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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


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 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

Best regards and thank you in advance for your support.


eZ Corporate Headquarters
Gabriele Viebach
eZ Systems Group CEO

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

Thursday 25 October 2012 4:38:08 pm

Quote from Yannick Modah Gouez :

Anyway, this Drupal FAQ is saying exactly the same as what the letter said ...

I don't think the Drupal FAQ is saying anything at all what the letter said.  The implication in the letter is that, "you must share all your code" and that is not at all what I interpret the GPLv2 to be.

Thursday 25 October 2012 8:30:03 pm

Andre clarified a lot of stuff at the blog post page.

Modified on Thursday 25 October 2012 8:57:41 pm by Thiago Campos Viana

Friday 26 October 2012 7:16:16 am


The goal of GPL as it was designed by Richard Stallman is to remove restrictions to the freedoms of a software user by enforcing the rights to check the source, copy, modify and freely distribute the software.
To be sure this freedom persists, the copyleft system was added. (any GPL based software must be distributed with a compatible license)

So from a GPL point of view, your obligations when you distribute a work based on GPL code is to distribute it with a GPL license and provide the source to the user.

GPL has nothing to do with sharing back, it has to do with protecting user freedom.

If you're ok with people making money from your work [ a.k.a distributing] without contributing to it, it's fine; but it's not GPL.

It is totally fine with GPL. To give a simple example, if you use eZ there is a high probability you use MySQL GPL version and you make money with it, but you also might not contribute in a financial/code way to Oracle. (It is also worth to notice that MySQL GPL cannot be used with eZ Enterprise as it has a commercial license)

After, it really depends on what you call "contributing", using a GPL software is contributing to its propagation, participating on the forums is contributing to the community, posting bugs is contributing to the quality, etc.

If, in the first place, the goal is to make money, selling a GPL software might not be the best choice you can come with.
GPL by its nature(anybody can distribute a copy for free) tends to make the software having a null financial value.

The idea behind "enterprise open source" as I understand it, is that you have the advantages of the GPL software:

  • High /easy software propagation
  • Large community
  • Better code quality
  • Development cost reduction
  • etc

combined with the advantages of proprietary software:

  • support
  • professional services
  • proprietary extensions
  • etc

So if one needs any of the advantages of the proprietary side, he will order an enterprise edition from eZ Systems, contributing financially to eZ Systems that in turn will use a part of that money to contribute to eZ Publish.

If you use the community edition and want to contribute financially, there are possibilities like opening a crowd funding or sponsoring a developper. And actually if you don't need any of the proprietary services this should be a more effective way to support eZ Publish as a software.

Modified on Friday 26 October 2012 7:19:23 am by Eric Sagnes

Friday 26 October 2012 2:02:28 pm

Well I actually read GPLv2 again and (with the light of your comments this time) realized there is actually no obligation.

I guess the obligation is more moral than anything, so maybe the letter should have been phrased differently...

Anyhow, my personnal point of view on that is that some companies should contribute more to eZ Publish, and to me that was the point of the letter, not targetting people that are one But actually the one that are not ....

Saturday 27 October 2012 10:50:18 am

I think everybody on this thread agree that more people contributing to eZ Publish is a good thing.

But the main idea conveyed by the letter is that you are obliged to share back with eZ Systems, and in case you don't want to share back, you have to buy the Enterprise Edition.

sharing back will make you sure that you are in legal compliance with the GNU General Public License v. 2

Sometimes it is important for your customers not to be obliged to share back [...]. In these cases, the Enterprise Edition of eZ Publish is available, shipped with a Business User License (BUL) without any sharing back requirements."

These are clearly fallacious and threatening arguments in the only purpose to increase Enterprise Edition adoption.

And as far as eZ Systems send me a snail mail all the way from France to Japan with the address hand written, I tend to believe that I am, as a normal community partner, a target.

If eZ Systems is aware that it was a communication/target mistake, why don't they make a public apology?

They, in the first place, are talking about respect, aren't they?

Modified on Saturday 27 October 2012 10:51:40 am by Eric Sagnes

Saturday 27 October 2012 5:20:06 pm

Although very welcome, I don't expect any public apologies from eZ regarding their false GPL v2 claims, that would mean a loss of face. IMHO there's only a lot of beating around the bush by eZ's staff (both in this topic as well in the follow-up blog post) without coming to the crucial point where eZ admits that the GPL v2 does not enforce sharing back source code except when distributing your modifications to someone.

Tuesday 30 October 2012 10:50:15 am

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my questions regarding the letter. On basis of the replies I come to the conclusion that:

1. (For now) there is no legal obligation for community members to share back their custom extensions. The eZ Publish community edition license is still truly GNU-GPL, although the letter from eZ Systems suggests additional obligations. The recent license issues are no reason not to advice eZ Publish to new clients, or to advice current clients to upgrade to the enterprise version. However, in the spirit of open source software, voluntary sharing of code is highly encouraged. Moreover, an increase in the sales of enterprise licenses will also benefit the eZ Publish community.

2. The letter was a mistake. It was ill-advised, sent to the wrong people and damaging to the overall reputation of eZ Publish and eZ Systems. A formal acknowledgement from eZ Systems would be nice, but I guess it won't happen again. In the mean time, it wouldn't hurt if eZ Systems put together an board of small/medium business owners to advice in matters concerning community partners.

Modified on Wednesday 31 October 2012 10:27:20 am by S V


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