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Share - its the law!

Share - its the law!

Tuesday 25 September 2012 9:01:04 pm - 67 replies

The following letter appears to have been send by eZ Systems to a number of (community) partners by snailmail. The letter begins with a friendly request to share back extensions and tweaks, and subsequently urges the partner to 'comply' with the GNU license, and take a few minutes(!) to upload all derivative code to specifc locations.

I feel compelled to share this letter with you. I am not quite sure what to make of it? Can someone explain? What is the objective of this letter?

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

eZ Systems
Bonner Str. 484
50968 Koln
Germany

 

Share-back with the community – a matter of respect and law

 

Dear ...

Open-source was born from people loving and sharing code. Tenfold innovation, magnified software quality amd immensely larger business networks are direct results of this philosophical seed. You benefit from it too, through the using eZ Publish Community Project.

Make sure the ball keeps rolling and take a few minutes to share back the extensions and tweaks you have been developing in your eZ Publish-based projects. It will benefit the entire community, and in return, you, as a fellow member (company or individual) having your code included and maintained.

On top of becoming an active part of a durable open-source community, sharing back will make sure you (and by extension, your customers), are in legal compliance with the GNU General Public License v.2 (GPL) under which you use the software.

The simplest way to do comply with this is to:

 (see http://www.gnu.org/licenses for further information).

Sometimes it is important for your customers not to be obliged to share back customizations, for example because they have a competitive edge or a security requirement through your solution. In these cases, the Enterprise Edition of eZ Publish is available, shipped with a Business User License (BUL) without any sharing back requirements.

In order to coordinate the sharing back activities, we would like you to share-back your derivative work at the afore-mentioned location, or write us an email in which you describe the past and on-going customer projects customizations or other eZ innovations that should be shared back according to the explanation above. Also note that we need to be aware of project customization to integrate them to the product if they are good, or discuss them with you and gather your input and recommendations.

 eZ Systems is changing and improving its approach towards partners in different was:

  • The first eZ Community UnConference [blablabla];
  • The eZ Publish Cloud Edition [blablabla];
  • The New Partner Program is being launched at the moment. Amongst other, the concept of “Community Partner” is reworked: two new levels are now available for you to choose from: Registered and Ready. They are both different, with different benefits and pre-requisites. We would like to explain what is new and why it presents more interest for you: please get in touch with us (cf contact information below).

Please make sure you get in touch with us soon on any of the topics above: we will be delighted to strengthen our contact, and guide you through these exciting novelties.

Your contact point: eZ Community Management team at community@ez.no

Best regards and thank you in advance for your support.

[Signature]

eZ Corporate Headquarters
Gabriele Viebach
eZ Systems Group CEO

Modified on Friday 28 September 2012 12:44:41 pm by S V

Wednesday 26 September 2012 9:34:18 am

I'm also questioning the purpose of this letter.

The GPL v2 doesn't force anyone to "share back" their modifications, much less make them available on any particular channel.

Sharing is good of course, but I don't see how this letter achieves anything but to illustrate that eZ needs to improve both their information and legal departments.

If eZ wants to encourage sharing, the best way to do so is to strengthen share.ez.no and other communities supporting eZ. 

Modified on Wednesday 26 September 2012 9:37:29 am by Daniel A. Øien

Wednesday 26 September 2012 9:54:06 am

I'm shaking my head about this one too.  Is it a heavy-handed tactic to extort BULs from the community developers?  Was something lost in translation?  I find it a bit insulting.

Bottom line, the implication of this letter is that every line of code that is built on top of ezpublish should be GPL'd and opened to the public unless it has a BUL.  That's not how the GPL works and frankly, that's not how the community works.

I mean, the implication is that every extension is a derivative work - and that's utter bullshit - even if I'm using your functions.  A case can be made that a kernel modification is a derivative work, but, seriously, everything that I think would be useful to the community I already put in projects.  It's also been longer than I can remember that I've done a kernel hack.

I'm beta testing the community code that's going to end up in enterprise, adding value with extensions that I release back to the community, fixing bugs and giving free support on the forums to ensure that there is a robust and evolving developer base that continues to use ezpublish.  In exchange I use the community framework for free and every so often will pay eZ for some training or conference.  If that's not how eZSystems sees the trade-off... well, then, no point in using it anymore.

And, what's this split of the community partner?  If I wanted to pay to be a partner I already had that choice.

