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Why is a license needed? Or: your license is not GPL!

Not that I'd be using this commercially, but the grid widget tries to be licensed under the GPL which in this case allows commercial distribution or using it as part of a commercial package, as long as you keep the front-end GPL-licensed (meaning javascript code). You don't even need to distribute the code to the general public, although not deny others the privilege either. The GPL v2 does not deny the right to charge any price you wish for your products, although the customers are free to pass it on without doing so. Of course the you can still reserve exclusive rights to the back-end.

However, in your source file you state:

WARNING: This copy is made available to you under the terms of
the GNU General Public License and is not suitable for inclusion
into commercial or internal applications.

I'm not competent enough to judge the validity of this clause. The latter sentence could be seen as an (untrue, invalid) explanation of the GPL. Alternatively it could be seen as a new (valid) restrictive clause. In the latter case you may not use any other GPL-licensed code in your project without the same clause (which you may not add to other people's code). I have never seen this statement before, it's obviously not endorsed by the Free Software Foundation. Therefore I'd advise that no one actually uses the code under the current license unless willing to write all other Javascript code themselves or otherwise being able to apply the same custom ActiveWidgets license. At least consult a lawyer first, the legal issues involved may be quite hazy.

If you have a commercial PHP/Java/whatever back-end a non-GPL license for any javascript is not required, because they can be seen as separate codebases talking to each other through eg. an XML protocol. This is how many commercial Linux programs work; they call external GPL programs using various protocols and act as a user-friendly frontend. Also for example the Ati and Nvidia display drivers have a GPL kernel module but sadly the actual back-end is closed source and proprietary. Same applies to eg. VMWare. Again the codebases are separate only sharing a communication channel and protocol.

The license requirement for internal use is complete BS, since the only GPL requirement is to give away all code in the _intentionally distributed_ codebase. Since you still state this, you're trying to make the license not GPL and incompatible with other products! If you have a problem with people freely (as in speech, which can be commercial) using your free (as in beer) code, then GPL is not the license for you. You have to write your own.

Now to see how long until someone deletes this post...
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
If you don't like the rules of distribution then I suggest that YOU don't use the program, pure and simple.

Since you know so much about GNU GPL, please tell us all how it pertains to commercial work? I'll tell you, It doesn't! GNU GPL does not cover commercial work that you create and intend to profit from. If you want to use free software in work that you charge money for, then you have to have a license from the author of the work stating that it's OK for you to do so. In this case, Alex is clearly stating that it is NOT OK for you to do so and that you must purchase it in order to use it. When you purchase a commercial license, you do not get a GNU GPL, you get a commerical license. If you have a problem with that then look for another set of bitchen controls to use for free since you are too cheap to spend money for good work! Oh, I forgot, there isn't another toolkit this good!

Here are the first 2 paragraphs from GNU GPL V2:

The licenses for most software are designed to take away your freedom to share and change it. By contrast, the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software--to make sure the software is free for all its users. This General Public License applies to most of the Free Software Foundation's software and to any other program whose authors commit to using it. (Some other Free Software Foundation software is covered by the GNU Lesser General Public License instead.) You can apply it to your programs, too.

When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price. Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for this service if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs; and that you know you can do these things.

When it talks about charging a fee, that fee can not be more then actual costs (it states this later in the text). Those costs might be for example, $1.00 for the cost of the CD if you distribute it that way. If you allow people to download the program there is no actual cost so you can not charge for it. You don't seem to know what commerical software is. Once you graduate high school and get a real job programming for a living you will then appreciate the work that others do and have no problems paying for quality software tools. The world was build by people doing hard work. And those that do the hard work should get compensated for it. I am sorry for you if you don't agree with that.

Keep up the good work Alex.

FYI, posts don't get deleted from this board so your post will be here for all to see forever. Next time use your full name instead of hiding behind intitials.
Jim Hunter
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
If you don't like the rules of distribution then I suggest that YOU don't use the program, pure and simple.

