RFC: Relicensing OpenBSC under AGPLv3

Harald Welte laforge at gnumonks.org
Wed May 19 19:28:10 UTC 2010

Hi all!

This subject came to my attention again recently:  Why not relicense
OpenBSC under AGPLv3?

Right now we are licensing under GPLv2+ (v2 or any later version). However,
if an operator was to make lots of private modifications and then operate
it on his own network, there would be no distribution and thus no need
for him to release his modified versions of the source code.

This may sound a bit strange to those who have been with the project
since its early days.  But we are reaching production quality now, and
we already have the first number of production deployments of the software.

Companies like Netzing and On-waves have been FOSS-friendly and funding
parts of our development effort.  They have no issues with the result being
Free Software again.  However, there are definitely other companies out
there who are less fond of sharing...

So thus my idea is to put OpenBSC under AGPLv3.  This way whoever uses
OpenBSC _in modified form_ to operate a communications network will
have to provide the source code to that modified form on a network
server at no charge.

The only controversial question to me is "your modified version must
prominently offer all users interacting with it remotely through a computer
network (if your version supports such interaction) an opportunity to receive
the Corresponding Source".

1) does a gsm network count as computer network? i'd say yes.
2) is using a gsm network 'interacting with it remotely'? I'd also say yes
3) what does 'prominently offer' mean in the context of GSM?  We don't want
   the operator to spam their users with advertisement SMS just to know
   that they can get the soruce code, after all.

Notwithstanding those open questions, such a network operator would always
have the option of simply sending back his changes for integration in the
official project - and thus he would no longer use a modified version which
then means there is no need for the prominent notice / download at all.

We can make this very clear in the project documentation, putting further

The actual relicensing should be less problematic than I thought, since AGPLv3
is compatible with GPLv3.

So I could re-license all parts that I own copyright on (which should be
the majority of the code base anyway) under AGPLv3, while the former GPLv2+
components (like VTY code from zebra, or contributions by other people)
then become GPLv3-or-later.

Of course I would want to encourage all developers/contributors to also
follow the re-licensing. Particularly Holger Freyther, Dieter Spaar, Andreas
Eversberg, Jan Luebbe, Sylvain Munaut, Daniel Willmann, Stefan Schmidt.

So let's start with a poll:  

a) Do you think re-licensing to AGPLv3 is a good idea?
b) If you have contributed, would you re-license your code under AGPLv3?

If we have some kind of concesus in the community, I would approach
On-waves whether they would want to do the same for their share of the
copyright.  As their "modifications" are all part of OpenBSC git repository,
they would not be subject to any different conditions than before.

Thanks in advance for your feedback,

- Harald Welte <laforge at gnumonks.org>           http://laforge.gnumonks.org/
"Privacy in residential applications is a desirable marketing option."
                                                  (ETSI EN 300 175-7 Ch. A6)

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