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SQL-Ledger Relicensed, Community Gagged

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the i-can't-heear-you dept.

Censorship 194

Ashley Gittins writes "Users of the popular accounting package SQL-Ledger were being kept in the dark about a recent license change. Two weeks ago a new version of the software was released but along with it came the silent change of license from GPLv2 to the 'SQL-Ledger Open Source License' — presumably in an effort to prevent future forks like LedgerSMB. As it turns out, the author was making deliberate attempts to prevent the community from finding out about the license change. No posts to the SQL-Ledger mailing lists asking about the license change were getting past moderation and direct questions to the author were going unanswered. Just recently the license was switched back to GPLv2. This behavior is not a first for this particular project, and is part of the reason for the original LedgerSMB fork. Does a project maintainer have an ethical obligation to notify his or her community of a license change? What about a legal obligation?"

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194 comments

He did notify of the license change (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743001)

And if you don't like it, or can't find it to decide if you like it or not, then your choice is still the same... take the last version under the old license and fork it.

Article outdated (-1, Redundant)

vivaoporto (1064484) | about 7 years ago | (#18743017)

This was news when first submitted to Slashdot, as it could be read on the Firehose, the license link was really other than GPL. But now this link [sql-ledger.org] is back showing GPL 2 (although in a bad html), and it seems like they moved back to the original license. That's what happens when they take 4 days to accept a story.

I see you didn't RTFS (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | about 7 years ago | (#18743277)

The summary says:

"Just recently the license was switched back to GPLv2...

This is what happens when you don't read the summary correctly ;)

Re:I see you didn't RTFS (2, Informative)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 7 years ago | (#18743523)

the summary changed between when the story was first up in the 'mysterious future' and when it went live. which is how it is supposed to work - but could also explain the confusion.

Re:I see you didn't RTFS (2, Informative)

Bananatree3 (872975) | about 7 years ago | (#18743609)

good point. I wasn't aware that it had changed during that time. That would explain why he didn't notice the change, as he had read the summary while it was still in the firehose.

Re:Article outdated (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743423)

mod parent down for incompetence

Legal obligation? Probably not... Ethical? (2, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | about 7 years ago | (#18743023)

Of course! Being open is exactly what open source is about. Well, hopefully the LedgerSMB fork will be able to get beyond the personality defects of the SQL-Ledger guy...

Re:Legal obligation? Probably not... Ethical? (1)

jb.cancer (905806) | about 7 years ago | (#18743073)

couldn't there be a problem considering the license was GPL not some BSD or apache style license. once the base is GPL, shouldn't that mean the derivatives can't be more closed than the base? (anyway IANAL). but when someone does such an act, the usual dynamics of consumer-service_provider relation should take effect. you try to double cross your user, they ditch you for someone else. with a non-existent user base who really would care what license you use for ur private little project :)

Re:Legal obligation? Probably not... Ethical? (4, Insightful)

no reason to be here (218628) | about 7 years ago | (#18743161)

couldn't there be a problem considering the license was GPL not some BSD or apache style license. once the base is GPL, shouldn't that mean the derivatives can't be more closed than the base? (anyway IANAL).


No. There's only a problem if someone made a fork and tried to change it from GPL to something else. This was a move by the guy who holds the copyrights to the code. the copyright holder can, at anytime, decide he wants to move his code to another license. the catch is that all previously released code is still under the previous license. That is, if i release Foobar v1 under the GPL, then I release Foobar v1.1 under BSD, v1.0 remains licensed under the GPL, and you are free to take that code and start your own version, Forkbar v1.0. However, you must always keep it as GPL, because you don't own the copyright on the code; you only have access to it because of the GPL.

Re:Legal obligation? Probably not... Ethical? (1)

rbanffy (584143) | about 7 years ago | (#18743835)

In this specific case, you can still pick the 1.1 release and GPL it back into, say, 1.1g.

If, on the other hand, 1.1 is under MS Shared Source License you should fork 1.0.

Re:Legal obligation? Probably not... Ethical? (2, Insightful)

gmack (197796) | about 7 years ago | (#18744007)

That only applies if he hasn't accepted any outside submissions and therefore is the copyright holder of the code or has had all copyrights assigned to him.