Wednesday 26 September 2012 10:33:22 am

Good or bad, the GPL V2.0 was a good attempt at a balance of open source collaboration, protection the copy-right while still making it desirable enough for people to be able to contribute.   It is 20 years old, written *before* the dawn of the WWW as we know it and was modified from version 1 with a specific intention to address some library issues core the C programming language. If the GPL wording had been penned by Nostradamus, then perhaps this would not be an issue. Unfortunately, in the context of distributed services, reuse of code in other ways other than libraries, etc it has been proven many times that there are holes, assumptions and loopholes in the wording that are not as directly translatable for relevant 20 years later.   This is not to say that people purposely try to 'work around it' but rather the fact that the wording is not as directly translatable or applicable to how systems interact in todays world 20 years later. 

In my mind, the GNU FAQ that has grown in the last 20 years is about trying to address current day technologies and techniques as they relate to a 20 year old document.  Although the GNU GPL2 FAQ does mention things like morals, etc when answering the questions related to re-usability, making money off open source, etc, the fact is that none for the strong wording of the GPL FAQ is really about legal responsibilities.  The fact remains that the FAQ is a non-binding single interpretation of a ~30 paragraph licence that is not easily interpretable in a single way in today's world.

The eZ Publish code is licenced under verison 2.0 -good or bad.  It even means that any one of us can fork it at ANY time, do what we want and never give back to the eZ community at share.ez.no  - *as long* as the fork is publicly available in the streams that we re-distribute it.  I'm getting the feeling that the eZ Systems thinks that they have more control over a GPL 2.0 Licenced software than they think.  It can grow legs, fork, grow another few legs and a head, fork again, etc and the new appendages need not be contributed back to eZ directly as long as the changes are noted, the license is intact and the downsteream releases follow the guidelines of GPL2.0.

You are never responsible for reporting back to the originator of the code or compensating them as long as the downward stream keeps the licensing intact and the rules of distributing the new source as source are followed.  This in itself is one of the core valuse of GPL - allowing developers to continue to build on the the previous work of others - thus producing greater things in short times. Yes, there are rules attached to this freedom of re-use, but re-publishing the changes through a particular code originator's upstream channel is certainly not a requirement.

There are other newer licenses that are available for eZ that are both more restrictive or more permissive and address today's technology much more completely.  So, for New products, they could always re-think their licensing choices. (LGPL with restrictions on kernel modification, etc for example)

*  All wording in this is based on my 20 years of understanding the various OS licensing and the challenges in making new versions and is only my opinion and interpretation*

Wednesday 26 September 2012 10:50:03 am

Dear all,

I am now away for private reasons, but will be back on the deck on Friday to further this discussion with you all.

Cheers,

Wednesday 26 September 2012 11:42:58 am

Quote from Daniel A. Øien :

If eZ wants to encourage sharing, the best way to do so is to strengthen share.ez.no and other communities supporting eZ. 

+1

Despite of the good work and the huge involvement of Nicolas (seen this for real during more that 2 years so believe me, that is huge...) and other fellow users of this platform, there is a real lack of meanings (tools, materials, whatever...) provided to community members, and last but not least, community partners

share.ez.no is great but having 2 people from the eZ Crew dedicated to the community, carrying on their shoulders an engaged community board, is not enough. We need more ("what" is not the point) and I'm looking forward to the UnConf and see how the community partner program will be improved, and I hope that it will bring (real) new things to us.

My 2 cents

Modified on Wednesday 26 September 2012 12:18:44 pm by Arnaud Lafon

Thursday 27 September 2012 5:38:59 am

I want to say that I am surprised of a such letter, but unfortunately I am not.

I have the strong feeling than since the enterprise/community split, eZ Systems sees the community edition as a non-profitable burden.

The choice to make it a snailmail seems very deliberate to me. The natural place for a such letter would be where every community member can see it, on share.ez.no.

A snailmail signed by the CEO and titled "A matter of respect & law" is a nice way to say "We are enforcing our copyrights policy, comply or some legal action can happen".

The thing is as everybody already pointed out on the thread, it is not how GPL works.
from the GPL FAQ:

The GPL does not require you to release your modified version, or any part of it. You are free to make modifications and use them privately, without ever releasing them. This applies to organizations (including companies), too; an organization can make a modified version and use it internally without ever releasing it outside the organization.

But if you release the modified version to the public in some way, the GPL requires you to make the modified source code available to the program's users, under the GPL.

Thus, the GPL gives permission to release the modified program in certain ways, and not in other ways; but the decision of whether to release it is up to you.

Executing a copy of a program is by no means considered as a release.
So by extension running an eZ Publish copy on a computer, even a publicly accessible server, falls out of the source distribution requirement.

It is understable that a company want to enforce their intellectual property. But it is, in my opinion, totally dishonest to base a such argumentation on a wrong interpretation of a licence (that is clear, widely known and provides a FAQ).

