back to article RoboVM: Open source? Sorry, it's not working for us

The team behind RoboVM, an iOS compiler of tools for mobile Java applications, says that making its core product open source has not worked and that current and future versions will be proprietary. The company, which was recently acquired by Xamarin, used to publish its core compiler under the GPL licence. However, users …

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"The company is also offering "every single external contributor" a free, lifetime licence

Again, they are not obligated to do that."

OTOH unless those external contributors agree to its being closed surely they have an obligation to either continue to provide source for their contributions, assuming they can sensibly disentangle them from the rest of the code or to remove them.

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The company is also offering "every single external contributor" a free, lifetime licence

Again, they are not obligated to do that.

In fact, they are.

They are re-licensing all their external contributors work, which is not legal. To make it legal, they are proposing to re-license it under their new terms, with the consideration being the "free" lifetime license, and hoping that no-one says "No", or worse, says "No" and sues them.

Without consideration, there would be no incentive for the contributors to accept the change of license.

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Since they say that they received almost no meaningful contributions, they could just rewrite those and be done with it. Which they maybe already did.

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copyright assignment?

It depends who is the copyright.

Many open source projects sponsored by a company require contributors to sign/ agree to a copyright assignment agreement.

The reason they do that is wanted enable license changes like this.

Not sure I this is the case here.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: copyright assignment?

More info on dual licensing which- as the post above notes- is used by many commercially-supported open source projects.

Whether one considers it good or bad, it's definitely an issue to be considered if you're contributing to a project and the entity controlling it wants- or rather, requires- your copyright to be assigned in order to be accepted.

Essentially, it's just using the fact that they own the copyright to offer the code under different terms than the GPL. (This could be done in theory without copyright assignment, but would require every contributor to agree to license their work under the new terms, which is often impractical).

This doesn't negate the freedom to distribute the last GPLed version, nor to fork it (but only as GPL unless the company agrees to license the parts they own the rights to under different terms, something they'd be unlikely to do here).

Because they own the rights, they're free not to require themselves(!) to adhere to the conditions they offered it to others under, i.e. to not be forced to distribute the newer versions as GPL.

It should be made clear that this is perfectly legal, but only if the contributors agree to assign their copyright to another entity (and that entity hence owns the copyright in its entirety). Or if they wrote it entirely themselves.

Of course, the work wasn't originally *theirs*, and this is arguably the problem with copyright assignment and with projects that *require* copyright assignment. But that's up to contributors to decide...

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Re: copyright assignment?

Thanks for sharing your opinion.

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Happy

Open source

Open source is a very voluntary thing. If nobody is interested then forget it. Many companies have flirted with it to no avail.

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Surprise, surprise

Mono is used primarily by those who were dumb enough to tie themselves to Microsoft's proprietary .NET stack, and who can hardly act surprised when they are squeezed by the vendor (or its sole alternative).

Java users are pretty much in the same boat. Even though there are alternative JVMs, Oracle is as rapacious a firm as it gets, unlike Sun, and their lawsuits against Google should be a waking call to developers, to start working on their migration plan and limit their exposure to what is going to be an increasingly expensive legacy technology.

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They Weren't Really an Open-Source Company Though, Were They?

The headline should more properly be - "Software company takes code proprietary when sells self to another proprietary software company".

This shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Xamarin's business is based around selling proprietary mobile phone development software and services at eye-watering prices. They're not going to give away their new acquisition if they can also sell it at similarly eye-watering prices.

From what I can gather, RoboVM themselves were trying to follow a similar path as Xamarin, that is being an "open-core" company rather than being a true "open source" company like Red Hat. You give away some part of the product, but then sell proprietary add-ons. It's a variation on the "give away the razor, sell the blades" strategy. They didn't have much success with this because they didn't attract enough customers for their proprietary product line. I believe that Xamarin is going to dump RoboVM's proprietary add-ons and just use the compiler.

As for the formerly open-source compiler itself, I believe it just compiles Java to native code. They're hardly the first or only Java compiler to do this.

I suspect that RoboVM found that they were getting into a very crowded market and developers were demanding a lot more for their money when it came to proprietary development platforms (even with open-core) than RoboVM had the time or money to deliver. It's a much more mature market now than when Xamarin got into the game. Xamarin's business today seems to revolve more and more around "cloud", testing, and other services, and less on just an IDE and compiler. RoboVM's Java compiler will probably slot in as just another supported language in that proprietary service line up.

Most mobile developers however aren't interested in third party proprietary development systems. They'll just continue to use either the development system provided by the platform owner, or a free, open source system.

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Alert

Fork this!

This looks like a load of Java tripe. No wonder they "received almost no meaningful contributions".

Now, if interest from the community into this Open Source project is already profanely poor, who is going to fork it? Who will contribute in the future?

Where's the "Dead End" icon?

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Open Source is good for revealing duds

If the code is rubbish, that would explain a lack of contributors, I agree. It's also a good reason to go for open source code, you can see if it is any good yourself.

If bad code goes proprietary, that's a good signal to leave it alone altogether.

I've long thought that one reason, apart from losing control of the spy portal it gives to the NSA, and, presumably, other high-paying customers, Microsoft didn't open source its software is that it didn't want the world seeing how bad it is. The world certainly suspects, from how badly it works, but you'd need to see the rats' nest itself to know just how bad it is.

Nobody with any concern for risk, who had any data of any importance would put any of it on closed source. Never trust a binary.

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