Re:Legal obligation? Probably not... Ethical? (5, Insightful)

KutuluWare (791333) | about 7 years ago | (#18744225)

Having actually read TFA, it looks like the author was, in fact, trying to do exactly those two things he does not have the right to do with the existing code base:

* Retroactively re-license existing versions from the GPL to the new version:

The version published on the website at http://www.sql-ledger.com/source/license/COPYING [sql-ledger.com] takes precedence over any other version in circulation.
* Unlaterally re-license code that includes third part submissions, since most of the translation packages were done by user submission.

Ignoring those two actions, even if the license change is strictly legal, it's downright underhanded to pull a stunt like he did. He didn't just change the license on his software; he put out a point release on the primary distribution site, after having changed the license terms included with the package, then refused to let anyone bring it up on the official support mailing list. How many of us would notice if we downloaded and installed the lastest apache or postfix or whatever, and the license had silently and magically changed to a closed one?

Re:Legal obligation? Probably not... Ethical? (2, Insightful)

Alcoholic Synonymous (990318) | about 7 years ago | (#18744303)

It gets a little more sticky too when you try to relicense code like this. Outside contributors who submitted patches may have objections to the GPL code they donated being changed without their permission.

Update and reply (5, Informative)

einhverfr (238914) | about 7 years ago | (#18744435)

I am a core member of the LedgerSMB development team. The author of this post ran it by me as a courtesy before submitting it.

In the time since this was submitted, Mr Simader has seen the light and reverted to the GPL, albeit very unhappily. Such is life.

I don't actually begrudge Mr Simader the right to choose whatever copyright license he wants to have for his work. That is his moral right, and I have no problem with it. However, I was very unhappy with the fact that a lot of contributors' code, including all the translations, were still licensed under the GPL and since his new license was not compatable with it, I felt that he was causing problems for everyone including our project which is why I began contacting contributors privately about the whole thing.

Also, in the event of a license change away from a specific and well-understood OSI-approved license, I think that the developer also needs to give users a heads-up before they install the new version. This is, however, as far as I see the ethical obligations. And even these were not followed.

Finally, on the LedgerSMB project we are committed to rewriting the entire application, not just in order to prevent further conflict with Mr Simader but also in order to create a better program and one which can be more easily maintained. But we would be remiss if we didn't recognize that our success is in fact partly based on his.

Re:Legal obligation? Probably not... Ethical? (3, Insightful)

pipatron (966506) | about 7 years ago | (#18743175)

once the base is GPL, shouldn't that mean the derivatives can't be more closed than the base?

The author of the work can always release his work under any license he sees fit. The problem would be any code contributed by others in this case.

Re:Legal obligation? Probably not... Ethical? (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 7 years ago | (#18743435)

True, that's why most projects require you to assign copyright for your contributions to them.

What does the first license say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743025)

In regards to future changes?

Perhaps the relicensing violates the licensing unless said licensing includes provisions for relicensing the licensing.

switched back (1, Redundant)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 7 years ago | (#18743031)

if you read the links, you will see that the author has already switched back to gpl v2

Re:switched back (1)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | about 7 years ago | (#18743091)

You'll see the same if you read the summary.

It's too late now though. The damage has been done and the apparent intent to keep people in the dark about major changes which could have a negative impact on their use of the software will no doubt see a lot of users lose faith and switch to an alternative.

Re:switched back (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 7 years ago | (#18743507)

good - i emailed the editor when i saw the story was going to hit the front page. nice to see it wasn't for nothing. when i read the summary after it went live, i missed that they had made the change, so i appreciate your pointing it out.

Relicensing... (5, Insightful)

mlwmohawk (801821) | about 7 years ago | (#18743041)

If the author is the sole author and/or owns all the copyrights, then they can do what ever they like. If, however, they have accepted third party submitions then they may have a legal obligation to remain GPLv2

Community Gagged? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743193)

Community Gagged
Yes the community is Sooooooooo gagged that they get to complain about it on Slashdot.
Really you are not being silenced if you get to shout your complaints from the rooftop.

