It looks that everybody can misread a license, even a former President of the United States. The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) concluded that Trump’s new social network, “Truth Social”, violates the terms of the AGPL license. It looks like the code of the system is simply a copy of Mastodon, an existing open-source social network licensed under the AGPLv3 license. That license is a (very infectious) copyleft license, it specifically states that every user is entitled to receive the complete source code of the system. “Truth Social” is not compliant on this aspect, and also violates the license calling their software “proprietary”.
“…an entire open-source platform was just copied with no regard to the license…”
This is a very common mistake: nowadays software is built by hundreds of open-source components and license compliance is a very complex task, you can read an explanation in this article. However, in this instance and based on the SFC analysis, an entire open-source licensed platform was just copied and reused, with no regard to the license.
So what are the options for Truth Social at this time? I believe they can:
- release the derived system under a compatible open-source license, most possibly the AGPLv3 itself, and make their code publicly available
- obtain a license for commercial use from the Mastodon contributors, but I doubt this will be possible, also given Mastodon view on Gab, another right-wing social
- rewrite everything from scratch and relaunch
Of course, they may also fight this in court, but having seen some of the evidence from Mastodon, I doubt this is going to be a successful choice. It will be interesting to follow how this will evolve.
*** UPDATE ***
The Gab team, threatened by legal action, decided to release the source code publicly!