Bradley Kuhn
When Software Is a Service, Is Only the Network Luddite Free?
Software Freedom Conservancy

Bradley M. Kuhn, president of the Software Freedom Conservancy and FLOSS Community Liaison and Policy Analyst for the Software Freedom Law Center, is on the forefront of answering both these issues. Kuhn will discuss how the movement must prepare and plan in new ways to meet these challenges with the same spirit that made this community-oriented and democratic movement possible.


So-called Application Service Providers, who provide "Software as a Service (SaaS)", are now the rule rather than the exception in the software industry. The freedom implications of ubiquitous, high-bandwidth networking and AJAX-based application delivery are not yet fully understood nor adequately addressed by the Software Freedom Movement, such that even those of us who have been paying attention during SaaS' rise remain befuddled by the freedom implications of the new environment.

Our movement must develop a multi-front response to this proprietary threat that will make the 1980s and 1990s battle against proprietary operating system vendors look easy.

The challenge is specifically centered around two complex issues: (a) traditional user-freedom-protecting licenses (i.e., the copyleft) fail to protect the freedoms of SaaS users, and (b) even if users have the source code to the application they are using, they cannot run it themselves and generate the same network-effect available in the canonical instance.

In this talk, Kuhn will frame and introduce the key questions introduced by these new issues. He will discuss the Affero GPL, which is one of few FLOSS licenses that address this concern from the software licensing perspective, and explain how our traditional solutions cannot succeed as easily in this new context.