Just because the author of SQL-Ledger essentially told you to "talk to the hand, because I am not listening" doesn't mean you are being censored. It just means you are being ignored. Freedom of speech never meant to the person you are talking to/about had to care.
Ah, yes we live in the Baby Boomer's Narcissistic Me Generation world where if your infantile desires aren't ment it means Big Brother is oppressing you. You want censorship ask someone who lived in 60s Eastern Euriope or has been dragged in front of a no-attorney/no-recording inquiry panel for a violation fo the University's Speech Codes. There is censorship and the is being ignored.

The users aren't being gagged, they are screaming like a 2 year old havering a tantrum and they are being ignored.

Re:Community Gagged? (1)

MindStalker (22827) | about 7 years ago | (#18743365)

Not necesarily. If users submitted code those users retain copyright unless they stated that they gave them up. Relicensing under these conditions is illegal. And complaining that your copyrighted code has been stolen is not just crying... Of course unless your one of those people who claim you have every right to copy others copyrighted works -wink, wink-

Re:Community Gagged? (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | about 7 years ago | (#18743651)

It actually depends on the nature of the submission. Trivial submissions, such as one-line bug fixes don't need explicit copyright assignment. Large submissions like new classes, do. The boundary line is not clear but my sense is that less than ten lines of ordinary code without an explicit copyright do not taint the original.

Of course, many vehemently disagree. Some viciously maintain that a patch that changes "n++" to "++n" is sufficient to to kick in the GPL viral clauses.

Re:Community Gagged? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#18743979)

"Some viciously maintain that a patch that changes "n++" to "++n" is sufficient to to kick in the GPL viral clauses."

At the risk of being a bit off-topic, if n++ is a statement by itself, the compiler will emit the same code as ++n (at leastusing gnu c++), so the change isn't even "trivial" - its non-existent (same as adding some white space)

For example, diff says that:

for ( i=1 ; i ... results in the same binary code as ...

for ( i=1 ; i ... so everyone who believes that ++i is "faster" than i++ are barking up the wrong tree - the compiler applies the same optimizations.

So, back to licensing ... I don't think that changing i++ to ++i, when that's all that's in that sequence point, and results iin the same binary, can ever be a copyrightable change ... unless you're in the SCOniverse ;-)

Reading comprehension (3, Insightful)

Hrothgar The Great (36761) | about 7 years ago | (#18743367)

The community being gagged refers to the fact that their messages were dropped from the associated mailing list. You probably didn't read the article, huh?

Re:Reading comprehension (1)

cyberon22 (456844) | about 7 years ago | (#18744313)

I really don't see a problem here. Presumably the project maintainer is running the mailing list and (reasonably) moderates it. It sounds like he doesn't want people creating problems for him on his own mailing list. Fair enough. The code is open and if people feel censored they can easily start their own mailing list.

If there are enough active contributors besides this guy who are willing to work on the project and for whom this license is a sticking point, a fork will succeed. If not it will fail. But attacking Dieter is just sticking a knife in the back of someone who released code in the first place. Power to Dieter and I hope things work out for him.

Re:Reading comprehension (1)

einhverfr (238914) | about 7 years ago | (#18744495)

My problems were:

1) Contributor code (including all the translations) were still explicitly licensed under the GPL. In other words, the relicensing was probably not legal, and I thought it was best to act sooner rather than let him dig a whole that might engulf LedgerSMB as well.

2) Users should be notified promptly if the license is so changed. I would not have had any problem with this had he loudly said so. But this was done on the sly so to speak.

My points have had their impacts, and SQL-Ledger 2.8.1 has reverted back to the GPL.

However, you have a number of valid points. I do feel for Dieter. Our fork chooses not to use any more of his code for a number of reasons but I feel that arguments and fights like this tend to drag both projects down.

In the end, I hope that our project can benefit him at least as much as we have been benefited by Dieter's work.

Re:Relicensing... (0)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | about 7 years ago | (#18743299)

Actually, that depends on how the 3rd party had submitted the code or how the docs say it would be accepted as.

