Open Source Licensing: SugarCRM’s original way to abide the GPL

After discussing why SugarCRM would have no reason to adopt the AGPL, yesterday I happened to download the Sugar Community Edition from the download page. The About page let me wonder about a possible attribution loophole in the GPLv3.

New lightA new light by MumbleyJoe

Some licensing background first. Here an excerpt from the About page of the Sugar Community Edition 5.0:

The interactive user interfaces in modified source and object code versions of this program must display Appropriate Legal Notices, as required under Section 5 of the GNU General Public License version 3.

In accordance with Section 7(b) of the GNU General Public License version 3, these Appropriate Legal Notices must retain the display of the “Powered by SugarCRM” logo. If the display of the logo is not reasonably feasible for technical reasons, the Appropriate Legal Notices must display the words “Powered by SugarCRM”.

Surprisingly it looks almost like the previous version of the about page (courtesy of Koder search engine):

All copies of the Covered Code must include on each user interface screen:
(i) the “Powered by SugarCRM” logo and
(ii) the SugarCRM copyright notice
in the same form as they appear in the distribution.See full license for requirements.

I am not a lawyer, but f I got it right, Section 7 of the GNU GPL version 3 permits modifications to the license for certain terms. Section 7 (b) asserts that for material you add to a covered work, you may supplement the terms of this License with terms:

b) Requiring preservation of specified reasonable legal notices or author attributions in that material or in the Appropriate Legal Notices displayed by works containing it;

Section 7 became a viable tool to reintroduce somehow the attribution addendum contained in the SugarCRM Public license (Exhibit A).

The question is: is requiring a logo a reasonable author attribution? I presume this is the case, at least in Eben Moglen‘s opinion. Moglen in his “SugarCRM’s Sweet Taste of Freedom” stated that SugarCRM is to be applauded, and I believe he knew already what I just found myself.

Badgeware is not only OSI approved, but it is also endorsed by the Free Software Foundation now, with its flagship license. The debate is over.

Back to my analysis about SugarCRM’s licensing strategy, it is now clear that SugarCRM and SugarCRM’s VCs do still care a lot about brand protection. Their unique selling points are really strong, but as a matter of fact they found a way to accomplish both goals: branding and the adoption of a much more compatible license.

Kudos to SugarCRM’s lawyers to sort it out.

Technorati Tags: oss, open business, commercial open source, sugarCRM, GPL, FSF, OSI