise, but I suppose if someone did offer cloud telephony services without offering source to their changes, the distinction would become important.

@tychosoft @ttiurani @aral Yes, for all things that can be run as a service this matters. Unfortunately our world tends to go in a direction where many things are turned in to services. So chose your projects license wisely ;)

@ttiurani @aral Indeed, I heard that argument too. Sad thing is that many people actually get 'scared' by it.
But the argument is provably wrong. Look at @nextcloud : There's many companies running Nextcloud as a service. And they play nice. That's what we need.

So a company which cannot touch AGPL projects is just not ready for ethical business models.

@aral I think that there is a more nuanced discussion there.

The way you frame it leaves no space for licenses such as MIT, which are about sharing as well, but with different constraints and guarantees.

Yes, I know that licenses such as BSD/MIT allows one to close their alterations on derivative work. If that is a concern, then GPL is your friend.

Still, there are cases when the authors are perfectly fine with that, and still want to share their work. In these cases BSD/MIT make sense.

@soapdog @aral non-copyleft only makes sense if you are OK with intellectual creation not being part of the commons. If creation empowers those who experience it, use and create from it, non-copyleft means you are OK giving even more power to a select few who usually already wield it, rather than the entirety of humanity of today and tomorrow.

Saying "I don't care how it's used" is the same as saying "I don't do politics": it means you're ok with the current system and willing to give it more weight (and incidentally you *are* doing politics)

@rakoo MIT license is copyleft, and it is also a political stance. In my opinion, there are software who benefit from GPL and other software benefit from MIT. It is not a binary "GPL or bust" for me.

Also, caring about digital commons does not mean just the GPL. There are many options, unless of course you think that the BSDs are not a part of digital commons...

It is a political action that says "this is what I did with it, do it as you wish, if you want to contribute back, it is ok"


@rakoo also, be aware that I'm not attacking GPL & Friends. I like that license too.

What I find odd is that I often see activists that seem to think that GPL is the only way forward, when it is just yet another tool in the toolbox, and people can care as much as them and yet use a different tool.

It is ok to ship BSD/MIT code. It is OK to put things in the public domain as well.

@soapdog MIT is not copyleft in that it doesn't force derivative works to also be MIT.

Shipping code in BSD/MIT/MPL is not a problem in itself; my main issue is capitalistic powers using that code and extending their power over users or society in general by using the work of usually benevolent developers.

I like the idea of "do whatever you want", but it only works if everyone acts in good faith. Unfortunately that's not the system we live in.
@soapdog also to be clear, I am forever grateful for BSD/MIT licenses and code, thanks to what they have taught me and what they have made possible for the world. But I'm growing more and more uneasy at the idea that that code can be used by a private company to gather every bit of information on them, sell that information and manipulate them.
In practice sharing code under copyleft doesn't change much for the authors compared to non-copyleft, but changes a lot for others. That's why I'd like to see developers use GPL and friends as much as possible


some people are OK with not forcing terms on derivative work. That is up to each author.

Regarding capitalistic encroaches in FOSS, I think that the license is the least of our worries today. Most large FOSS projects are being maintained by people employed by those same companies. They can dictate de agenda, just like it happened with the web.

I agree, different tools depending on the context. I've used copyleft licenses and permissive licenses for my own work.

And yeah, copyleft definitely isn't a binary: just look at the MPL and LGPL, which are both "weak" copyleft licenses.

Factual correction: MIT is not a copyleft license, it's a permissive license.

@ChrisWere @aral these days I think that’s a feature, not a bug.

@aral That's true for copyleft licenses in general. I wrote in my own blog why I generally prefer the MPL rather than GPL. I reserve GPL for server side work in the form of the AGPL. I wish there was an equivalent MPL license to the AGPL.…

"They want to take but not give."

sounds like a plan

I'm not sure I see why CC BY-SA isn't suitable for software. I use it myself for some software as well as some writing.

@oldcoder What Lessig told me a long time ago when I asked him the same thing was because it doesn’t have a limitation of liability clause so you can get sued if your foss app causes damages. As far as I know, that’s the main reason.


O.K. I generally include the appropriate disclaimer for that. My assumption is presently that the license and the disclaimer can be combined.
> GPL is basically the software equivalent of Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike.

that's kind-of sort-of true in a specific way, but... it feels a bit like saying that money is basically the government-issued equivalent of bitcoin, or that GNU is basically the whole-system equivalent of the kernel Linux. it may convey a very limited and probably faulty understanding of the former out of familiarity with the latter, but it's IMHO so limited as to be misleading, and it's historically backwards
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