Modified on Thursday 27 September 2012 5:40:53 am by Eric Sagnes

Thursday 27 September 2012 11:16:56 am

eZ Systems is getting mad... I think I'll check Typo3... sad.gif Emoticon

Thursday 27 September 2012 11:58:44 am

Please just give Nicolas time to come back from his days off before heating it up like this, @Charles-Edouard, we're not there yet happy.gif Emoticon

Thursday 27 September 2012 12:08:47 pm

About Eric's considerate post: there is, I think, just a little bit of uncertainty when it comes to the phrase you quoted, and it is the concept of "distributing".

If you run the code on your server, it's surely not a distribution.

But if you develop for a customer, then you're probably distributing the software to him.

The problem is that, as David said, the GPL was written long before the web, and it dos not really fit exactly to the current models.

I am not a lawyer by any stretch of the imagination, but i think also that an FAQ does not law make. In court only the text of the licence would have proper weight.

Thursday 27 September 2012 12:37:49 pm

@Gaetano : So, don't you think that eZ Systems could have considered moving to "GNU Affero General Public License" before sending this mail?

@bertrand : Glad to read it :p

Modified on Thursday 27 September 2012 12:39:02 pm by Charles-Edouard Coste

Thursday 27 September 2012 12:44:14 pm

I wonder if software development for customers qualifies as 'distribution'. As a developer I am not selling my code to a client (its open source) - I am selling my time. Since this makes me an (temporary) extension to the customers team, distribution of the code would only occur if the client decides to reuse the same code somewhere else. But then I'm not a lawyer either - has there ever been a court case dealing with this issue?

Thursday 27 September 2012 1:14:33 pm

@Charles-Edouard - Have to agree with Bertrand, give eZSystems the benefit of the doubt and give them a chance to respond.  I'm still thinking that this was just some badly translated letter from someone who didn't understand the GPL.

@Gaetano & @Sebastiaan - Even if I "distribute" or as I prefer to say, "bundle" eZPublish with my code (an extension) to a customer, I (or the customer) still have no obligation to make source available to anyone except the customer.  If the customer turns around and starts selling what I wrote for them, then maybe there is a problem... (the customers problem) although, with a scripting language, whomever gets it, gets the source anyway.

Please tell me you aren't sending these letters to my customers too.

Thursday 27 September 2012 1:35:21 pm

Quote from S V :

I wonder if software development for customers qualifies as 'distribution'. As a developer I am not selling my code to a client (its open source) - I am selling my time. Since this makes me an (temporary) extension to the customers team, distribution of the code would only occur if the client decides to reuse the same code somewhere else. But then I'm not a lawyer either - has there ever been a court case dealing with this issue?

 

@bertrand Nicolas can reply more tomorrow and I agree that this would be best not to get heated, but since the subject of the exact legal terms of the GPL2.0 has been a matter of some debate for over 20 years, it is OK for there to be a conversation to continue for another little bit happy.gif Emoticon  I work hard, contribute to the community in a positive way on a regular basis, but in return, I expect to be able to openly discuss this topic as a community concern as long as we all 'keep it clean'

@ sebastiaan Well, thats the whole issue of trying to put a round peg (GPL2.0) into a square hole (technology of today). The context of the original letter is very clearly out-of-bounds with its statements as far as the wording of the GPL 2.0 official copy goes. However, if you take the terms verbatim, then it could be argued that if you log onto a client's server and make a kernel hack, then you *have* 'delivered' (all be it character by character) a modification.  But then the next argument is that you did deliver the modified version's 'source' to your client with the license intact - thus meeting the GPL2.0 requirements happy.gif Emoticon

@Gaetano  Thanks - yes, the attempt 'keeping version 2.0 alive in today's world' by creating an FAQ ia admirable, but its not the law and just gives people on both sides of the argument more fodder in the form of quotes. An FAQ that long is just further proof that the License just does not fit well with the needs of today.

Thursday 27 September 2012 2:00:21 pm

@David I am by no means trying to mute the conversation. To be fair, if we had wanted to do that, it wasn't complex. We just don't (do that, that is).

Debates about the GPL are something I am actually happy to see here. It is a fact that this topic is far from being a simple one, from a legal aspect.

Thursday 27 September 2012 2:13:27 pm

Quote from Bertrand Dunogier :

@David I am by no means trying to mute the conversation. To be fair, if we had wanted to do that, it wasn't complex. We just don't (do that, that is).

Debates about the GPL are something I am actually happy to see here. It is a fact that this topic is far from being a simple one, from a legal aspect.