It also depends on how the project is run in general. As in, if this project is run with a dictator type model (benevolent or not) then the one person at the top can certainly make these sorts of decisions on his/her own.

GPL2-GPL3 and Contributor or Package Content (1)

billstewart (78916) | about 7 years ago | (#18743545)

As you say, if it's the author's own work, that's fine, but if there's contributor content, they may have extra constraints, and that also applies to using packages with GPL or other licenses as a platform or component of your code. That was certainly one of the goals of the GNU Public Virus approach - if you're using Free Software, you can't make the Free parts non-Free, and if you're doing things the way RMS would really like, all of your contributions would also be Free. If you want to be able to later convert your Free package to non-Free, you'd better plan for it upfront.


That is one of the legal uncertainties with GPL - how do you manage copyright in a multiple-author environment? If you let other people report bugs or request features, and you fix the bugs or code the features yourself, that's unlikely to give the contributors partial ownership of the code, but if you also accept bug fixes from them, or certainly if you accept new feature code, that probably does.


The GPL3 license appears to be more restrictive than GPL2, not that I've spent much time examining the endless arguments about it (:-) Are GPL2 and GPL3 written in ways that you can use GPL2 code in GPL3 projects without permission? One of my concerns is that especially for larger projects such as the Linux Kernel, there are enough contributors that you really *can't* go asking them all for permission, even if the change control has always been good enough to identify them. There'll be people you can't find, people who think GPL3 is much better than GPL2, people who think it's much worse, and people who don't really care but don't like RMS for whatever reasons.


It's been a long time since I've done significant coding work. Most of it was internal projects at a previous employer, or work for hire we did for customers, so while some of it was general tools that could be reused outside my projects if people wanted to keep track of it (like printer drivers and termcaps and bug fixes), much of it was too customized to be useful outside of our environment. On the other hand, the code I've done on public projects has mostly been stuff that I'm really not attached to - teaching examples, or code that if I put any license on it it was a Netnews-style "It's Not My Fault" license. Help yourself...

Copyright law is pretty clear here (1)

brunes69 (86786) | about 7 years ago | (#18744203)

No a project CAN NOT switch from GPLv2 to GPLv3 unless EVERYONE who contributed code agrees.

However - the reality is if a majority agree and a minority do not then what happens is that minorities code is removed from the project and re-implemented by those who do.

Now of course this only works if the minority is very small. If the minority is large enough to make it unfeasible then such a license change does not take place. Which is the way things SHOULD be.

I have been a contributor to projects that subsequently changed their license and I was always contacted.

Re:Copyright law is pretty clear here (1)

Captain Segfault (686912) | about 7 years ago | (#18744489)

Actually, you can change from GPLv2 to GPLv3 (once GPLv3 actually exists) implicitly if you're using standard GPL with the suggested language

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.
You can license under only GPLv2, if you want. The Linux kernel is (for the most part) so licensed, which means that a move from 2 to 3 would require license from every contributor.

Re:Relicensing... (2, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 7 years ago | (#18743619)

If the author is the sole author and/or owns all the copyrights, then they can do what ever they like.

They can do whatever they like in the future. And anyone can take the entire GPL'd code base from the day before the license change and tell the "owner" to go fork himself.

That in itself counts as one of the best reasons to use GPL'd software - Eternal compatibility, as long as someone, anyone, continues work on the older codebase (which may mean nothing more than compiling it as-it-stands once every few years for any new OSs that come to popularity).

Re:Relicensing... (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | about 7 years ago | (#18743843)

The "in the future" issue is not about the GPL, it is an issue with law, i.e. you can't change the rules in the middle of the game. So, yes, you are right, you can use GPL code as long as you want, no matter what the new license is.

A commie defector !! Keeellll Heeemm Noooowzzz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743051)



A commie defector !! Keeellll Heeemm Noooowzzz!!

