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I guess this question has a few parts:

  • Are CiviCRM extensions are considered to be modifications of CiviCRM?
  • Are custom file overrides considered to be modifications of CiviCRM?
  • If so, then under CiviCRM's AGPL license, are sites running extensions and custom file overrides required to make those modifications available for download to people who use the site?

For example, if custom code (file override or extension) modifies functionality of a public-facing event registration page, does that page need to contain links to download the modified code?

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  • Good questions ... do the Drupal and/or Wordpress similar issues throw any light on the answer?
    – Alan Dixon
    Jan 23 '18 at 17:40
  • This question is predicated on the assumption that accessing a website (or allowing a website to be accessed) counts as distribution, is there any evidence that that is the case? May 10 '18 at 18:23
  • 1
    @HomoTechsual I don't believe that "distribution" is the concern here, but "remote network interaction". This is what distinguishes the AGPL from the GPL. See section 13 of the AGPL. Jun 18 '18 at 15:51
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I'm certainly not a lawyer, but I've always assumed the answer to all three questions is "Yes".

That said, I haven't made a comprehensive effort to do so - though my current policy is to post all extensions on Github (and I only use overrides within an extension framework). I wouldn't want to make my clients post a link, but in theory my Github page would be a single point of download.

To date I don't believe the AGPL has been tested in court though - so I'd expect lawyers to make the argument, perhaps successfully, that the AGPL isn't (always) binding. Given that many nations' jurisdictions have upheld similar arguments against the GPL, that argument would have an uphill climb.

My take is that the main beneficiaries of the AGPL are the organizations who use CiviCRM vis-a-vis developers they hire. It's a very powerful tool against vendor lock-in!

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For example, if custom code (file override or extension) modifies functionality of a public-facing event registration page, does that page need to contain links to download the modified code?

I would say no to this. I think if I am hosting that site for a client, I am required to make the code available to the client if it's requested, but to make the code available to anyone who uses the site seems sort of crazy to me, not to mention a possible security risk, no?

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    AGPL, unlike GPL, requires you to provide a link (or similar prominent access) to the source code of all modifications. That's not up for debate at this point. This SE question is essentially: what constitutes a "modification"?
    – TwoMice
    Oct 30 '20 at 22:07
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    Referencing section 13 of the AGPL that you cited above, "your modified version must prominently offer all users interacting with it remotely..." To me, then, (not a lawyer) the real crux is what constitutes a "user." And I think there is an argument to be made that a registrant for an event is not a user per se, but that the admin configuring the event page in Civi is. I agree with Jon that "the main beneficiaries of the AGPL are the organizations who use CiviCRM vis-a-vis developers they hire. It's a very powerful tool against vendor lock-in!"
    – guyiac
    Nov 5 '20 at 17:11

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