Thursday, March 13, 2008

AGPL is OSI approved. Sweet victory.

I just found out that the OSI (Open Source Initiative, the stewards of the Open Source Definition (OSD) and the community-recognized body for reviewing and approving licenses as OSD-conformant) has approved AGPL v3.


For those who don't follow this blog (hey, why are you reading it now, then? ;-) the fight against the ASP loophole in GPL has been one of my long-standing battles. In GPL v2, those who ran open source software in a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment, and modified the open source code, were not required to return the changes back to the community (just because of a technicality, since the clause of
copyleft applied to physical distribution of the software, not distribution of software as a service). For me, this has always been one of the worst risks for open source oblivion. If you can take and you do not give back, defeating the copyleft concept, you kill open source. The ASP loophole is the cancer of open source.

One company benefiting from it is Google, abusing open source software for their benefit (aren't you interested in seeing the modification to the Linux file system they did to run their gazillion of servers? I am ;-) In fact, they pushed for the ASP loophole to be ratified in GPL v3 and they submitted it to OSI for approval. They love the loophole. They made a business around it (and what a business!!). They got GPL v3 OSI approved...

Funambol submitted AGPL v3 to OSI. AGPL is the exact same as GPL v3, with a sentence that closes the ASP loophole. If you run AGPL code as a service, you need to return the changes to the community. Distribution of software as a service is distribution of software. Simple as that.

Google wasn't thrilled, obviously. Chris DiBona, the Open Source Programs Manager at Google recently wrote on the discussion list that AGPL needed improvements... Although I understand why he would say so ;-) I strongly disagree, so did the OSI and Eben Moglen with the FSF.

Eben wrote:
“AGPLv3 is a useful tool for developers of, for example, web applications who are seeking to ensure perpetual respect for end-users’ freedoms. SFLC believes there are many development projects that would benefit from considering the use of AGPLv3, and we welcome the OSI’s decision“
Amen. AGPL v3 is here. It is OSI approved. The fight is over.
Sweet victory. The loophole is closed forever. Let's open some Italian spumante.

Now we just need developers to understand that using GPL v3 instead of AGPL v3 is just dumb. Your software is going to be used as a service, if not today, in a few years. Yes, YOUR software. Everything is going to be used as a service, even word processors... They can take it and do not give any changes back to your community. Wavemaker is smart and they are now using AGPL. Many will follow.

Don't be dumb, give it an A.