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My research into the topic suggests that the differences between the GPL and AGPL licenses only matter for code that runs on the server. When executing JavaScript in the browser, "distribution" occurs, in both cases, when the page is loaded, and as such there is no difference between the AGPL and GPL. Is this an accurate understanding?

Specifically: When writing code to execute in the browser, if I use an AGPL-licensed library, do I have additional requirements or limitations over a GPL-licensed library?

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No, the licenses would apply identically, as in both cases the program is being conveyed to the end user. The AGPL's additional clause only applies when the user interacts with but does not receive the program.

I would note that both the GPL and AGPL define "source code" as "the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it". This means that if you distribute compressed/minified Javascript code that it does not count as the source code, and you must make available the original unminified source code.

  • I don't think this is correct. In one case, the conveyance is legally considered distribution (not part of ordinary use). In the other case, the conveyance is legally considered ordinary use (a necessary step to use the work in the ordinary, intended way). Since ordinary use is treated very differently under copyright from distribution, this answer seems to be incorrect. – David Schwartz Oct 10 '16 at 20:15
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    @DavidSchwartz: Do you care to elaborate on this distinction in a separate answer? – Flimzy Sep 3 '18 at 11:35
  • It's hard to given how vague the question is. For example, is the code modified? If so, who modified it? Is the distribution required (or part of) ordinary use? Or not? Answering every possible way this question could present would be a significant effort. (Ordinary use, even if that includes distribution, of a work someone else modified cannot be encumbered by any copyright license, at least not under US law.) – David Schwartz Sep 3 '18 at 20:16
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    My understanding is that the AGPL additionally requires the distribution of source to people who access a program based on AGPL-licensed work over a network. This is the only substantive difference between the two. gnu.org/licenses/why-affero-gpl.en.html – Elkvis Dec 12 '18 at 22:37

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