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GPL fundamentalism at its worst

Published on Thursday, 14 June 2007
I'm starting to get sick and tired of the Core Team making a total asshat of themselves in trying to define what third party work is done across the Joomla! community. Face it, if these guys were senior managers in real life, their company would end up like Enron. They have, in essence, attempted to stop all non-GPL work on Joomla for now and forevermore, regardless of what that work contains. And for what end ?
Let's first take a good long look at the esteemed, newly anointed Joomla! project manager, Johan Janssens, head of Open Source Matter's legal department, started out with his freshly spun word of wisdom for the day:

Encryption of Joomla! extensions is a violation of the GPL

to follow onto:

Illegal is a very strong word, it's a violation of the license which would be the correct legal term. I agree though that probably many don't realy understand the GPL license which Joomla! is released under.

There are a couple of instances of non-GPL licenced material that currently interacts with Joomla! as is. One is JED, the Joomla! Extensions Directory, based on mosets tree, a commercial non-GPL package. Another is the Joomla Summer of Code with Google, which is still, essentially, third party development in regards to core functionality within Joomla!. Within the Summer of Code for this year:
  • The entire range of microformats are licenced under the W3C Patent Policy, and when considered next to a GPL puritanical approach, should be rejected outright as the GPL and the W3C Patent policy do not get along, even on a good day. The W3C Patent Policy allows open standards to develop and be deployed, of course.
  • Dublin Core is licenced using the DCMI Public License 1.0, which may be a public and open standard licence, but since it's not GPL, it should likewise be rejected by the GPL fundamentalists. Say goodbye to decent metadata for enterprise deployment of Joomla!.
  • GeoRSS is licenced under Creative Commons and as such should be rejected by the GPL fundamentalists, meaning integrated Google mapping and geolocation isn't viable as part of the Joomla! 1.5 framework.
So will Johan publically disable the entire Extensions site, with its 1600+ extensions for Joomla!, and halt 3 out of 10 Google Summer of Code Projects this year in order to fulfill his interpretation of the GPL ? That would seem the only logical course of action as he considers non-GPL work within Joomla a 'violation of the licence'. I wait and see..

The only people who have broke trust thus far is the Core Team and OSM who have gone out of their way to remain silent in regards to licence issues apart from Johan's claims from on high. They also have not explained why all commercial and third party development has to be limited to a religious, literal, fundamentalist approach to the GPL. This will mean not only commercial non-GPL work within Joomla! is halted, it will mean all non-GPL work within Joomla! is halted, regardless of whether or not it is open source or seeks to advance open standards. This putsch against non-GPL material may also target forked material as forks may contain other licences (BSD, MPL, and so on).

Futhermore, other GPL projects, such as Wordpress and Drupal, have commercial designers developing templates for them which remain outside the GPL. Mambo, the base from which Joomla! arose, even has a specific FAQ and direction statement allowing commercial works as well as non-GPL work to co-exist in peace alongside the GPL of the core code.

The current approach taken by the Core Team leaves no winners apart from the Core Team itself, as this is now the second instance where the wider community has been held to ransom by the Core. The first instance was the fork from Mambo to Joomla! itself.

Therefore, in order to salvage a win-win solution out of this horrible situation, the best path is to return all current gentlemen's agreements, FAQs and the like. The next step, in order to restore trust and credibility towards the community, is to follow what the community wants instead of making grandoise statements that offside anyone who may be developing outside of the GPL. Merely because you extend Joomla! beyond the boundaries of what the Core wishes to aim for doesn't mean you should be punished for it.  Perhaps this time, the Core might even learn from the Digg on Digg effect of a social community that seeks to keep itself functioning as part of the wider Joomla! ecosystem.
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