Affero General Public License

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GNU Affero General Public License

AGPL3 Logo
Author Free Software Foundation
Version 3
Publisher Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Published 2007-11-19
DFSG compatible Yes[1]
Free software Yes
OSI approved Yes
GPL compatible Yes (permits linking with GPLv3'd works)
Copyleft Yes
Linking from code with a different license No (except for GPLv3)

The Affero General Public License, often abbreviated as Affero GPL and AGPL (and sometimes informally called the Affero license) refers to two distinct, though historically related, free software licenses:

Both versions of the AGPL were designed to close a perceived application service provider "loophole" (the "ASP loophole") in the ordinary GPL, where by using the software but never distributing it the copyleft provisions are not triggered. Each version differs from the version of the GNU GPL on which it is based in having an additional provision addressing use of software over a computer network. The additional provision requires that the complete source code be made available to any network user of the AGPL-licensed work, typically a web application.

The Free Software Foundation has recommended that the GNU AGPLv3 be considered for any software that will commonly be run over a network.[2] The Open Source Initiative approved the GNU AGPLv3[3] as an Open Source license in March 2008 after Funambol submitted it for consideration[4]

The terms "Affero clause", "Affero requirement" and "Affero provision" are occasionally used to refer generically to free software/open source licensing provisions requiring availability of source code when licensed software is deployed as a network service.


[edit] History

In 2000, while developing an e-learning and e-service business model, Henry Poole met with Richard Stallman in Amsterdam where they discussed the ASP loophole in GPLv2. Over the following months, Stallman and Poole discussed approaches to solving the problem. In 2001, Poole founded Affero, Inc. (a web services business), and he needed a license that would require distribution by other organizations who used Affero code to create derivative web services. At that time, Poole contacted Bradley M. Kuhn and Eben Moglen of the Free Software Foundation to get advice on a new license that would close the ASP loophole in GPLv2.

Around late February 2002, Kuhn suggested, based on the idea of a program that prints it own source code, that GPLv2 be supplemented with a section 2(d) that would require derivative works to maintain a download source feature that would provide complete and corresponding source code. Kuhn argued that there was precedent for such a requirement in GPLv2 section 2(c), which required preservation of certain features by downstream distributors and modifiers.[5]

Moglen and Kuhn wrote the text of the proposed new section 2(d), and provided it to Poole, who then requested and received permission from the FSF to publish a derivative of GPLv2 for this purpose. In March 2002, Affero, Inc. published the original Affero General Public License (AGPLv1) for use with the Affero project and made the new license available for use by other software-as-a-service developers.

The FSF contemplated including the special provision of AGPLv1 into GPLv3 but ultimately decided to publish a separate license, nearly identical to GPLv3 but containing a provision similar in purpose and effect to section 2(d) of AGPLv1. The new license was dubbed the GNU Affero General Public License, the retention of the Affero name indicating its close historical relationship with AGPLv1. The GNU AGPL was given version number 3 for parity with the GPL, and the current GNU Affero General Public License is often abbreviated AGPLv3.

The finalized version of AGPLv3[6] was published by the FSF on November 19, 2007.

Stet is the first software system known to be released under AGPLv3 (on November 21, 2007).[5], and is the only known program to be used primarily for the production of its own license.

[edit] Compatibility with the GPL

Both versions of the AGPL, like the corresponding versions of the GNU GPL on which they are based, are strong copyleft licenses. In the FSF's judgment, the additional requirement in section 2(d) of AGPLv1 made it incompatible with the otherwise nearly identical GPLv2. That is to say, one cannot distribute a single work formed by combining components covered by each license.

By contrast, GPLv3 and AGPLv3 each include clauses (in section 13 of each license) that together achieve a form of mutual compatibility for the two licenses. These clauses explicitly allow the "conveying" of a work formed by linking code licensed under the one license against code licensed under the other license.[7] In this way, the copyleft of each license is relaxed to allow distribution of such combinations.

To establish an upgrade path from AGPLv1 to the FSF's AGPLv3, Affero, Inc. published the Affero General Public License version 2, which is merely a transitional license that allows recipients of software licensed under "AGPLv1 or any later version as published by Affero, Inc." to distribute the software, or derivative works, under AGPLv3.

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