Former President Donald Trump’s new social media platform may already be in deep water before it even goes live. Mastodon, a free social media framework, claims Truth Social is misrepresenting open source software and has given them 30 days to correct the problem. Things might become nasty if it does not repair things by the end of next month. The issue, according to Mastodon creator and CEO Eugen Rochko, is not only that Truth Social uses Mastodon, but also that it does so while claiming ownership of the site’s code. People who looked at the pre-launch site’s code last week discovered that it was plainly utilizing Mastodon’s programming without recognition.
“The terms of service featured a troubling line asserting that the site is intellectual property and that they own, control, or license all source code and software,” he said. “Mastodon is free software distributed under the AGPLv3 license, which mandates that any over-the-network service that uses it make its source code and any modifications publicly available.” Truth made no mention of Mastodon, despite the fact that the company’s code is clearly used.
This type of license is widespread in open source software, which is freely available to everyone, even huge organizations, who allowed using and altering it as long as do so publicly and contribute to the tool’s general development. This has resulted in a fertile ground for collaboration between volunteers and firms whose engineers paid to participate.
However, such permits are routinely disregarded. Companies large enough to think they can get away with it, or just do not grasp what is expected of them, even if it is only usage acknowledgement or a GitHub page explaining how they altered the code, are frequently the perpetrators.
The repercussions of infractions are hazy and rely on a variety of conditions. For example, if a firm uses open-source software under a free license to avoid paying for a commercial license that is available, a lawsuit may be launched demanding monetary damages for lost revenue. An action might even be brought only to keep the code available, as in the current case against Vizio.
Many licensing infractions will slip through the cracks due to the sheer volume of them, but the Trump social network’s extremely visible flouting of the license is unlikely to. According to Rochko’s tweet, if Truth Social does not comply by admitting and uploading the Mastodon-sourced code for review by November 26 (30 days after a letter outlining everything issued to Truth Social’s chief legal officer), their license to the code would cancel.
This is the solution that Software Freedom Conservancy anticipated would be used last week, since “that’s how AGPLv3’s cure provision works – no exceptions — even if you’re a real estate magnate, reality television celebrity, or even a former President,” as they put it. If no alternative arrangement is achieved, this “cure” just awaited notice from the copyright holder (i.e. Mastodon). In an email to TechCrunch, Rochko said, “Anyone utilizing the code without a license would be infringing on our copyright.” “Then we’d have more options for combatting copyright infringement.”