Affero GPL is freedom to the web

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!

Facebook shows self-interest may trump licensing |Open Sources | Rodrigues & Urlocker | InfoWorld.

Freedom and privacy in hosted applications

I’m not a big believer of hosted applications mainly because they fail to deliver the ‘run everywhere there is a connection to the internet’ promise. Nonetheless, I’m using hosted apps very often, especially for school papers where I have to collaborate with other people on one document. In these cases I would like to have more freedom and more privacy. That’s what I like in Marco ‘Clipperz‘ Barulli’s call for action for a suite of web applications built following the zero-knowledge methodology:

The basic idea was to deliver a no trust needed service, where users had the ability to inspect and verify anything running in their browser. We had to drift the attention away from trusting us and let users focus on trusting the application.

Add the Affero GPLv3 on top of this methodology and you can have a suite of online applications that respect freedom and privacy.’  Not a bad thing to have, not at all.

The long march of Affero GPLv3

It’s good to read on Palamida weekly reports that the GNU Afferto GPLv3 is being adopted at a fast pace, after I asked OSI to approve it. Considering that Google is passively opposing its adoption, I think that 95 projects is a good start. Now Funambol is in company of other high quality projects, like Clipperz and Wavemaker and with SourceForge supporting the Affero license, I think that there will be more. I’ve just updated the Trove category for the Funambol-related projects, where I could, but I advice other maintainers to do the same with their projects (and then move to the new Funambol Forge, which has cooler features than SF 🙂 ).

I have the suspect that this is just the beginning and that AGPL will become as popular as the other two FSF licenses, the GPL and LGPL.