Subject: Re: The GNU AGPL and Free Software Businesses
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2007 12:51:07 +0900

 Thu, 13 Sep 2007 12:51:07 +0900
Joćo Miguel Neves writes:

 > Wrong, you still have the freedom not to share: don't use that code,
 > neither these licenses. 

D'oh.  Tom knows that.  That's not the freedom he's talking about, and
twisting words that way is anti-freedom.  If you want to argue that
point (which is arguable), please say "you still have *enough* freedom
not to share".

But I disagree.  For example, suppose you've gone past alpha test with
your derivative of AGPL code, and now you want to beta test.  *You
must distribute your changes.*  You allowed for that in your business
plan, which turns on first-mover advantages, not on secrecy.  But it
turns out that the AGPL code sucks, and you need something different.
Tough luck, bubba; you've revealed a lot of what you intend to do, and
now your competitors are almost even with you in terms of code,
including the information that the free code isn't up to the task.

The GPL restrictions on freedom (even RMS calls them that when he's in
an honest mood) are a very fine balance, IMO nearly optimal.  What I
mean by that is that as you go beyond the very precise reciprocality
of the GPL (which does create a closed and lossless ecology of free
software), you very rapidly lose effectiveness in achieving the stated
purpose of the new terms (fighting DRM and patents, closing the webapp
loophole) for a given amount of restriction, not to mention the
additional complexity required to define the terms.