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Re: My Favorite soapbox : XML linkage (was Re: [DotGNU]Jabber-thon)

From: David Sugar
Subject: Re: My Favorite soapbox : XML linkage (was Re: [DotGNU]Jabber-thon)
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2002 21:57:40 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.0rc3) Gecko/20020523

This is in some ways a hard philosophical question. Usually the GPL becomes involved (invoked, if you will) thru the act of distribution, and in web services, unlike with traditional linking, there is no "distribution" of a copyrighted work (code) one can point to and say, "aha", the GPL easily applies here. The question of regulating what programs can invoke a web service is also interesting. In a more traditional and older RPC system, IDL might have to be interchanged, and the IDL code/specfile itself could be under the GPL, thereby giving the ability to apply the GPL to other programs that invoke the RPC service if the author wishes. In web services, neither code nor interface specs are propagated (distributed), so it would seem to require some other means to even try to apply the GPL.

The question of if proprietary programs could talk to subunits or components of free software and form a complete system or work that has become defacto proprietary because parts of it now are is an important one. In that, I see it can be a bad thing potentially. But the result would perhaps be no worse than the LGPL, which itself is a pragmatic compromise, since the original components that were freely licensed would remain so individually and their freedom remains intact, like happens with LGPL libraries that are linked with proprietary binaries. Having well defined interfaces anchored in free software being invoked by proprietary software components means that free software substitutes could probably also be created by the community for the now well defined and isolated proprietary components given time and motivation.

Richard Stallman wrote:

   What if we want to create web services that can only
be used by GPLed programs?
In general, if you have implented just an arbitrary web service, I
don't think there is any way to impose such a requirement.  Perhaps
you could require each user to sign a contract promising to use only
GPL-covered software to access the system.  I have a bad feeling about
the idea of a web site's trying to restrict what software users can
access it with, though.

In some cases, if the web service in question consists of talking in
an intimate way with some GPL-covered server software, we might try to
argue that the client side and the server are really one program and
the GPL applies to the client.  However, in that situation it would
be rather hard for that argument to prevail.

It seems to follow that if DotGNU programs use Jabber in a
straightforward way to communicate with each other, non-free programs
will easily be able to talk with them.  Is that a bad thing?
I am not certain.

   We still need to be rethink the entire licensing issue
   for the creation of the GPL "viral" effect on the
greater level.
Please don't compare the GPL with a virus.
It is misleading, and it is very unfriendly.

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