Legal: No, Ethical: Maybe... (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | about 7 years ago | (#18743055)

Legally you don't have to announce your business decisions in advance, ethically well... I can understand why you wouldn't, the day you came out and said it the GPL version is as good as yours - no reason to switch. You'd want to have some sort of carrot "New version with $foo and $bar" so people would actually change. Everyone producing anything OSS is entitled to stand up at any moment and say "Screw this, I'm going to try making money off it", assuming it's all their code of course. If you want reliability and future commitment, perhaps you should pay for it? As long as you rely on volunteer contributions you haven't really got a leg to stand on, should they disappear in a puff of smoke.

Re:Legal: No, Ethical: Maybe... (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 7 years ago | (#18743071)

Sorry to respond to my own post but that should read "Screw this, I'm going close the source and try making money off it", clearly you can make money of an OSS product too.

Re:Legal: No, Ethical: Maybe... (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#18743405)

If you want reliability and future commitment, perhaps you should pay for it?

That doesn't always work either. Just read the EULA for, well, pretty much any piece of commercial software. If the vendor disappears, decides not to support the product, if it vaporizes your computer and most of the building its in ... tough. Paying for it doesn't mean anything in and of itself. Consequently, you have no assurance of anything in the software world unless you're dealing with a vendor that has a significant track record of playing square with its customers. Still no guarantee, but that's about as good as it gets, and it is true whether it's open source or not, commercial or not.

escrowe vital - was Re:Legal: No, Ethical: Maybe (2, Interesting)

speculatrix (678524) | about 7 years ago | (#18744043)

if you have any sense when buying software, and you're big enough to make the vendor agree, then a code escrowe agreement is critical in case the vendor folds (sometimes even have a release condition predicated on the vendor being bought by another company who may abandon the product).

if you're subcontracting the software to another company, then make sure that you have full rights over the code and that you get regular SCCS/RCS/CVS/Subversion snapshots (you need to have direct access to the contractor's repository, don't rely on them to send you dumps) and verify that you can build everything from scratch and get the fully working version.

I've seen the results of failing to do this and the results can get pretty ugly!

Disagree but in a different way (1)

einhverfr (238914) | about 7 years ago | (#18744703)

If you want reliability and commitment you *should* pay for it. If you buy a subscription ot RHEL update services, that is one way. You could also pay members of the core teams for support accounts, and the like.

But it doesn't mean you need to pay for the software license.

Looks like the project is officially being killed. (2, Informative)

Ant P. (974313) | about 7 years ago | (#18743065)

Both the links to their "public support forum" and wiki bring up a HTTP password prompt.

Re:Looks like the project is officially being kill (1)

icosagon (1085535) | about 7 years ago | (#18743409)

Actually, the forum and wiki have always been like that. You have to pay SQL-Ledger's author to get access. There used to be public trackers and the like on SourceForge, but he removed them a few months ago.

Re:Looks like the project is officially being kill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743669)

ah yes, the mythical model of paid support to finance free software.

Re:Looks like the project is officially being kill (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743903)

Works pretty well if you're not an asshole. Was doing fine until this license change stuff came up.

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743069)

Who gives a fuck?

Re:What? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 7 years ago | (#18743809)

Quite a few people care.

If no one cared, there wouldn't have been a fork a while ago.

But that said, it *is* Deiter's software, so he can change the licensing if he wants. ( and we can all go about our merry way with the fork too.. )

Can we please lay off the emotional language (-1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 7 years ago | (#18743117)

in summaries? First of all, the community wasn't "gagged", when you are gagged you are forbidden from saying something, I don't see anything here that is "gagging" the community per se. You could say the community was not informed, or "kept in the dark", but that is different from gagging. The overly emotional language in the summary really adds nothing to the story.

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (3, Informative)

cheros (223479) | about 7 years ago | (#18743189)

No, that wasn't emotional, that was a fact. Gagging in this case refers to posts querying the change or motive (or even mentioning the very fact) of the change were moderated out so the userbase was kept unaware.

I think the bottomline appears to be that the guy Open Sourced something and didn't quite understood the consequences. And it's easy to stack mistake on mistake once you're on the wrong foot..

Having followed both mailing lists I must say that the LedgerSMB one is very lively indeed - and has more people visible in development. That doesn't mean I don't feel sorry for the original author, but I think he may need a bit of a spokesperson between him and the rest of the world..

