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back to article Open source author pulls code after GPL abuse

Robert Rosario, the developer behind the open source document management tool Mayan EDMS, has pulled the development code of the software from public repositories. He claims it's being pinched by folks who use it in ways not allowed by the GNU Public Licence. In a Google+ post, Rosario says he works hard to make the software, …

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I suppose I'm being dumb about GPL but

my reading of GPL 3 seems to almost encourage forks to be renamed, eg "5a) The work must carry prominent notices stating that you modified it, and giving a relevant date." If the forks are being fully distributed under the terms of GPL3 its not obvious to me why they're in breach of GPL, as I see no sign he added any additional permissions.

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Anonymous Coward

"as if the original version was being abandoned"

As an author you're free to do with the code as you like. Including releasing it under GPL, or being upset and closing down your repositories. Reading this I infer it's not so much the letter, but the spirit of the thing. The reselling commercially without permission is of course enough to call in the lawyers, but maybe he's trying to give himself some time to think and possibly sending a signal to all and sundry to start and play nice before the legal wrangling starts.

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Re: I suppose I'm being dumb about GPL but

Someone posted this on HN and the supposed author commented that he encourages forks and he evidenced this by the number of them on github and bitbucket, and also encourages commercial competition by advertising people or organizations providing services for his software right on the homepage. The issue apparently with these specific forks is that they are not following some terms of the GPL (not really clear on which ones) and are trying to undermine the authority of the original code, website and/or author on purpose for monetary gain and such. Something like a hostile take over I guess :)

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Megaphone

Re: "as if the original version was being abandoned"

"The reselling commercially without permission is of course enough to call in the lawyers..."

Erm, nope. Nothing in the GPL prevents commercial resale with no permission required whatsoever. The only stipulation is that the modifiled GPL source be made available for free and that the modified code be released under GPL.

Commerce isn't the enemy - closed-source is the enemy.

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Re: "as if the original version was being abandoned"

Commerce isn't the enemy -- not respecting the generosity of the creator by dishonouring the clear intent of his licence is the enemy, as is profiting from someone else's work without acknowledgement or payment. It's the mentality 'everyone help me, and I'll help myself' that is the enemy.

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Re: I suppose I'm being dumb about GPL but

I assume you didn't read anything beyond the vague article. His problem is that several people did one or more of the following:

1) Took his software and made a closed source fork which consisted mainly of a name change with no attribution (GPL violation)

2) Took his software and re-released it essentially unchanged other than name under a restrictive commercial licence (GPL violation)

3) Did 2) while claiming his project is abandoned and his repository is non-authoritative (giant dildo violation)

4) Forked Mayan with zero attribution of where the code came from (GPL violation)

Because of the very Enterprise-y nature of this particular project, it seems to be serially attracting this crap, and he's pulling the dev and hotfix branches (not the existing release) until he finds a strategy for dealing with them.

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Re: "as if the original version was being abandoned"

"The reselling commercially without permission is of course enough to call in the lawyers"

No it isn't. If they provide the source code with the executable and a copy of the GPL licence, then they are free to re-sell it. The GPL (versions 2 and 3) is compatible with commercial selling of software. Normally it is sold for the support contract you get with it.

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Re: "as if the original version was being abandoned"

The GPL is permission -- IF AND ONLY IF you are complying with the terms of that License. If you're not complying with the terms of the GPL, you don't have permission (unless you negotiate a separate agreement with the copyright holder(s) and sufficient cause to call in the the lawyers.

In other words "unauthorised fork" is just another way of saying "not complying with the license" (ie. the GPL).

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Devil

He needs to read the GPL

There is no such thing as unauthorized fork under GPL. Any fork is authorized fair and square as long as the original copyright notices are retained and any derivative work is GPL too.

As a matter of fact he is violating the GPL too as there is no such thing as withdraw. Once it is out and once you have distributed it (which he has) you are obliged to supply the source for a reasonable time after that.

The only possibly "unauthorized" bit is the "commercial" distribution. However you are allowed to distribute commercially GPL software too. There is nothing wrong about that (once again, subject to notices, copyright, source, etc).

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Re: He needs to read the GPL

No, as the author and copyright holder he is not violating the GPL. He can do as he wishes, including stopping distributing it under the GPL and/or releasing it under a different licence.

However, he can't stop anyone else who has already obtained the source from distributing it in accordance with the GPL.

I'm assuming (although he failed to make this clear) that the "unauthorised forks" are not distributing their source, although it does sound like he's released his work under the GPL without reading it...

