from the tick-tock dept
Plenty of people have raised concerns that Donald Trump’s sketchy new social media site, Truth Social, is just a lightly reskinned Mastodon, which is violating Mastodon’s fairly strict AGPLv3 license. As we had previously discussed, the aggressive (and sloppy) terms of service for the site claim that the code is proprietary, and even claims that “all source code, databases, functionality, software, website designs, audio, video, text, photographs, and graphics on the Site (collectively, the “Content”) and the trademarks, service marks, and logos contained therein (the “Marks”) are owned or controlled by us or licensed to us…”
Of course, part of the reason that Mastodon uses such a license is to encourage others to take the code and build on it if they abide by the terms of the license. And the nature of Mastodon’s license is that if you use it, you must make the complete source code available of what you build with it. The key bit of the license:
You may convey a work based on the Program, or the modifications to
produce it from the Program, in the form of source code under the
terms of section 4, provided that you also meet all of these conditions:
a) The work must carry prominent notices stating that you modified
it, and giving a relevant date.
b) The work must carry prominent notices stating that it is
released under this License and any conditions added under section
7. This requirement modifies the requirement in section 4 to
“keep intact all notices”.
c) You must license the entire work, as a whole, under this
License to anyone who comes into possession of a copy. This
License will therefore apply, along with any applicable section 7
additional terms, to the whole of the work, and all its parts,
regardless of how they are packaged. This License gives no
permission to license the work in any other way, but it does not
invalidate such permission if you have separately received it.
d) If the work has interactive user interfaces, each must display
Appropriate Legal Notices; however, if the Program has interactive
interfaces that do not display Appropriate Legal Notices, your
work need not make them do so.
It’s not clear that any of these conditions have been met. So, now the Software Freedom Conservancy has given Trump 30 days to bring the code into compliance — specifically by providing the source code to Truth Social to the early users who were able to sign up — or, under the license terms, Trump’s “rights in the software are permanently terminated.”
Early evidence strongly supports that Trump’s Group publicly launched a
so-called “test site” of their “Truth Social”
product, based on the AGPLv3’d Mastodon
software platform. Many users were able to create accounts and use it
— briefly. However, when you put any site on the Internet licensed
under AGPLv3, the AGPLv3
requires that you provide (to every user) an opportunity to
receive the entire Corresponding Source for the website based on that code.
These early users did not receive that source code, and Trump’s Group
is currently ignoring their very public requests for it. To comply with this important FOSS license,
Trump’s Group needs to immediately make that Corresponding Source available to all who used the site today while it was live.
If they fail to do this within 30 days, their rights and permissions in the software are automatically and permanently
terminated. That’s how AGPLv3’s cure provision works — no exceptions —
even if you’re a real estate mogul, reality television star, or even a
I and my colleagues at Software Freedom Conservancy are experts at
investigating non-compliance with copyleft license and enforcing those
licenses once we confirm the violations. We will be following this issue
very closely and insisting that Trump’s Group give the Corresponding Source
to all who use the site.
I think that’s called being put on notice. It will be interesting to see how Trump responds — and what happens next.