Jim, I don't think JJ was disagreeing with "the rules of distribution". He was referring specifically to this text, and this text only:

This copy is made available to you under the terms of
the GNU General Public License and is not suitable for inclusion
into commercial or internal applications.

JJ was simply pointing out that statement could be viewed as an additional clause in the license -- i.e., he is distributing the code under a new, never-before-seen license that is the GPL plus an extra restriction that says you can't use this software in "commercial or internal applications". (Maybe you should have read the part where JJ said "The latter sentence could be seen as an (untrue, invalid) explanation of the GPL. Alternatively it could be seen as a new (valid) restrictive clause.")

I am not a lawyer, but I believe JJ's analysis is correct. If the sentence in question is interpreted as another clause of the license, then it means anyone who re-distributes this code must also have that new, never-before-seen clause as well.

Since the GPL can most definately be used for both commercial and internal applications, this clause is at best confusing (and false) and at worst a corruption of the GPL. I will not use this software until the above "WARNING" is removed, for the very reasons that JJ pointed out.

"Since you know so much about GNU GPL, please tell us all how it pertains to commercial work? I'll tell you, It doesn't!"

This is flat-out wrong. The preample of the GPL states very clearly that you can charge a fee for the software (or for providing a warranty for the software). Both of those activities are commercial enterprises.

"When it talks about charging a fee, that fee can not be more then actual costs (it states this later in the text)."

I believe you are referring to section 3(b), where it says "for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution". That sentence is referring specifically to source-code distribution, not to the cost of the program itself. It is okay to distribute GPL'ed software without the source code -- you simply need to make the source code freely available to anyone who wants it.

That clause is in there so that some Evil Corporation can't sell GNU software but then falsely claim GPL compliance by saying "we are happy to give the source code to anyone who will pay us the nominal fee of 1 billion trillion Euros."

[[personal insults removed by moderator]]
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Sorry to remind this - posts containing personal insults will be deleted regardless how useful the rest of the content may be :-)

Different interpretation of GPL were already discussed at length here:


I must admit that licensing client-side code under GPL was (is) sort of nonsense and I am not going to continue this with version 2.0

The main point of disagreement is when redistribution clause of GPL is triggered. One possible interpretation is that redistribution event occurs as soon as you sent GPL code out of your webserver (= always).

Alex (ActiveWidgets)
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Alex, my point is that you have an error in the license. One of these statements must be incorrect:

1. This copy is made available to you under the terms of the GNU General Public License

2. [it] is not suitable for inclusion into commercial or internal applications

The clauses are mutually exclusive since license.txt conflicts with point 2 while expressly stating the file may not be modified. On the other hand you also state that the file contains the licensing terms. Which one is supposed to apply?

The rest of my message was an attempt to clarify the intention of the GPL but I was probably unclear. You're "recommending" that people buy a commercial license when in fact there's usually no need (rarely the front-end needs to be proprietary and the GPL doesn't give away any rights to the back-end, so it's almost always safe to use commercially). However, placing these "recommendations" in the source code file may likely invalidate the GPL. Again, my problem is not the terms (which you are free to choose) but the fact that the GPL disagrees with your terms.

It's probably a good choice in your case to choose a different license for version 2 as I unknowingly suggested at the end of my first message. However, this leaves version 1 in legal limbo because of the error.

Please remove the warning or word it more as asking for monetary contribution or explain the front-end GPL licensing issues in a separate file. Otherwise, you should stop claiming your code is under the GPL. I looked at your source code in good faith intending to use small parts in another GPL project. Luckily I noticed the statement quickly and would not even have risked the look if I was aware the license is, in fact, proprietary. Again this was in good faith since there is nothing lawfully or even morally wrong about copying parts of GPL code to a GPL project. People seem, however, to think otherwise based on the vague licensing statements which also serve to mislead the public regarding what the real terms of the GPL are, causing phenomenons such as Jim Hunter's abusive statements and strange views on commercial projects above.

