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Original copyright holders

Published on Tuesday, 03 July 2007
The legalese currently traded against the third party development community is that they violate the GNU GPL based on the fact the 'original copyright holders' may be informed of their actions to produce non-GPL compliant extensions. Let's take this claim apart rationally, as the last thing we need to do is panic.
Got your towel ready ? Do you have a copy of the Hitchhikers Guide ? Good, then we'll start.

First a few facts - the Core and OSM consider the work I do criminal, otherwise they would not state:
They need to understand the risk they take when they violate the terms of the gnu gpl.
There's been rumours circulating that this sort of mentality has existed for a while, and having a professor of sociology attempt to dictate that because people do not comply with their stated wishes, they need to be shamed, embarrassed and treated like a criminal only reeks of poor business practices. This gives more creedence to the idea that a vote of no confidence should be set against OSM, but unfortunately, the wider Joomla! community cannot vote them off for mismanagement.

So let's go through the potential copyright holders:

Mambo

The original copyright holders, namely the Mambo project prior to it being forked to Joomla!, have not changed their stance in regards to third party development.  Mambo still allows commercial and free non-GPL compatible extensions to be developed and interfaced as plugins to the Mambo framework, and since Mambo is the father project of Joomla!, whatever copyrights Mambo has within the Joomla! codebase remain safe and free from litigation. Considering the entire extension structure inside the backend was developed under Mambo, and that installer process remains unchanged in Joomla 1.5, this is a significant precident to allow plugins in the way Joomla! is designed. Plugins, of course, not being subject to GPL "voluntary compliance" according to the GPL itself.

Independent developers in Joomla!

The internal discussions I've had with Rob Schley related to this topic show that the wider developer pool hold the copyrights to the Joomla! codebase. Therefore as the developer pool inside Joomla itself is independent of OSM, contrary to the stated copyright statements inside Joomla! 1.0.x and Joomla 1.5, there is just a small risk that an independent developer would sue the entire wider Joomla! community. It would look bad for them to do such an act, bad for the Joomla! community in general as it would potentially portray a rogue leader within the Joomla! community and remain a significant risk on the part of the developer in question in order to actually win the case But it is a possibility that a current developer within the Joomla! project may wish to sue people.

Others?

There was a rumour during the initial fork from Mambo to Joomla! that the original code was based on the Nukes, but no evidence was ever provided, being worthy of a tin foil hat in terms of credibility and legitimacy. So that conspiracy theory dies hard. The only other potential source would be a commercial company donating code into the project, but as far as I can tell, that hasn't happened.

Conclusions

As the Mambo project hasn't changed its policy the only risk of violation against the GPL is if a single developer within the current Joomla! project wishes to file suit against the wider Joomla! developer and design community. If a single developer wished to use the Joomla! funds in this way, they would be setting themselves up to kill their own professional pedigree in an effort to show their adherence to the GPL.

It is for this reason why the risk of violation is minimal at best. There is an established precident carried on for the last 4 years in terms of extensions, regardless of whether they be components, modules, templates or mambots/plugins, being able to be plugged into the Mambo and Joomla! frameworks in the same way. This precident carries significant weight and if a single developer believes that they have fair right to suit the wider development community, they would be ignoring this precident of design at their own peril.

In this light, there is little risk from the 'original copyright holders' as most of the original copyright holders, both within Mambo and Joomla!, have existed alongside and developed an ecosystem where GPL core code can be extended with non-GPL extensions.

Otherwise, what's the point of the extension installer if not to add new functionality that remains unavailable as part of core processing ?

I am not a lawyer, nor should this be taken as legal advice. This is just plain simple everyday investigation into a topic relevant to my clients.
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