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Re: He needs to read the GPL

Except he is not complaining about "commercial distribution" but "commercial licensing" which is not the same thing at all.

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Boffin

Re: He needs to read the GPL

There is no such thing as unauthorized fork under GPL. Any fork is authorized fair and square as long as the original copyright notices are retained and any derivative work is GPL too.

So from your second statement, a fork which does not have the original copyright notices would be unauthorized .

Yet from your first statement, such a beast does not exist.

What law of physics prevents people from removing copyright notices? Or is your first statement false?

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Holmes

Jesuitism? In my forum?

There is no such thing as unauthorized fork under GPL.

Steve Knox: What law of physics prevents people from removing copyright notices?

The first statement clearly means that you are free to fork under the GPL at any time as long as you follow the requirements of the GPL, which is to keep the fork under the GPL etc. etc. etc.

I don't know what point you are trying to make here or why anyone would upvote you. Please reconsider.

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I see that some fanboy brigade was already here

And started downvoting everything. To bad they are wrong and the posters so far are right.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I see that some fanboy brigade was already here

Well, you were just asking to be downvoted!

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Anonymous Coward

Like RMS/GNU

If he wanted it to be called GNU/Linux he should have put that fact in his defective licence. Although I'm still feeling sorry for him for getting his laptop nicked.

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Facepalm

Re: Like RMS/GNU

random reply is random.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Like RMS/GNU

Interrogative: How does Richard Stallman figure into this?

Yes he speaks about how the Free and Open Source licenses work frequently and tries his best to work out the misconceptions about it but it isnt really his work, as in he didnt write the license in question, just to clarify before the "free software biblethumpers" jump on me.

Yes, spiritually its the result of much of his work, but its really the work of the Lawyers employed by the FSF as it deals directly with copyright law.

Anyway, from what I gather, and given the very vagueness of the article, everything the author of the software in question is angry about, with the exception of being pissed off about forks (as much as I personally detest the idea, forks are accepted and encouraged under the GPL, as long as attribution is given to the original authors and its clear that the fork is indeed different in some way than the original work, its not a violation. Its probably something he should clarify because it seems like he has a very good grip on the legalities involved here) are very very clear GPL violations. And the FSF should probably step in, they have a big legal team devoted to license violations with a pretty impressive success rate of correcting issues without having to drag it into the courts.

You can sell GPL software, sure. Its actually encouraged, as long as you abide by the license terms and include the source and allow redistribution, which you may also charge for. You can sell support for GPL software, companies like Red Hat and to a lesser extent Canonical make a killing doing so, but you cant take someone else's code, fork it, and then change the license on it because of the way that the GPL acts as a "Viral License".

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Being a bit new to GPL I don't quite follow what's caused him to pull the code. Is it that people are forkingand closing it?

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I'm not fully clear either, the story on his site is a bit lacking in specifics.

The claims made are:

- People are forking his code. This is legal by the GPL and he says explicitly he's fine with it.

- People are releasing this forked code commercially. This is also legal by the GPL and again he explicitly says he's fine with it, in facts encourages it.

- (What isn't clear is whether these people are releasing their forked source. If not, that's a GPL violation.)

- People are renaming the software in their forks. This is legal by the GPL, IF you clearly indicate your version is a fork of Mayan. The author states he is unhappy with this, which is quite understandable but not grounds for legal action. From his phrasing I conclude that he also believes it is not a complaint with legal implications.

- (It isn't clear is whether these people are actually clearly marking their fork as a derivative.)

- Apparently at least some of the people concerned are suggesting that the original software they forked from (i.e. Mayan) is abandoned. Such a suggestion, I assume, is made to encourage adoption of the fork. As far as I can tell, that is legal by the GPL, but may well be illegal as misrepresentation in sales. Again, and quite understandably, the author states he doesn't like this practice.

So there appear to be two possible GPL violations here: failing to deliver the source of a fork and/or failing to clearly mark a fork as a derivative work. Additionally there might be unlawful misrepresentation.

That's what might possibly be the case. What is actually the case is impossible to tell without additional information.

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FAIL

*Not* Open Source.

If it's released under the GPL it's Free Software, not Open Source.

I would have expected the El Reg editors to know the difference by now.

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Re: *Not* Open Source.

Except that all free software is open source while the reverse is not true

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FAIL

Re: "all free software is open source"

No it is not. Anyone can code a program, compile it and release the compiled executable for free, without having to reveal the code.

