Savio questions the usefulness of AGPL and his argument seems very slippery to me. He questions whether the Affero GPL is an obstacle to the development of more free/libre open source software.’ He uses Facebook as an example company that is contributing back modifications to memcached, software that FB uses after having it heavily modified even if it is licensed under the very permissive BSD license. Do we need copyleft licenses, when self interest of the companies makes them contribute back just the same?
I believe the question is tricky because it confuses the scope of copyleft with that of companies. Many people make the same mistake: copyleft is a tool designed to spread freedom in software, at any cost with all tools at our disposal. The FSF, which wrote the GNU and Affero licenses, has the goal to make all software free as in freedom. Companies are ‘free’ to join the revolution, or to look somewhere else for their needs.’ The GNU project existed and survived long before it was mainstream (it started 25 years ago); the whole free software movement has now become too big to kill. The movement counts on good will and self interests of people and also of companies for the contributions, that’s for sure. But the same movement is well aware that sometimes good will doesn’t last for long. Stallman saw it happen during the 80s. We are seeing it happening again, at each downturn of the economy. Who was around when SourceForge turned its software proprietary? I was around and I remember the delusion.
There is no question in my mind that freedom must be fought for and defended with all means available.’ We have copyright laws and we use it.’ The GNU system and copyleft is mainstream on personal computers and servers. Now, with the Affero GPL it’s time to take freedom to the web.
PS don’t forget to donate to FSF. Do it now!