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (3, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#18744103)

"That doesn't mean I don't feel sorry for the original author, but I think he may need a bit of a spokesperson between him and the rest of the world.."

... like Theo de Raadt? ... or maybe Hans Reiser? ... or (to keep it even) Monkeyboy chair(throwing)man "the Balminator" "I'm gonna fucking kill google" Ballmer?

Deiter may have switched the license back to GPLv2, but at this point, why bother ... he's done more to promote the competing fork as being the "legit, safe" one than anything else.

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743209)

"No posts to the SQL-Ledger mailing lists asking about the license change were getting past moderation" -- sounds exactly like the community is forbidden from saying something, no? A word like "gagged" is emotional language, but it's not inaccurate.

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743213)

I thought slashdot readers, while not reading TFA, at least read the summaries :D

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743273)

You're new here, aren't you? ;P

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (1)

pipatron (966506) | about 7 years ago | (#18743217)

I would consider not being able to talk about it as being gagged. You seem to have missed the part where he blocked all discussions about the license on the forum.

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743371)

Considering people who tried to say something were moderated and removed, I'd say that's pretty gagged.

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (1)

daveewart (66895) | about 7 years ago | (#18743421)

There does seem to have been some 'gagging', although one could discuss the real meaning of that word further. However, the point: messages sent to the mailing list to discuss the licence issue were not approved for actual posting. Sounds like someone had something to hide.

Moderated and Removed Means Gagging Dipshit (1)

ThoreauHD (213527) | about 7 years ago | (#18743753)

Unless your definition of gagging is rectal fisting.

Re:Moderated and Removed Means Gagging Dipshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18744685)

The rest of us on Slashdot would ask that you never mention your sexual predilections on this forum ever again.

Thank you.

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743765)

the language seems pretty neutral, with enough flexibility for each person to inject their own tone/color.

obviously you are person prone to emotional outbursts and your coworkers think you're a bit bipolar.

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (1)

RedBear (207369) | about 7 years ago | (#18744089)

When you feel the urge to be pedantic it helps to actually be well-informed regarding your subject matter. Since you like that sort of thing you should enjoy this:

I think it's pretty clear to most people from the summary that the word "gagged" isn't being used in the strict legal or even literal sense, but rather in the figurative sense:

gag: verb, figurative (of a person or body with authority) prevent (someone) from speaking freely or disseminating information : the administration is trying to gag its critics.

Having the moderators (or sole moderator, if that is the case) of what is probably the main "community" discussion forum blocking any and all posts asking or making statements about a particular topic seems to fit pretty nicely into this definition. Doesn't seem all that emotional either, more like an accurate, factual description, although not written in the technically precise legal terms you would have preferred. Any emotional reaction should come from your abhorrence, hatred, loathing, detestation, execration, revulsion, disgust, repugnance, horror, odium, or aversion to the entire concept of censorship in even the most minor situation relating to the legal rights of others.

Hopefully this project will now die a horrible death after being forked yet again by people who are actually interested in maintaining and improving it for current users without attempting to exercise control over the behavior of the users. No one should put up with this behavior from the developer of any software you rely on to do something as important as keeping your business running.

Lay off the echo chambers? (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about 7 years ago | (#18744145)

First of all, the community wasn't "gagged", when you are gagged you are forbidden from saying something
What part of "posts didnt make moderation" did you not see? To preempt it, a private (exclusivist) entity used moderation to remove objection. That's gagging, no matter how the entity was grouped. No "liberty to exclude" excuses can explain it.

Read the following:
No posts to the SQL-Ledger mailing lists asking about the license change were getting past moderation and direct questions to the author were going unanswered.

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 7 years ago | (#18744339)

Even if they were 'gagged', its his software, his forum, his mailing list... We arent talking about a government here.

