[NetBehaviour] Why Net Art Software Should Be AGPL-Licenced

james morris james at jwm-art.net
Fri Jun 19 00:09:37 CEST 2009

Hi Rob,

Thanks for this post, makes a great case for using the AGPL. Coincidently
I was browsing about the AGPL the other day and have been considering
open sourcing some of my PHP code arts.

Thinking about it, it seems strange that I've made an exception in not
releasing the source for my code art which runs on the server. Perhaps
it's a feeling that it's more susceptible to attack if it's known
what's going on in there - a false concern I know. Or the fact that
it's only running on the server, so people don't actually need the
code to experience it. Then there's the fact that PHP seems to be
riddled with security pitfalls if you're not careful.

Still like you point out, the closed attitude removes freedom... The
freedom of Free Software is an important thing to me, it's close to my
ideals, so it makes no sense for me not to release my code. (the code
i've written which only runs on the jwm-art.net server, all my other
code is free).


On 18/6/2009, "Rob Myers" <rob at robmyers.org> wrote:

>Restricting the study, production, display, preservation or other uses
>of artworks removes the freedom of those involved in art and thereby
>damages the cultural, social and economic value of art. Where
>restrictions take the form of copyright, copyleft licences are a good
>way of restoring peoples freedom. The freedom of curators, critics and
>academics, collectors, audience, and artists to use software is part of
>their freedom to use software-based net art as art.
>For media-based net art the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike
>licence is the best copyleft licence. For software based net art a
>different licence is required (and Creative Commons explicitly state
>that their licences should not be used for software).
>The GNU GPL is the best copyleft licence for software that people use on
>their own computers, where it is "propagated" to them from elsewhere by
>downloading it or installing it from DVD. Software delivered to
>galleries or collections, or to other artists, counts as being
>propagated under the GPL, so the GPL is the best copyleft licence for
>software that will actually be delivered to its users.
>Software accessed remotely on a server online does not count as being
>propagated, even if it is used as it would be locally but through a web
>interface. To handle this a variant of the GPL called the Affero GPL
>(AGPL) was created. When you use software over a network, for example
>through a web browser, the AGPL requires that you be able to acquire the
>source code of that software just as if you were using it locally under
>the GPL. The AGPL is therefore the best copyleft licence for software
>used over a network. This includes software-based net art.
>The average piece of software-based net art will use a free operating
>system, and a free software scripting language, web server and web
>browser. It may use a free software database and many additional free
>software libraries of code as well. The difficulty of the artwork's
>conception or production does not provide an excuse for making it
>non-free any more than the difficulties of creating the far greater body
>of work that it build on did.
>It is much easier to install and maintain software that is not
>restricted by its licence and that provides its source code. Art that
>takes the form of software must be installed and maintained to curate
>and preserve it. Critics, artists, students and audience can benefit
>from studying the source code of net art. Even if they don't fix bugs
>they can learn from it and maybe even appreciate it. And if the server
>goes down and you don't have a backup, someone else may and will be able
>to give you a copy back. These freedoms are all protected by the AGPL,
>giving a strong practical benefit to using it. This fact should be borne
>in mind when discussing the curation, archiving and preservation of net
>art as well as when discussing its production.
>The support of people's freedom and the practical benefits to artists
>from supporting the curation, preservation and scholarship of their work
>provide strong reasons for making net art free software. Net artists can
>and should protect the freedom of the users of their software using the
>AGPL. See here <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-howto.html> for details
>of how to apply the AGPL to your work.
>NetBehaviour mailing list
>NetBehaviour at netbehaviour.org

More information about the NetBehaviour mailing list