Corporations and the AGPL

Very interesting reading indeed.

Seems that to prevent enclosure by corporations one simply has to apply AGPL. This is an incredibly strong take in response and imagine most large software companies have a similar approach.


Given the history of Google I’m not convinced that we should take what they say at face value.

I’m not sure I understand what you are saying here, could you explain further?

I’ve split the four posts above from the original thread as I think is is a related but separate topic.

I’d be interested in knowing what AGPL software is used by large corporations — what examples of this are people aware of?

Am I the only one who is finding @anon6474366’s strawmanning a bit insulting? As best I can tell, the initial post posited that large tech corporations have policies that banned the AGPL and therefore may be a good choice for those who want to openly license their code but not encourage large multi-national corporations from using it.

This has nothing to do with socialism or anti-capitalism.

Perhaps I’m not big brained enough to understand how using copyright law to restrict others access to a thing I’ve created is socialist praxis.

Look, if you have gripes against socialists that also exist and operate within a capitalist system, by all means, feel free to blog, talk, etc. about it all you’d like. I just don’t think this is the forum to do that.

MongoDB is only available under the AGPL for “versions released prior to October 16, 2018”, see their MongoDB Licensing page.

There was a lot of discussion about this at the time, see for example:

Ubuntu ships with MongoDB version 3.6, the current version is 4.2, the last version Debian shipped was 3.2 in Stretch, I expect it has been dropped because of the change in licensing.

I’d still be interested in knowing what AGPL software is being used by big corporations.

Being “pretty much AGPL” is qualitatively different from using the AGPL, this article has a summery of the difference:

If you take a program that’s licensed under the Affero GPL, modify it, and make that modified version available to run over a network, you have to license your modified version under the Affero GPL.

Whereas under the SSPL, if you use MongoDB as part of a service package you offer to third parties, you have to release the entire package under the SSPL.

However there isn’t a official position from the FSF or OSI on the SSPL yet?

The point of the (A)GLP and copyleft in general is to enable co-operative sharing:

since proprietary software developers use copyright to stop us from sharing, we cooperators can use copyright to give other cooperators an advantage of their own: they can use our code.

Sharing has the potential to lead to abundance and this is the opposite of (artificial) scarcity.

BerkeleyDB is a great example, according to Wikipedia:

Starting with the 6.0.21 (Oracle 12c) release, all Berkeley DB products are licensed under the GNU AGPL. [8][9] Berkeley DB JE 7.3.7 is licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0. Previously, Berkeley DB was redistributed under the 4-clause BSD license (before version 2.0), and the Sleepycat Public License, which is an OSI-approved open-source license as well as an FSF-approved free software license.

Berkeley DB V2.0 and higher is available under a dual license:

  1. Oracle commercial license with professional support[22]
  2. Open source license

The switch to AGPL has caused major GNU/Linux distributions such as Debian to completely phase out their use of Berkeley DB, with a preference for Lightning Memory-Mapped Database (LMDB). The rationale is that having commercial users use AGPL code would be unacceptable, as they would be forced to provide their source code to users by a simple software upgrade.[24]

Oracle uses the AGPL to get (in effect blackmail?) companies to buy a commercial, proprietary license.

Debian removed it due to the license change, I haven’t read all the emails from the threads on debian-legal from 2013 but it does appear pertinent to this discussion so I might do so later, the LWN summery is good:

This example appears to confirm that corporations try and avoid using AGPL code.

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I agree, I think the best example is the CoopCycle License, the Coopyleft, @mex from that project has an account on this site and it has come up several times, we should really have a thread dedicated to it.

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Some of us have been following this matter from before the term “Open Source” was invented and promoted with the intention of making Free Software more acceptable to business (@mjray springs to mind as one of the people in the UK involved in this the longest) so I’m not sure the above is entirely fair.

I can’t speak for @nick or @mjray (although I don’t think they have been “hoodwinked” either), but I don’t believe that I was convinced by the re-branding of Free Software as Open Source at the time, but we are talking above events of 20 years ago!

I’m open to be convinced that I should be using something other than the GPL (I’m not even sure it would make sense for me to use the AGPL to be honest) for the Ansible I write.

I’m also open to be convinced that tactically advocating for the use of licenses other than the (A)GPL make sense given the rise in popularity of permissive licenses (X11 / Apache / BSD / MIT), which are loved by the big corporations as they allow code to be, in effect, privatised (whereas the AGPL doesn’t) — in terms of defending the gains of the digital commons the Free Software movement is on it’s back foot already.

