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I'm a 3D modeler by trade, and in the past I've used some software to create a base mesh for humanoid renders. I'm seeing now that, while it used to be AGPL and CC0, it's now entirely AGPL, and by some mechanism which I do not fully understand this seems to apply to products and meshes created with it.

That is, if I produce a model while using this software, I am required to release the model, and any software dependent on the model (say, a game or a web app), under the same license. This feels extraordinarily aggressive.

This is very strange to me. It feels like a paintbrush manufacturer demanding royalties on all paintings done with their brush. Additionally, when AGPL was created, it was apparently to close a gap in GPLv3 which allowed companies to alter software on a server and open it to the public via a web interface; which was phrased loosely enough to potentially apply to all products created by the program.

While I'm historically a big fan of GPL-created works and feel that they have done wonders for the whole of the software and multimedia community, this AGPL oddity is a total deal-breaker for the software-in-question. I'm no longer even entirely certain about my rights to my videos. What is the nature of this reach? Do I need to make my application AGPL simply because I used an AGPL-produced resource in it? And, perhaps most importantly, has this ever been enforced in a court of law, or could it be in the United States?

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    Where in the AGPL do you see that the license applies to work products made with the software? The "derivative works" means extensions of the software itself, and I don't think "The output from running a covered work is covered by this License only if the output, given its content, constitutes a covered work." applies to this because the output isn't defined as a "covered work".
    – Ron Beyer
    Jan 7, 2022 at 15:26
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    ["[...] It has one added requirement: if you run a modified program on a server and let other users communicate with it there, your server must also allow them to download the source code corresponding to the modified version running there. The purpose of the GNU Affero GPL is to prevent a problem that affects developers of free programs that are often used on servers](en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Affero_General_Public_License) the intent of the Free Software Foundation for AGPL is pretty clear: the products of the software are not under AGPL.
    – Bakuriu
    Jan 7, 2022 at 15:27

3 Answers 3

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OK, seems I was right to begin with, but after building some work with this I had to be sure. The problem seems to step from a lot of not-lawyers overinterpreting the reach and applicability of copyright law, which, with a few asides, is the full extent of the AGPL. Additionally, the software is not based in an English-speaking country, which may have thrown the interpreted meaning of "derivative product", as opposed to simply "product".

The AGPL is indeed in almost all ways the same as the GPL version 3; in fact you can see this by diffing the two documents. The only extension of the GPLv3 made for AGPL applies to software being run on a server. While it is indeed possible to include code in the final files, which might, in theory, constitute a significant portion of this program, that does not happen.

The AGPL is apparently also meant almost exclusively for software, though the wording does include the ambiguous phrase "and other products"; this concerned me as it felt as though it might apply to the resources created by the work. It, broadly speaking, does not.

So, I've got nothing to worry about--unless I was distributing derivative software, which would be an entirely different question and subject to this.

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The AGPL and GPL can be applied to output, since the output is a derivative of data licensed under the (A)GPL. Making a model with MB-Lab is not the same as writing a word document from scratch. The model is not conjured from the end-user's input. The sliders are illusions of user input and control; the programmer, not you, decided what happens when a slider is moved. To claim that a MB-Lab character model belongs to you because you moved a slider is similar to claiming that a Skyrim or Fire Emblem Awakening character model belongs to you because you moved a slider.

This is why exceptions to the AGPL and GPL exist. One fitting exception is Autoconf-exception-3.0:

AUTOCONF CONFIGURE SCRIPT EXCEPTION

Version 3.0, 18 August 2009

Copyright (C) 2009 Free Software Foundation, Inc. https://fsf.org/

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

This Exception is an additional permission under section 7 of the GNU General Public License, version 3 ("GPLv3"). It applies to a given file that bears a notice placed by the copyright holder of the file stating that the file is governed by GPLv3 along with this Exception.

The purpose of this Exception is to allow distribution of Autoconf's typical output under terms of the recipient's choice (including proprietary).

  1. Definitions

"Covered Code" is the source or object code of a version of Autoconf that is a covered work under this License.

"Normally Copied Code" for a version of Autoconf means all parts of its Covered Code which that version can copy from its code (i.e., not from its input file) into its minimally verbose, non-debugging and non-tracing output.

"Ineligible Code" is Covered Code that is not Normally Copied Code.

  1. Grant of Additional Permission.

You have permission to propagate output of Autoconf, even if such propagation would otherwise violate the terms of GPLv3. However, if by modifying Autoconf you cause any Ineligible Code of the version you received to become Normally Copied Code of your modified version, then you void this Exception for the resulting covered work. If you convey that resulting covered work, you must remove this Exception in accordance with the second paragraph of Section 7 of GPLv3.

  1. No Weakening of Autoconf Copyleft.

The availability of this Exception does not imply any general presumption that third-party software is unaffected by the copyleft requirements of the license of Autoconf.

This exception permits the end-user to own and choose the license of the output by making an explicit distinction between "Ineligible Code" and "Normally Copied Code" and spelling out what you may and may not do with each. However, without an explicit exception, such output would be automatically be covered by GPL. If it were otherwise, as you claim, then such exceptions wouldn't be necessary. To put it another way, the need to explicitly list an exception indicates that the rule and its associated problems do indeed exist, i.e. the exception proves the rule.

Another exception is the the MakeHuman's license exception: Unlike ML-Lab, they explicitly licensed their data under CC0 so that the end-user can choose the license for the output derived from that data. I have to wonder if the original question mistakenly conflated MakeHuman and MB-Lab together: MakeHuman uses a AGPL+CC0 combo, while MB-Lab uses a GPL+AGPL combo.

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  • That is a possibility; it was quite a while ago, but the whole project was in a downward spiral. I ended up going with a personalized humanoid model, in spite of the excess rendering and work time, simply because I didn't feel I could trust MB-Lab with it. It ultimately meshed better with the other art anyway, and I've started a personal library of common components and poses to pull from with future models. MB Lab seems to have a bit of political drama behind the scenes, including what may be a bit of hostility from the original creator; and I prefer to distance myself from that anyway. Apr 3, 2023 at 4:10
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I suspect this might depend on the program you're refering to. At least with MB-Labs, the meshes themselves are considered under gnu3/agpl according to the license faq - they seem to use agpl and gnu3 interchangably, which doesn't help matters, but i think thry changed from gnu3 to agpl once it was designed. Unfortunately, the licence basically made the program impossible for me to use for anything other then diy drawing references. :(

if I am wrong, i would LOVE to know that! So far mb has been the best free human design program i've found.

quote from the official website for MB-Labs

All data files released in the MB-Lab package, including all the meshes and data >contained in .blend files or in any other 3d file format, all the images and all the >json files are released under GNU Affero General Public License 3.

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    Apr 7, 2022 at 14:58
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    "All data files released in the MB-Lab package" refers to data supplied with the program, not output from the program when run by users. I think this answer is incorrect as a matter of law. It also does not specify what part of the actual license is thought tro cover the outputs. Apr 7, 2022 at 15:04
  • I remain unconvinced that this is legally enforceable. Apr 7, 2022 at 16:34
  • Additionally, most meshes are exported in formats such as obj, dae, fbx, stl, and other standards, which technically is an interpreted form of the blend model just as a picture or video is; this also throws a wrench into claims on derived works, as there's too much "bleed over" between the mesh and the video or figurine. I'm not a lawyer, but aside from literally using the same code, and since the Blender Game Engine no longer exists (and had its own concerns), how and where could this be enforced? Apr 7, 2022 at 21:35

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