For example, [url=http://www.getpaint.net/]Paint.net[/url] is a free photo/image editor that isn't bad at all - and that's an understatement - but you will not find the source code anywhere.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "No it is not"

You seem to be confusing "free software" with "Free Software".

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Re: "all free software is open source"

Ok, I am so used to free software meaning free as in speech that for a moment I forgot the limitations of the English language, I am Spanish after all.

So: All "software libre" is "de fuente disponible" but the reverse is not true.

Satisfied now?

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Pint

Re: "I forgot the limitations of the English language"

I agree that there might have been a better choice of terms to start with, and that the current situation is indeed confusing linguistically-speaking.

So let's just chalk that up to American Imperialism and have a beer, okay ?

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Facepalm

Re: "I forgot the limitations of the English language"

All you greenhorns at open source basics may want to visit

Open Source Definition

and

GPL Definition

Or else you shall hear RMS whisper "free as in freedom, not as in beer" into your ear during your sleep until the day you die!

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Happy

Free Beer License

I prefer to release under the Free Beer License, or my preferred derivative, the more lenient Free Beverage License, which allows the licensee to specify his or her preferred beverage (12 year old or older single malt will do nicely)

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FAIL

Erm

Perhaps he should have read the GPL. Anyone can take GPL code and re-release it (removing any trademarked names and logos) under any name they feel like, charge for it if they want to so long as they too comply with the GPL.

Any they don't just have to provide source for free, they can charge for source access, just they can't charge more than the original product cost to buy.

People shouldn't use the GPL without knowing what it means to you and your work.

He is of course free to pull his version of GPL and release it closed source, so long as it doesn't now incorporate other people's changes. If it has other people's changes in it he now can't change the license without getting permission from those other contributers.

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Re: Erm

"so long as they too comply with the GPL."

So, lets pretend he didn't mention that they are not complying with the GPL (what do you think the bit about 'commercial license' means?)

" just they can't charge more than the original product cost to buy."

Actually they can't charge more than a reasonable fee for the copying.

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Re: Erm

As you're being so patronising, perhaps you should learn something about the case before spouting off. You could start with this update of his here:

http://rosarior.github.com/mayan/news.html

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Trollface

This is the Internet - you're specifically not supposed to learn anything before spouting off.

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Re: Erm

Actually the reasonable fee specifically mentions not more than the cost to purchase

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#DoesTheGPLAllowDownloadFee

"Yes. You can charge any fee you wish for distributing a copy of the program. If you distribute binaries by download, you must provide “equivalent access” to download the source—therefore, the fee to download source may not be greater than the fee to download the binary."

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Thumb Up

Quote of the week @Pascal Monett

That, sir, is one worthy for the records! Kudos.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: may not be greater than the fee

You seem to be confusing the fee to download software or source with the fee to license software.

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Coat

Symptomatic of the FOSS problem

Trolls apart, it's evident from reading the above that even IT- and licensing-literate commentards disagree about fundamental aspects of the GPL. That suggests to me that either the GPL is hopelessly unwieldy and complicated, or that someone in a position of authority needs to set up a page carrying translations of the GPL from Lawyer into Civilian, and also into Commentardese.

Anyone volunteer to be someone in a position of authority? (Earlier contributors need not apply, for obvious reasons.)

Mine's the one with the Supreme Court subpoena in the pocket...

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Holmes

Re: Symptomatic of the FOSS problem

The GPL is quite simple but has yet to be tested in a court of law to see how it holds up against copyright law and/or jurys.

Lawyers are waiting as they need to upgrade their bling.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Symptomatic of the FOSS problem

"Trolls apart, it's evident from reading the above that even IT- and licensing-literate commentards disagree about fundamental aspects of the GPL."

s/GPL/case/

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Vic
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Re: Symptomatic of the FOSS problem

> even IT- and licensing-literate commentards disagree about fundamental aspects of the GPL

That is because most people simply repeat what they have *heard* about the GPL, without actually reading what is in the licence.

You'll often see people swearing that GPL code cannot be used for commercial purposes, for example. That's simply not true - it can be. But PHBs around the world believe in their heart of hearts that if they want to produce a product, it cannot use GPL or LGPL code

Have a read of the licence. It's really quite simple. If what you read clashes with what you believe, it's worth considering that the text of the licence is more authoritative than Internet memes.

Vic.

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Vic
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Re: Symptomatic of the FOSS problem

> The GPL is quite simple but has yet to be tested in a court of law

This is not true.

