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An AGPL licensed web application I'm interested in using has the following stipulations:

"Pursuant to section 7 3(b) of the GNU AGPL you must retain the original {{package}} logo when distributing the software. If the display of the logo in its graphic form is not reasonably feasible for technical reasons, you must include the words "Powered by {{package}}" in every copy of the program you distribute. Pursuant to Section 7 3(e) we decline to grant you and rights under trademark law for use of our trademarks"

My concerns with this are:

  1. Is the requirement to display a logo or specific string rather than just the name of the project a "reasonable legal notice" as discussed in the section of the AGPL?

  2. Since logos are trademarks and they explicitly disallow use of trademarks, would the effect be to limit commercial use of this package thus removing one of the fundamental freedoms? The software is provided as SaaS by the original authors, so the result limits competition.

  • Regardless of the answer, it is worth noting that the service itself need not necessarily include S.7 additional notices, except when the service output includes AGPL material. The source code that is actually distributed alongside the service must obey those requirements insofar as the GPL requires, but the source code that abides by such requirements need not render a user-facing service that includes such notices. – apsillers Oct 14 at 18:08
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What a thicket the authors of {{package}} seem to have created for themselves by trying to get a licence to do things it wasn't designed to do, not least simultaneously requiring you to display their logo and forbidding you to do so.

I am persuaded by apsillers' excellent point above. AGPLv3 says in s7b that

for material you add to a covered work, you may ... [Require] preservation of specified reasonable legal notices or author attributions in that material or in the Appropriate Legal Notices displayed by works containing it

and defines "Appropriate Legal Notices" in s0 as

a convenient and prominently visible feature that (1) displays an appropriate copyright notice, and (2) tells the user that there is no warranty for the work (except to the extent that warranties are provided), that licensees may convey the work under this License, and how to view a copy of this License

It goes on to note in s13 that

if you modify the Program, your modified version must prominently offer all users interacting with it remotely through a computer network (if your version supports such interaction) an opportunity to receive the Corresponding Source of your version

Assuming that the app doesn't copy its own source into its output, what the AGPL doesn't say in s13 is that s7 reasonable legal notice and attribution preservation requirements apply to interactions over a network with the application; nor does s0 allow such requirements to be sneaked back in under cover of interactively displaying Appropriate Legal Notices. All s13 requires is that you prominently offer interacting users an opportunity to receive the source. If they choose to avail themselves of that, then s7 does require that certain notices are maintained in the source. The AGPL doesn't define "reasonable legal notices". We have addressed this question previously; I see no grounds there or elsewhere to think that promotional statements ("Powered by foo") may be defined as legal notices.

Since AGPLv3 s7 is clear that additional restrictions that don't satisfy s7 may be ignored or removed. I contend that since the s7e prohibition on trademark reuse is lawful and clearly expressed, it trumps the very questionable s7b requirement to display the logo, and thus that requirement may be ignored. In the absence of any clearly-identifiable legal notices in the current source, textual acknowledgement of the current authors clearly and prominently placed in the downloadable source of your application will fulfil your s7b requirements.

You might well choose also to give a more prominent acknowledgment to the original authors in the UI of your modified application, but the form of that is up to you, and if you decide to do so, it doesn't relieve you of your actual s7 obligations, supra.

As ever, if you're betting anything of worth on this view, take professional legal advice first.

  • I don't quite follow this answer. (1) Why would s7b only apply to the source code? It mentions Appropriate Legal Notices which are defined in terms of an “interactive user interface”. (2) S5d forbids the removal of Appropriate Legal Notices from an user interface when the modified work is conveyed. S13 effectively turns every remote network interaction of a modified work into conveyance because the corresponding source must be offered, so s5 and s7b would be in effect. However, I agree that the mandated attribution fails to be an Appropriate Legal Notice. – amon Oct 15 at 9:41
  • @amon I didn't say that s7b only applies to source code. As I tried to show above, s7b applies to two different classes of displayed material: the source you've written ("in that material") and Appropriate Legal Notices (ALNs) displayed by the work in interactive use. The first doesn't apply to interactive use, and the second only applies to ALNs as defined in s0, and those don't include attribution-related notices over and above an "appropriate copyright notice". – MadHatter supports Monica Oct 15 at 9:51
  • You write "S13 effectively turns every remote network interaction of a modified work into conveyance because the corresponding source must be offered". I cannot agree; the offer of conveyance, and conveyance itself, are not the same thing, any more than merely offering to sell you my house actually transfers title to you. I do not see that s7b's preservation requirements in the material itself (first-part requirements) are in effect during interactive use, and thus I don't agree that S13's requirements on interactive use thereby include s7b first-part requirements. – MadHatter supports Monica Oct 15 at 10:00

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