Re:Can we please lay off the emotional language (2, Informative)

agittins (1085543) | about 7 years ago | (#18744565)

Yeah, the summary is heavy on the language, but the fact is that several community members tried to bring up on the mailing list the fact that the license was changed, but their posts were censored. I would say that meets your definition of Gagged. To date there have still been no posts allowed through to the list regarding the license change. The point now is mostly moot however, as the license has changed back to GPL so the remainder of the community will probably continue on never knowing what has transpired.

Definitely unethical (4, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 7 years ago | (#18743149)

Forcing people to accept a change in the license without telling them? Definitely unethical - kind of like forcing people to accept Windows Genunie Advantage if you want patches.

Re:Definitely unethical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743223)

Who forced anyone to use anything again?

Re:Definitely unethical (1)

drgonzo59 (747139) | about 7 years ago | (#18743297)

There is no ethical problem here. (At least the way I see it and my ethics does not necessary = other's ethics). As the author of the project he can change the license as he pleases. What others see as deliberate attempt at not disclosing the change can just be laziness. If the license is included with the distribution and clearly readable it is the responsability of the user to check it.


BUT if the software was GPL before then that old version is still GPL (imagine it has been forked or integrated in other GPL software or that Linus changed the Linux kernel license to something commercial and restrictive ). Then when those using his software when upgrading should check the license. If they want to fork it or include it as part of other software then they should definetly check the license of that release.


Of course there are a whole bunch of interesting cases to consider. What if the software is released under GPL for only 1 hour and then (perhaps after consulting with a lawyer) the license is changed. If someone downloaded it within that hour can they treat it as GPL even though now it has a different license but it is the same software? Or what if someone steals my code and slaps a GPL license on it and then claims that I released it as GPL initially and that changed to the current license. It will be my word against theirs...and then we'll end up with something like SCO vs. IBM probably

Re:Definitely unethical (1)

turbidostato (878842) | about 7 years ago | (#18743569)

" What others see as deliberate attempt at not disclosing the change can just be laziness"

Yes, it *can* be laziness. But in this case, as long as the summary states it, it can't be laziness since the project leader took the effort of not aproving for being published any comment relating to such decision.

"if someone downloaded it within that hour can they treat it as GPL even though now it has a different license but it is the same software?"

Of course. It took *his own copy* under the GPL. He can do with *his own copy* everything the GPL entitles him to do, there's no black magic about it.

"Or what if someone steals my code and slaps a GPL license on it"

Just read the GPL. Since he thief doesn't own copyright of such work, he is not entitled to distribute it under no license at all (of course, that include the GPL too). Once a tribunal states that state of affairs you are not able to gain advantage of the GPL: you don't own a copy of the software under the GPL but a copy of the software that *seemed to be* under the GPL. Of course when someone passes to you something that seems to be "A" but it's "B" instead when the one that passed it to you had reasonable meanings to know about the counterfeit you are perfectly allowed to seek retaliations from him (in other words: both the legit owner of the code and you would go after him on tribunals to take even his underpants).

Re:Definitely unethical (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | about 7 years ago | (#18743673)

No one's being forced to accept any changes. If you don't like the new license, don't use the new software. Stick with the old GPLv2 version. It's simple really.

Re:Definitely unethical (1)

Kalriath (849904) | about 7 years ago | (#18744117)

I'm not quite sure what you're talking about. In this case, you can use your existing version of the app without the new license. In your other example you can just turn on Automatic Updates and you get all the patches! No WGA needed!

Re:Definitely unethical (1)

mqx (792882) | about 7 years ago | (#18744187)

"Forcing people to accept a change in the license without telling them? "

Umm, who forces anyone to accept anything: if you find that a new release has a license you don't like, then you don't have to accept it: use older versions or choose an alternative.

Simader (4, Informative)

hpavc (129350) | about 7 years ago | (#18743181)

Simader is a putz and always has been. That project is the worst of programming with Perl ever -- its a contraption. Its developed like any 'job security' program would be, using a rube goldberg approach when ever possible. Any attempt to integrate with that project with anything has always met with his poison. Much rather put my efforts into something like http://frontaccounting.com/ [frontaccounting.com] rather than SQLL. Even though I am a perl zealot.

Finally the death of his project.

