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Cannibals

Published on Friday, 09 September 2005
Copyright and licencing remains a nebulous issue at the best of times. Absalom Media maintains copyright over numerous Mambo related design, core-related and module resources. Now, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , Secretary for the Mambo Foundation, has posed the question that "advertising" be removed from Mambo related work. Now why, in light of recent events, is such an idea bad for business, and end users in general ?

Damian (aka idigital) posed the possibility of "Ill treatment of Third Party Developer's release announcement" within the Mambo community, and was censored and banned, merely for raising the spectre that releases were platform independent of Mambo and Joomla.

The key words from the Board in the thread that followed are:

Templates should not really "advertise" anything, other than attribution to the developer of the template. If you introduce new or enhanced functionality, but force the user to take the advertising in order to get the improved functionality, you are not really keeping in the spirit of Open Source. If a template does contain advertising, it should be simple to turn off or delete by the average Mambo user.

To the community:
What are your feelings? What kind of advertising would be appropriate in templates, and how difficult should it be to defeat / turn off? Should existing distributed Mambo templates be reviewed / revised to strip out any included advertising?

Another end user also commented that:
I'm still wondering why ANYONE at Miro or The Foundation owes anyone an explaination for ANYTHING they do with something that belongs to them

Now this sets down an interesting legal precident. The reason I wrote the licencing primer for the Mambo community in 2004 was that there are numerous licencing arrangements within the community for component, module and template work (CMT). Not everything released for Mambo is GPL. Some of the work contributed is under LGPL, some under BSD licence, some under various Creative Commons licences, and some released commercially with attribution (as well as a few other licence types I've probably missed).

Cannibalising the content, structure and ideas out of other people's work whilst trying to maintain the licence structure is a potential organisational, change management and legal nightmare. Removing the RDF licencing information on Creative Commons licenced material is in part an infringement, and that in some ways, advertises who owns the product.

The end users within the Mambo community are then left with "Just what licence is this under?" if the ideas presented by a Foundation Board member and public officer go ahead. There are also associated issues with:
  • version management - having two pieces of work with the same name, version number and a different licence for each
  • support - if the Board wants to remove "advertising", that means the Board, by the nature of the action they wish to undertake, must be held legally liable for any support of the products they change

Now, as I quoted above, some people believe that the Foundation doesn't owe an explanation for anything it does. The fundamental difference is that what the Board is offering by asking these questions is that they are legally bound to offer an explanation to third party developers (3PDs), to the wider web community, and (potentially) to the various courts of the land for modifying the 3PDs work without permission, attribution, correct use of copyright or anything else.
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