Free as in free rider….
Luis Villa introduces here the notion of ‘user-deployers’ and ‘user-consumers’ to distinguish between the two user constituencies and the inherent conflict that exists between them as Open Source software gets used as the basis for Software as a Service offerings.
The desire to maintain each groups freedoms is one of the reasons cited by the FSF to not address the ASP loophole in the GPLv3.
Unfortunately, this separation of constituencies must remain a purely academic exercise since the license makes no such distinction, leaving the ASP loophole intact.
In spite of my criticisms of the AGPL, I’m not even sure which side of this issue I support, but one thing that is clear to me is that the debate seems disingenuous. To assert a priori that one groups rights cannot be asserted over another’s is utter nonsense. That’s what a license does. Asserts my rights. As the author of a work, I can assign rights to whomever I choose, fairly or unfairly. It is my choice entirely.
So it’s clear that the FSF’s objective for the GPLv3 isn’t simply to assert rights as the author, but to ensure software freedoms and some would argue to become part of a broader social welfare function, which strives to drive societal change.
But even then, a social welfare function, by definition, seeks to maximize economic utility in part by favoring certain groups rights over others. So why not here?
GPLv3 could have closed the ASP loophole if it wanted to, but it didn’t. I think the FSF probably did the right thing by not addressing it, but I think the reason has little to do with preserving the rights of conflicted constituencies. I think it was much more fundamental: Nobody would use it.