According to the latest news, Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) is claiming former US President Donald Trump’s new social network violated a free and open source software license agreement by ripping off decentralized social network Mastodon. Now, the Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG) has 30 days to comply with the terms of the license otherwise, the license would be terminated or face legal action.
TMTG was launched as a special purpose acquisition company fundraising effort just yesterday. The company promised to build a sweeping media empire. So far, it’s one and only product is a social network called Truth Social which appears strongly to be forked from Mastodon. Anyone can freely reuse Mastodon’s code but they will have to comply with the Affero General Public License (or AGPLv3) that governs that code along with its conditions including offering its own source codes for all users.
Truth Social is not yet complying with these terms and is referring to its service as “proprietary.” Its developers apparently attempted to scrub references to hide direct Mastodon connection. In simple words, TMTG’s strategy has not sat well with the SFC.
SFC policy fellow Bradley Kuhn wrote in a blog post “The license purposefully treats everyone equally (even people we don’t like or agree with), but they must operate under the same rules of the copyleft licenses that apply to everyone else. Today, we saw the Trump Media and Technology Group ignoring those important rules — which were designed for the social good.”
It is to be noted that Truth Social has not even launched officially yet. As of now, its users can only access a test version of the platform where many of them created prank accounts that flooded the service with false company announcements and even fake Donald Trump posts. The SFC is demanding TMTG to offer all these users access to the Truth Social source code. Kuhn said, “If they fail to do this within 30 days, their rights and permissions in the software are automatically and permanently terminated.” If Truth Social does not take an initiative to make the source code available, the SFC could sue it for violating the terms of the license.
This year, SFC sued electronics maker Vizio for “repeated failures to fulfill even the basic requirements” of free software licensing. Kuhn said, “We will be following this issue very closely and demanding that Trump’s Group give the corresponding source to all who use the site.”
Yesterday, Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko said he would like to seek legal counsel for this situation. However, he didn’t elaborate on his planned course of action to counter this. He told Talking Points Memo, “Compliance with our AGPLv3 license is very important to me as that is the sole basis upon which I and other developers are willing to give away years of work for free.”