The founder of the software codebase program apparently lifted by Donald Trump’s new “Truth Social” media venture is seeking “legal counsel” to make certain the operation complies with licensing requirements to keep the program free and accessible to the public.
The Trump site already appears to be violating licensing requirements.
Twitter users earlier this week reported that the operation seems to be based on an open-source social networking software called Mastodon.
Users have already found ways to create accounts, even though Trump’s platform is not officially launching until later this year. Screenshots show that the operation site is strikingly similar to Mastodon.
Didn't take long but that layout is IDENTICAL to the layout of Mastodon 3.0, just recoloured.
Truth Social is a fucking Mastodon fork pic.twitter.com/n0FqZbQTW5
— Nicole 🏳️⚧️ on Arknights Brainrot (@VValkyriePub) October 21, 2021
“Based on the screenshots I have seen, it absolutely is based on Mastodon,” Mastodon founder and lead developer Eugen Rochko told Vice’s Motherboard in an email.
The underlying code can be used by anyone — providing users comply with Mastodon’s licensing requirements, which doesn’t currently seem to be the case in Trump’s venture.
“Social networking, back in your hands,” touts Mastodon’s website. “Publish anything you want: links, pictures, text, video. All on a platform that is community-owned and ad-free,” it adds in operational tenets that seem far from the world of Trump businesses.
The Trump network TruthSocial.com appears to have helped itself to Mastodon code while also violating its licensing requirements. “The main part of the license is making the source code and any modifications to it available to the public,” Rochko told Motherboard.
Those requirements are not listed online in Truth Social’s “Truth social terms of service.”
In fact, the terms indicate that “all source code” of Truth Social is proprietary. Calling the code proprietary “would be a problem, as that would indicate a license violation,” Rochko told Motherboard.
“I do intend to seek legal counsel on the situation,” Rochko told Talking Points Memo in an email Thursday, though he provided no specifics on legal action he may be considering.
“Compliance with our AGPL 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,” Rochko noted.
The AGPL license mandates that software provided for free — like Mastodon — remain publicly available even after it has been modified.
Trump Media & Technology Group, the company behind Truth Social, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Software Freedom Conservancy, an organization that enforces free and open-source software licenses, said the Trump venture has 30 days to comply with license requirements. Failure to do so will “automatically and permanently” terminate their rights and permissions, SFC representative Bradley Kuhn said in a statement.
Trump on Wednesday announced the launch of a media company and the social media platform to “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.” As for tyranny, users are banned from criticizing the site or those behind it, presumably including the former president.
Rochko told Motherboard: “If you want my personal opinion on Trump, I cannot stand the guy.”
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.