Understood.  Thanks.

Thursday 27 September 2012 2:51:41 pm

Regarding the fact that GPL is not suited for web software, lets see by example:

  • Wordpress: GPL 2
  • Typo 3: GPL
  • Drupal: GPL 2
  • Joomla: GPL 2
  • Movable Type: GPL 2
  • eZ Publish: GPL 2

So one thing the other, either the project managers/community leaders of the above projects are not very smart and cannot choose a license suited for their software, or the license is suited for web software.

To close this point, eZ Publish development board, that is eZ Systems, choosed to distribute eZ Publish with a GPL license in the first place. And community edition is still released every month with the GPL license, if it is such a bad choice and everybody is aware of that, why continuing this way?

Lasty, I do agree with Gaetano, none of us is a lawyer specialized in software licenses, so arguing about the meaning of "distribute" and such is kind of pointless here.

But one thing is sure, the only way to know who is right is that eZ Systems take legal action on a community user. And I think that, no matter the result, it will be more bad press and image loss than any profit an extension could bring for eZ Publish.

Modified on Thursday 27 September 2012 2:54:44 pm by Eric Sagnes

Thursday 27 September 2012 3:14:00 pm

The inclusion of derivative work boosts the overall value of eZ Publish. I suppose that would matter if you would consider transferring the ownership of eZ Systems/eZ Publish to some other company/organisation.

Modified on Thursday 27 September 2012 3:14:31 pm by S V

Thursday 27 September 2012 3:22:59 pm

@Eric: Discussions and debates are not necessarily pointless arguments.

The examples of GPL licenses above is great. It points out that there is a successful way to use GPL2.0. However, I have never heard of the founders of the above projects requiring that you send them specifically through their channels any changes you have made. That's because they have embraced the nature of Open Source. That's a huge difference from choosing a license and then sending written request that is in apparent conflict with those terms. I think that is the essential point that fueled this friendly discussion from the start.

Thursday 27 September 2012 3:58:46 pm

But one thing is sure, the only way to know who is right is that eZ Systems take legal action on a community user. And I think that, no matter the result, it will be more bad press and image loss than any profit an extension could bring for eZ Publish.

If eZ really was to resort to patent-trolling, I hope it would be against companies with wads of cash on their bank accounts, the Oracles/Apples/Microsofts/Adobes of this world.

...mmm that gives me an idea. The Galaxy 3 probably infringes on eZ!

 

On a slightly more serious note: there are probably better OSS licenses for the web-era than GPLv2, but there is also the fact that license sprawl is a big issue. And if none of the lesser-known licenses has been tested in court, it sure does not entice a developer to pick them up

Modified on Thursday 27 September 2012 4:01:14 pm by Gaetano Giunta

Thursday 27 September 2012 4:30:39 pm

Quote from Charles-Edouard Coste :

eZ Systems is getting mad... I think I'll check Typo3... sad.gif Emoticon

You kidding right ? There's no possible comparison between Typo & eZ, but if you think that you should check typo3, then, just go happy.gif Emoticon

Quote from S V :

I wonder if software development for customers qualifies as 'distribution'. As a developer I am not selling my code to a client (its open source) - I am selling my time. Since this makes me an (temporary) extension to the customers team, distribution of the code would only occur if the client decides to reuse the same code somewhere else. But then I'm not a lawyer either - has there ever been a court case dealing with this issue?

Good point. I'm not sure that even big companies, who are using eZ Publish as a start of their projects, consider distributing it...

Quote from Steven E Bailey :

I'm still thinking that this was just some badly translated letter from someone who didn't understand the GPL.

Unfortunately, that is the truth, and it is not the first time, nor the last time, that this kind of story occurs in ('a OS software'|'eZ Publish') life.

Quote from Steven E Bailey :

Please tell me you aren't sending these letters to my customers too.

So do I

----

Bertrand and Steven are right, give them some time to get back to us with a more clear and official message. We are all asking ourselves "Why this letter ? Why not a public and official blog post ? Why this title ? Are we going to jail ??". The content is not clear, maybe the words and the title are not just the good one, and as far as I'm concerned (even after reading it again and again), I still not understand what is the real purpose of this.

Well, and if the idea of this letter was triggered by any companies (business partners or not) who are not playing the game and earning tons of $$$ without sharing-back something, then just call them directly. A community exists because members play the game and share-back things, not only tons of PHP lines (which seems to be the most important there...). IMHO, the GNU argument was just the wrong one to send such a letter, at least I hope…

Modified on Thursday 27 September 2012 4:32:31 pm by Arnaud Lafon

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