Archive for May 2012

You can’t remove open-source code from public use

I commented a couple days ago on Smart Mobile Studio’s release and how happy I was that they’d found a payment processor that minimizes the hassle for users. Well, I’m a bit less pleased at the stunt they tried to pull this morning.

There’s a post over on the Smart Mobile Studio dev blog explaining that, due to an arrangement between them and the company that Eric Grange works for, they’ve obtained the exclusive rights to DWS’s Javascript code generator, and it’s

hereby withdrawn from public use. Any company currently deploying this technology, or a derivative of it, is bound by international law to abandon it.

Well, there’s just one problem with that: they can’t do it.  The JS codegen units, like the rest of DWS, were published under the Mozilla Public License, with an MPL header at the top and everything, and the MPL grants those who download the code

a world-wide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license under intellectual property rights (other than patent or trademark) Licensable by Contributor, to use, reproduce, modify, display, perform, sublicense and distribute the Modifications created by such Contributor (or portions thereof) either on an unmodified basis, with other Modifications, as Covered Code and/or as part of a Larger Work.

The only ways that a license grant under the MPL can be terminated are specified in section 8: if the licensee fails to comply with the terms of the MPL, or if the licensee tries to sue the developer.  It very conspicuously does not say that the developer can revoke the license.

Even Borland understood this.  They never tried to strip InterBase (which they published under the MPL at one point) of its open-source status when they decided they wanted to keep working on it as a proprietary project.  They just stopped contributing to Firebird, started pretending like it didn’t exist instead, and kept working on InterBase and trying to differentiate it with new and better features.  And they certainly didn’t assert that people using or developing Firebird were in violation of international law.

This would be the best course of action for Optimale Systemer AS to take as well.  They’re free to continue further, proprietary work on it, and now they’ll need to if they want to differentiate it from what’s already out there.  Anyone else is still free to use, or even to fork and continue working on, the existing code.  (Which, by the way, has been deleted from SVN in the Google Code repository’s head, but is still available if you check out to revision #1462.)  Their current position is legally untenable, claims of “international law” notwithstanding.  It would never hold up in court, and I certainly hope they don’t waste any resources proving that.  They’d be much better spent continuing to improve their product.

I wonder if any other developers will be willing to take up the mantle and continue work on the open-source JS codegen, the way Eric did for DWS itself after Matthias Ackermann stopped working on it?

A smart new way to handle payments

For those who weren’t aware, Smart Mobile Studio came out earlier today.  I’ve been following the project for a while, and when it was released, I went to purchase it…

…and couldn’t.  The payment processor they’ve got set up doesn’t like free email accounts (which pretty much everyone on the entire Internet has) and the only alternative they offered was to mail them a check.  (Seriously?  Do they think it’s still the 90s or something?)  And they didn’t even accept PayPal, which is kind of ridiculous in 2012.  So, note to anyone out there who wants to handle payments for something: please avoid Digital River like the plague until they shape up their act.  Do not make it difficult for your customers to give you their money.

So I emailed Jon Lennart Aasenden about it, explaining the problems I’d had.  And it’s kind of magical, the way words like “your broken payment processor just lost you a few hundred dollars” can motivate people to act.  I had an email back from Jon within about 5 minutes, and a new purchase link about 3 hours later. Continue reading ‘A smart new way to handle payments’ »