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Closing Open Source's Web Services Loophole

The Free Software Foundation published the final draft of AGPL
today. Like GPL v3 earlier this year, this is an open-source
license intended to fix what its authors see as a loophole in older
versions of the GPL – namely that only users who run a program
locally are entitled to its source code.

The AGPL extends this right to users who access software remotely.
For example, if Linux had been licensed under the AGPL, sites like
Google would need to include a "download source" link so
that everyone could access it.

There's no chance that Linux itself ever would move to the AGPL,
of course. But the boom in Web services and SaaS means that the
license could have a much
bigger impact
on enterprise customers than GPL v3, whose changes
from v2 were concerned mainly with patents and home DRM. Early drafts of GPL v3 also addressed Web services, but the language concerning this was eventually taken out (and relegated to the AGPL.)

 Like any new open source license, the AGPL won't have any
impact unless it's actually used. And even then, it will take time to
have an effect: SaaS providers who have already received code under
the regular GPL or another license can continue to use it under it's
original terms, and wouldn’t have to start offering downloads
until they upgrade to a version licensed under the AGPL.

So who will use the license, if anyone? The most likely adopters
are open source vendors who also sell commercial licenses to service
providers, such as Digium. After them, SaaS startups themselves might
also take to it.

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