Last week I came across the site of a developer (whom I believed to be an employee of one of the members of Joomla’s oversite organization, Open Source Matters) selling extensions that carry a non-GPL compatible license. I sent that developer (and only the developer) an email to make him aware of Joomla’s statement of its license and that he was, in fact, violating it.
For people to decide themselves the magnitude of what I did, the text of the email reads:
"This license is for installing the component in ONE production server (non-public) and for ONE public site"
Your license violates the GPL as defined by the recent Joomla core team decision. You must have a GPL compatible license.
Additionally, please provide me with the source code of your extensions as is required by the GPL license and the Joomla core team.
* I won’t potentially embarrass the developer by giving out their name. I consider that information private, which is why I sent the email only to them and nobody else.
I did not receive any response from the developer, who apparently forwarded it on to officials at Joomla. I did not receive any direct or personal communication from any Joomla official.
On Saturday, Louis Landry, a Joomla core team member and one of the three Project Managers made a very public blog post on the Developer’s Blog at Joomla.org commenting on my email. I assume the developer forwarded it to him.
The same day, there seemed to be an organized attempt by many of the core team digging his blog post.
Certainly, Louis and I disagree on many points about the wisdom (and legality) of the core’s decision regarding the GPL.
In my disagreement over the Joomla Core’s decisions expressed here at Compass, I have tried to remained objective and professional and have never used any language that has been directed personally at members of the core. People will rarely listen to your point of view if they can’t see past the words you are using. I’d encourage you to read my posts on the subject to see for yourself.
I view my email as being a private communication from one dev to another regarding Joomla’s license. I am also concerned about the potential for a double standard of enforcement. Developers with close ties to the Joomla Core are held to the same standards of "education" as those that have none.
Louis spends several words explaining why he thinks I’m "stupid" (the most generous phrase used) for my understanding and interpretation of the GPL, and for the words I used to express this understanding to the developer in my private email.
You all can decide for yourself if I’m "stupid." But, consider these two different sentences:
- "It is our opinion that most extensions are derivative works of Joomla! and must be licensed under the GNU GPL." –
Core Team statement
- "You must have a GPL compatible license." –
Quote from my email.
I see those two statements as expressing fundamentally the same thing. Mine was perhaps even more generous as I said GPL-compatible, rather than pure GPL.
Was it appropriate for me to send this personal email to another developer?
Since the debate over the GPL and Joomla began, I have discovered that many devs are not even aware of the Core Team’s decision. Many devs who have been clued in to the evolving status of Joomla’s license have acknowledged or commented about the change on their blogs and sites, whether they supported one opinion or another. This particular dev had not. I wanted to make sure he was aware of the issue.
I considered that my email, and any response, might reveal the limits of understanding and exposure of third party developers to the recent debates and licensing decisions by the Core Team. Had this dev, with his ties to the Joomla core team via his employer, been unaware of the changes, this would have told us much about the lack of communication and outreach.
I send my most sincere apologies for the dev involved here. Seeing as nothing seems private any longer, it will only be a matter of time before Louis’s blog post causes his name to be dragged into this.