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Hi folks, my moderator team hat is back on :tophat: There has been concern about the language and tone used in the discussion here and I would urge people to reconsider the community guidlines for doing discussion in this online space:

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Is this actually the case?

In my admittedly limited view it seems that preventing enclosure via copyleft is not the same as constraining Big Tech. GPL/AGPL were never designed to achieve the latter, so it’s not surprising that they don’t achieve this objective. They were designed to create a commons, and it looks like they’ve done pretty well on that score, and by so doing have created vast opportunities for businesses large and small, regardless of whether they are cooperatives or ‘Big Tech’.

So the debate - to my mind - seems to be better served by considering how the rules of that commons might be developed and refined to address perceived inequalities.

Would you mind linking to this license to share with those interested?

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And perhaps create a new thread for it?

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According to a couple of post in this thread the GPLv3 (Linux is released under the GPLv2) is enough to prevent corporations using the code:

Amazon had GPLv3 blacklisted when I worked there.

when I worked at Microsoft… GPLv2 had the same auto-approve policy as MIT/BSD licenses, whereas GPLv3 was forbidden without specific dispensation from legal.

Fun conversation, had to join in.

Tammy are you suggesting that the AGPL-license isn’t a useful license to use because it detracts from the end goal of fully-automated-luxury communism?

My interpretation of the AGPL is that it puts software in the public commons, and is the best license we have currently to get software closer to a public good.

Also a previous commenter asked you for the license you said would be better than the GPL, care to provide?

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I think you’re shying away from discussion by being facetious yourself to be candid. You certainly have an air of superiority about you that makes you unpleasant to write to. I hope you’ll see my previous questions in good faith. If you’re not willing to respond I’ll assume you’ve met your match intellectually and you’ve realized your arguments are wholly flawed and you’ve engaged in introspection (in my humble opinion it would be the wise choice.)

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No no insult was intended at all. Am I not allowed to point of observations about your demeanour/writing style? I’m merely observing what I and others who have liked my posts are interpreting your posts to be. Notice that you don’t have likes on your posts on this thread. This is why I’m encouraging introspection.
I think what you may be failing to grasp is this is a community of like-minded individuals, so when you say things for example like; “I expect more from this community.” when responding to an individual, it is actually quite insulting and condescending to the individual you’re responding to. Further, telling people to “be cool” at the end of every post isn’t actually helping with civil discussion. Why do you feel the need to engage in discussion by preempting it with a statement suggesting others will not “be cool”? I would only speculate that you’ve had trouble with others in the past because of the way you’re engaging currently on this community. In a community, the expectation is that everyone would already “be cool” - if you start a conversation by telling someone to calm down when they are already calm, how do you think they will react? I hope you see my comments as constructive criticism and not a personal attack. You’ll certainly win more minds in your argument then claiming to be a victim of a personal attack and reporting comments by appealing to a code of conduct we’ve all read. We’re all cool here dude, I apologize if you’ve taken personal offence to my criticism of your arguments.

Regardless; to the issue at hand;
I’m not sure how you perceive my initial comment as ridicule, I’m merely stating my perception of a logical conclusion to your arguments; you seem to be criticizing ideas posited here without providing solutions. Similar to an internet troll.

I will reframe and request in a factual way that hopefully doesn’t offend you;

Could you please provide a better license than the GPL that would allow us to achieve an ideal socialist scenario? Or a common/public good as per the Wikipedia definition: “A public good is a good that is both non-excludable and non-rivalrous. For such utilities, users cannot be barred from accessing and/or using them for failing to pay for them. Also, use by one person neither prevents access of other people nor does it reduce availability to others.”

Second question; what is your desired goal here? From what I’ve read of your previous comments, you seem to be arguing that because GPL is not perfect, we should avoid it, and instead not participate in the open source ecosystem because it does not advance a more equitable society. I’ve thought about the intersection of open source software and co-operatives and capitalism myself many times, so I’m curious as to what the path you envision is because you seem to have thought about this quite a lot yourself. The missing pieces from your argument for me is 1) what is the path and 2) what socialist/societal end goal is this person arguing for? You seem to be more on the democratic socialist side than the social democrat side; but I haven’t thought about what a rapidly advancing technology ecosystem could look like in such a society.

If I could challenge you in your response to be a bit to be cool yourself; Minimize the condescending
and combative language in your response, and speak less in platitudes about this community in your response. Do not use a higher tier to make layered insults. You’ve offended multiple people on this board, including me. I would again encourage introspection. I am actually quite curious to your response to my questions though I’d like to learn more about your perspective on this interplay between GPL/Cooperatives and Capitalism/Socialism.

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