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11 December 2008, 11:19

AGPL essential for the future of FOSS in cloud computing

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As reported by the online magazine, Fabrizio Capobianco, CEO of Funambol, a company that provides mobile services says "The future of software is in cloud computing," and the free and open source software (FOSS) community needs to make greater use of the GNU Affero General Public Licence (AGPL), a licence specifically crafted for software as a service, for FOSS to survive and flourish in this emerging environment. Capobianco warns, "If we want open source to thrive in the future," – "We need to make sure it applies in software as a service. You need a licence that preserves copyleft in the cloud world."

Some time ago Capobianco noticed that, while the GNU General Public Licence (GPL) requires distributors of software that uses it, to make their source code available, companies offering cloud services "were going around the requirement by saying that they were not actually distributing software, because they were running it as a service. And there are some big companies doing it, such as one that starts with 'G' and ends with 'oogle.' I just believed that that was exploiting a loophole." The loophole exists because, in 1991 when the second version of the GPL was released, "no one was thinking of running software over a (web) server and how copyright would work in that case."

According to Capobianco the problem is that the subtle difference between GPLv3 and AGPL in terms of the cloud computing issue, is just not appreciated – "They just go with GPL because it's the standard one."

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