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FSF Announces Support of the Affero GPL, First Copyleft License for Web

Mar 19, 2002, 23:30 (11 Talkback[s])

Boston, Massachusetts, USA - Tuesday, March, 19th, 2002 - The Free Software Foundation (FSF) announces support for and invites public comment on the first public license designed to protect software distributed as Web services: the Affero General Public License (AGPL). The AGPL combines the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) V2 with one additional provision to address software used by the public over a network. The new provision enables the author to ensure that users will have the right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute that software, by providing a mechanism for downloading the source and restricting the removal of the mechanism.

The FSF has worked since its inception in 1985 to promote freedom for computer users to share and change software. In January, 1989, the FSF released the GNU GPL Version 1. It empowered free software developers by providing a mechanism which ensured that all users be entitled to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute the software.

The FSF modified the license in 1991 to meet changes in technology and business, with the goal to continue the protection of users' freedoms. The license has since been adopted by thousands of software developers, from individuals to large organizations such as IBM (NYSE: IBM).

Eben Moglen, board member and general legal counsel to the Free Software Foundation, said: "We are eager to solve problems experienced by free software companies, like Affero, who are exploring new business models and meeting new challenges that threaten the freedom of software."

Affero is delivering a new online service which empowers members of virtual communities to recognize and reward positive contributions with feedback and donations to non-profits and the causes they support. The company, committed to the idealism embodied in the GNU GPL, requires full protection of software freedom for their user and partner community. Because Affero's service is run over a network by their users, Affero needed the additional provision to the GNU GPL. The FSF worked with Affero to address the licensing requirements for their business model and is considering including this additional provision in the upcoming version of the GNU GPL 3.0 and is inviting public comment.

Affero's software enables any user to download its complete source code on any screen in the user interface. The new licensing provision protects the removal of this feature, ensuring that the existing software and any derivative works continue to be available to the general public under the same terms as the original work. "As an advocate for the individual, full access to Affero's source code is essential to our service" comments Henri Poole, President of Affero. "We are building tools to reward sharing and enable more effective community dialogue, and these communities and their members should be fully empowered to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. With new Web delivered services, we need a license which will weld the virtual door open."

For full text of the Affero General Public License, please visit:


Public comments about the Affero General Public License can be sent to: agpl@fsf.org

Copyright (C) Free Software Foundation, Inc., and Affero, Inc.