By Robbie Pratl ‘22
The Software Freedom Conservancy, a non-profit organization that defends breaches of open source software contracts, has accused the Trump Media and Technology Group of breaching the Gnu Affero GPL version 3 (AGPLv3).
APGLv3 is an example of a copyleft license, meaning that any user has the right to modify the base software as long as it follows stipulations left from the base software. In this case, Trump’s group based the Truth Social platform off of Mastodon, a free open source platform for self-hosting social media platforms, which is licensed under APGLv3.
Common practice includes posting code on hosting platforms, such as Github. In contrast, Trump’s Group only is taking requests for source code, furthermore ignoring requests for the source code, further violating APGLv3.
To further the discourse, one might ask what exactly will happen because of this? The most likely answer is an out-of-court settlement seen in previous Open Source litigation, such as Free Software Foundation, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc.
Why do corporations get a free pass to use or sell other people’s intellectual property or data in ways we do not know about, or even steal code with the proper credit? Leaving little to no trace of your actions on the internet is idealistic and next to impossible in today’s day and age. However, many people take no time to realize trace amounts of information tying themselves to controversial uses of internet platforms.
In this case, even a former president with teams of developers creating a social network left trace amounts of code from another application and got caught for it.
Ironically enough, Truth Social is far from any truth, already showing dishonest development practices, founded by a figurehead that preys on mental vulnerabilities to make a living. Truth Social is bound to be a failure not for Trump, whom his dedicated fanbase will follow, but rather for society as a whole.
I believe although slightly dissimilar from anything the average Crusader may do in his day-to-day life, this remains a call to remain vigilant of your own online presence, monitor for illegal uses of your own data, and watch for violations you might make.