Free Software as a Service

Much free/open source software, including WordPress, is under the General Public License. The GPL includes what many consider a loophole: the ability of running GPLv2 software as a service (SaaS) without returning any changes to the community, because distribution of software as a service might not technically be considered distribution of software. uses this ability. The source code isn’t available, except to the (considerable) extent that it overlaps with the WordPress and WordPress Multi-User code.

Will GPL v3 close this loophole? It appears not. But Fabrizio Capobianco (whose post I found via Glyn Moody, and quoted above) is upset.

That means 75% of the future software (which is going to be SaaS) could be offered by leeches, that suck the soul of open source for their pure benefit. They make money, while others work for them for free, to make them rich. Rich without returning anything that could benefit the community of whom they are parasites… Google is really happy about the GPLv3 draft.

By the way, even if Fabrizio’s view prevails in GPL v3, that wouldn’t force Automattic to make the code available. It would simply make it more likely that WordPress would remain under GPL v2.

I haven’t kept up with GPL V3 as closely as I intended to after I attended the kickoff event at MIT in January 2006. The last of my posts about that event referred to SaaS: there was some discussion of software as a service, and its implications for free software. Those implications probably merit a separate post, maybe later this week. So this follow-up is only about 14 months late.

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