Licensing: more on Alfresco going GPL

Yesterday many commented Alfresco’s decision, among them Matthew Asslet’s article talks about the mentioned exception approach and the attribution thing.

Commenting the FLOSS exception, Matthew wrote:

It is an interesting approach that solves some of the problems Alfresco faced as an emerging commercial open source vendor, and do so better than the company’s previous Mozilla + Attribution approach.

Matthew spoke to Matt Asay, Alfresco’s VP of business development, recently, about Alfresco’s decision to abandon MPL+attribution in favor of the GPL.

While that is a good reason for the company to have turned to the GPL, Asay also maintained that it is his belief that the GPL does a better job of encouraging attribution and contribution, either in the form of support revenues or code development.

“The problem with application companies is there’s no protection for you,” he said, noting that there is more opportunity at the application level than the operating system level for developers to pick up code and turn it into something else.

While the GPL does not prevent developers from doing that, it does mean that they are required to publish any code they distribute under the GPL, ensuring any modifications remain open.

According to Asay, this is a more elegant method of retaining attribution than dictating to developers how they use and display a trademarked logo in any modified code. He explained that it was understandable why several open source start-ups took up the MPL+ Attribution approach, however.

“As a company we didn’t feel comfortable that we had the brand that would push people to buy support from us,” he said. “It’s really, really hard to take that leap of faith that you’re providing the value that people will buy from you.”

It will be interesting, as Matthew wrote, to see how Alfresco’s move will affect integration with other open source projects and, moreover, to see how Alfresco will eventually find its way to a symbiotic approach.

Post Scrittum: read also the Internews article, it reports interesting spots of Matt’s thoughts:

We would be ecstatic if someone forked the GPL version of Alfresco because then they get to go off on their fork and develop their own system but we would also benefit from the work that they do. If we can’t compete based on the work that we’re doing on our own code as well as benefiting form the work that a fork would do on theirs, then we don’t deserve to be in business.

We want the conversation around Alfresco to be much broader than Alfresco the company, we want it to be about the code and the value of the project first and the company secondarily.

Let’s see how Alfresco will cope with the upcoming community, I’m sure they’re working on it..

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