See, for example, Software Freedom Conservancy v. Best Buy, et al

Vic.

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Trollface

All this and the Open Source community...

...wonder why 'business' doesn't go wholesale for 'free' software. This kinda fighting, petulance and clearly not understanding how licences work are all things that you can't afford have in a commercial environment.

If you were using this Mayan or a fork of it as an integral part of your business you have no assurance of ongoing development or even if these fights are going to cause issues going forward with the actual use of the product. If you have to switch to another fork or whole different DMS who's going to undertake the work to get your data across and ensure it's validated? Reliance on a community which has no incentive to not be 'flaky' is not something I would imagine any sensible business would do.

I certainly wouldn't invest in a business who used Open Source for business critical data, it's just too risky unless they had their own dev team.

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Re: All this and the Open Source community...

"If you were using [FOSS] as an integral part of your business you have no assurance of ongoing development or even if these fights are going to cause issues going forward with the actual use of the product. If you have to switch to another fork or whole different DMS who's going to undertake the work to get your data across and ensure it's validated?"

Yes, because that's an issue only with free software. You certainly never hear of commercial software being abandoned when the next version appears with an incompatible file/repository type.

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Thumb Up

Re: All this and the Open Source community...

Spot on Ian. Also, if a commercial shop closed development on the software and you rely on it you are stuffed. With an open sourced one you can probably find someone to fix any bugs or new features if you are willing to pay. I've been in that boat before, both as requiring support and offering.

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Pint

Re: All this and the Open Source community...

You're years behind, brother. You're fundamentally right. Relying on a single upstream developer is risky, but right there's the opportunity to provide related services. This is where the money comes into play in open source: installing, maintaining, adapting, hosting, supporting etc. I've been making my living from open source for almost ten years, and my current employer is raking it in thanks to Stallman et al. Understanding licensing and living by it is very important, but due diligence is a small cost compared to the options of a) buying or b) writing the software yourself. Making cash from open source doesn't make you a leech. Just play nice, which some guys apparently did not do with Mayan.

If you don't trust in open source, I suggest you start by withdrawing your money from your bank. Next you may as well stop investing altogether, since the stock exchange is running on open source too.

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Re: All this and the Open Source community...

on the contrary this is the whole reason for building your business on open source. There is nothing the original author can do to prevent you and anyone else using and continuing to use the software you downloaded.

Compare this with a business that thought Oracle running on itanium was a sure bet!

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WTF?

Re: All this and the Open Source community...

If you use *any* software for business critical functions you have to have a strategy and a back up position to deal with problems in the development/deployment of said software.

FS/FOSS helps you here, the source is available, and people hired to modify or maintain software are a normal cost of doing business, there is no reason to ignore FS/FOSS for this reason.

What is expected of you is that if you make modifications which help other people then you can give those back to the community, but equally if you don't release your versions of the software but use them internally then you don't have to do this.

What the GPL does is to encourage people to avoid software dying because the original developers lost interest or went bust for some reason. It was designed to prevent public code being stolen and put back behind the shutters, it wasn't designed to make it hard to use for anyone or for any purpose other than to prevent loss of code/function.

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Facepalm

Re: All this and the Open Source community...

> The FunkeyGibbon

writes retarded gibberish totally unsoldered from any reality. Apparently also thinks that if he is enterprisy, then people owe it to provide free support and software to him.

People actually respond.

MFW

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Happy

Re: All this and the Open Source community...

Ah, the argument that shifts the goal posts. Did I say that Closed Source\Commercial software was never abandoned? Did I say that they were saints who didn't upgrade at will and never provided you with a situation where you had to upgrade or be left behind a la Microsoft's Office 2003 --> 2007? No. But you chose to think I did because it suited you to make an argument against a point that was never stated. Bravo.

The number of downvotes and replies are evidence not of the 'fact' that I am wrong but that fanbois spend too long arguing the status quo rather than making a substantial argument that disproves the original point. I even put added a nice picture of a troll so that there might be some small hint that I wasn't being serious, that I was looking to provoke and yet the fishes still bit...

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Stop

digging.

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WTF?

Re: All this and the Open Source community...

"Did I say that Closed Source\Commercial software was never abandoned? Did I say that they were saints who didn't upgrade at will and never provided you with a situation where you had to upgrade or be left behind[?]"

Wait, so you're argument is that open source should be ignored for "business critical data" because it might be abandoned, but you weren't then implying that closed source (the only alternative to open source) is a better choice?... So what is your point? What would you use for business critical data?

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