The point isn't that the GPL might involve complicated redistribution issues. It's that your code tries to claim, with unknown success, that it's both GPL and not GPL. I'm inclined to believe the latter for the sake of safety. This is because of a contradiction in the license. Please remove said contradiction. Have I stated my concerns clearly enough now?
Wednesday, October 12, 2005

actually I agree with you saying that it would be better to keep standard GPL license header in the source files and move all 'interpretation' text somewhere else. I will fix this with the next maintenance release.

While I will not use GPL for the version 2.0 - my intention is to keep 1.0 available under GPL and provide maintenance releases for the next 12 months.
Alex (ActiveWidgets)
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Thanks! As far as I can tell, the next release will then clear all related issues. Most likely its proper open source license will help promote version 2.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
I still stand pat in saying that GNU GPL was/is not intended to be used for the distribution of commercial software (commercial software is software sold to make a profit). I would like someone to show me an example of one piece of commercial software that is being sold at a profit that is being sold under the GNU GPL license. Everyone is going to say Red Hat Linux. Red Hat sells their version of Linux that has many new things added that they have written and these are what you are buying. They are freely distributing the core linux components. All other Linux distributers are making money on support and the books that they write, you can download the software for free from their sites. If you read the GNU GPL it says the word commercial just once in the entire text and that is when it states that it was meant for non-commercial use. What am I missing here?
Jim Hunter
Wednesday, October 12, 2005

This is getting off-topic even for this thread, which was not about whether the GPL is a good idea. However, I feel compelled to answer.

First, please try to understand this: GPL software is used as a part of many commercial packages. It is a part of the sale although it's not what's being charged for. However, it's important that its inclusion is allowed or the customer would have to get parts of the package from another source and this step would be discouraging; they want to buy an entire working, supported package. This is why you shouldn't completely deny permission to sell free software. Pretty much most server packages include some GPL software. Virtualization servers. Probably all commercial UNIX-distributions. Thank God the GPL tools are freely distributable as part of them because all the native command line tools tend to suck. If it were to cost the distributors, they would leave them out and the only people who end up hurting are sysadmins, not the vendor or customer (as far as the management is concerned). Also a lot of hardware such as routers or PVR devices. Even HP printers. Your world of purely commercial software vendors is just a small part of the whole market!

As you know, most companies aren't software companies and most programs are written not for sale, but to solve a problem. I'm currently employed writing GPL simply because the kind of analysis software this company needs doesn't exist yet and they have neither the interest nor resources to market it. In my opinion all software should be written for this purpose; to scratch an itch. Everything in Linux is mostly a result of this and money doesn't need to enter into it, although many companies need something solved so badly they're willing to pay, even if the software ends up free. I admit to being an idealist, but if it still pays the bills...

Admittedly I can't think of a single software sold under the GPL. It simply suggests different business models. Most of it is support and consulting, I've gotten hired at times by offering to install my own server software which gets me the same results as a sale.

A GPL version can also be used to build up corporate image. For example up until recently Trolltech required payment for the QT toolkit under the Windows platform. Do you think some enterprise software would have been written using QT instead of native Windows if it wasn't a cross-platform toolkit? Trolltech didn't need to charge for the Linux version since it promoted their popularity on that platform. On the other hand companies need to release on Windows, so they only required payment for that. Since QT is popular on Linux which they also need to support, it gets chosen, Trolltech gets its money and everyone benefits.

There are many examples of companies offering GPL and proprietary versions, first that come to mind are Trolltech, MySQL AB and many Linux distro companies. There must be countless small ones such as ActiveWidgets, they're just hard to find by searching for examples. Obviously the most visible consulting and training is done by the likes of IBM or JBoss.

Obviously, don't release your software under the GPL if you plan to profit from it directly and don't have a suitable business model. However if you do and then try to add vague restricting terms while claiming to conform, people like me who get paid to write GPL and have to ensure the resulting package doesn't infringe on its terms can get pretty rabid.

If you still don't believe money and GPL can fit in the same transaction, please don't ever get a management position.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
My two cents, I agree with JJ, we purchased the software, and were concerned with these very issues. Thanks Alex for clearing this all up for us.
Thursday, October 13, 2005

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