[Koha] Proposal To Switch Koha's License to GPLv3 and AGPLv3 or AGPLv3

Lars Wirzenius lars at catalyst.net.nz
Mon May 10 14:37:51 NZST 2010

On su, 2010-05-09 at 17:18 -0400, Christopher Nighswonger wrote:
> As I see it, the advantage and rational for moving to GPLv3 are
> primarily that GPLv3 is compatible with AGPLv3. This allows us to
> accept work licensed under either of these two licenses. AGPLv3
> carries the added advantage of the *additional* requirement that
> changes, etc. to the code be made available (at least) to those who
> access the changed code. This gives us quite a measure of protection
> more against Koha related code becoming locked up on a saas platform
> somewhere in the nebulous "cloud."

I am new in the Koha community, so I won't speak strongly on this issue
yet, but I would like to offer my observations. Sorry about the length.

* Is the discussion about changing the license on existing files, or
just what licenses to require of new contributions?

* The most important goal of choosing a new license for Koha should be
to protect libraries, librarians, and patrons from being locked in to
specific products, vendors, or services. It is not good if you're
choosing an "open source solution" but can't change away from a solution
provider. The AGPLv3 license is designed for this purpose.

* The second most important goal should be to protect the Koha project
itself, and its contributors: to stop Koha from being made proprietary
even when complying with to GPLv2 to the letter.

* Whether we switch to GPLv3 or AGPLv3 or not, I think it would be good
to keep the "or later" in the license choice. This will make it easier
to switch to newer versions of the license(s) if we choose. Without "or
later", we will need permission from each copyright holder. (Koha's
copyright is almost completely GPLv2 or later, I think, so that's good

* It would further simplify things if there is an explicit policy that
all code included in the project should be using the same license, or at
least that all new code will use the same license. At the very least all
licenses used by Koha should be compatible with each other.

* The copyright ownership of each file is a bit hidden. The copyright
statements (years, owners) in each file do not seem to reflect actual
status. This should be cleaned up at some point. Luckily, git has every
change, correctly attributed, it seems, so it's just some hard work that
needs to happen. This is somewhat unrelated to a license switch, but
it's going to be important at some point, so it'd be good to keep it on
the table.

* GPL version 3 is the updated version of GPL version 2. The spirit is
the same, most of the conditions are the same, but many of the details
have changed. Where GPLv2 was written in an era of mailing data tapes
around, GPLv3 is written in the modern world. In my opinion, the changes
are for the better, but that is a personal opinion. I don't have a
pointer to a summary of the changes; perhaps someone could dig one up?

* AGPLv3 is a variant of GPLv3. As Chris said, the main difference is
that users of the program will need be given access to the source of the
actual running program. That includes anyone using the OPAC, not just
librarians. Anyone running unmodified Koha can just point people at the
download.koha-community.org (or Debian or wherever they installed it
from). Anyone running a modified Koha will need to provide the source
themselves, although it might be possible to do that as a patch, to
avoid excessive bandwidth costs. However, bandwidth costs can probably
be reduced by, say, using bittorrent.

* GPLv3 and AGPLv3 allow mixing, we don't have to choose just one, but
it'd be simpler to do so. However, it might be reasonable to have some
of the backend code be GPLv3 to allow other projects to use it more
easily. For example, the SIP2 implementation?

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