A day I learned a new word is a good day (0, Troll)

one_in_a_milli0n (1085449) | about 7 years ago | (#18743419)

By that standard, today is a super day thanks to you, even though I had to pull the Urban Dictionary not once [urbandictionary.com] , but twice [urbandictionary.com] to understand your post.

Thanks again, and keep up the good work! ;-)

Re:Simader (3, Interesting)

daeg (828071) | about 7 years ago | (#18743429)

I came here to say the exact same thing. We have another OSS project that "integrates" with SQL-Ledger (I use that term very loosely) and I am replacing both with, uh, real programming. I am convinced that SQL-Ledger and other hobbled-together "open source" projects are merely fronts for greedy developers that hook businesses with the prospect of free, open source packages that can replace commercial packages that can run into the thousands for even the smallest of businesses. Then, when the company wants to do something more advanced, they find the code is such a steaming pile of crap that they hire the developer(s) to "fix it" for them.

Where to you think the LedgerSMB form came from? (2, Interesting)

cheros (223479) | about 7 years ago | (#18743527)

The guys at LedgerSMB had exactly the same problem, and they're busy cleaning up the code. Their stance is different as they provide a service, not software, and they make more sense re Open Source approach to code.

I think the root problem is that the SQL Ledger guy didn't realise what Open Source meant when he 'opened' it. LedgerSMB seems more focused on simply being a reasonable product, and their focus is the SME market who coul dnever afford the gazillion dollar programs..

And now that we have cleaned up the code (2, Informative)

einhverfr (238914) | about 7 years ago | (#18744641)

We are starting to address the architecture. Hopefully in a year, we will be architecturally opposite where we began.

Our new architecture rocks and makes for *easy* integration.

Re:Simader (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743955)

I have been saying this for years, but there is a small vocal zealous contingent that will jump on any negative comment. SQL-Ledger is the worst form of baby perl. It's not just bad, but touted as good (maybe Simader is waiting for a M$ buyout).

Simider has been writing (!programming) perl a while now. One might think he would improve, but any comment (helpful or otherwise) on style or structure is shot down by him or one of the forum members.

Please mod parent up.

Re:Simader (1)

einhverfr (238914) | about 7 years ago | (#18744599)

I have been saying this for years, but there is a small vocal zealous contingent that will jump on any negative comment. SQL-Ledger is the worst form of baby perl. It's not just bad, but touted as good (maybe Simader is waiting for a M$ buyout).

Around the time of the fork, Mr. Simader accused me of destroying his business and that is why MS didn't just buy him to put him out of business. So maybe there is some truth to your post...


Simider has been writing (!programming) perl a while now. One might think he would improve, but any comment (helpful or otherwise) on style or structure is shot down by him or one of the forum members.


Right, and we need not name that other forum member ;-)

The sad thing is, I never wanted to fork the software. I still regret some actions on my part that may have prevented resolutions to some of the key issues. But we are probably better off now. I just don't want to see harm come to someone who built the product which was largely responsible for our initial success.

Re:Simader (2, Informative)

einhverfr (238914) | about 7 years ago | (#18744539)

First, I would not run *any* accounting db on MySQL 4.x... Google "MySQL Gotchas" for good reasons why. So Frontaccounting is pretty much out.... (I am not sure I would trust MySQL 5.x either but that is another matter).

Second, Simader's Perl is pretty much as you describe (\%$form?), and his db design isn't any better. We have spent six months doing what mostly amounts to security patches and now we are ready to re-engineer in place. By 2.0, LedgerSMB will have no code left from SQL-Ledger.

Licenses (1)

debrain (29228) | about 7 years ago | (#18743183)

Does a project maintainer have an ethical obligation to notify his or her community of a license change? What about a legal obligation?

Ethical obligation: certainly, I would argue.

Legally, it's in the ballpark of something like this:

You cannot change the license on contributions to your project without permission of every contributor.

The enforceability of a license often depends in no small part on the notice of the change. For example, a quiet change of the license obligating you to make retroactive payments for usage, where you would never have predicted this, will likely be unenforceable. On the other hand, a small change in the license that requires redistributers to redistribute source code in an open format such as tarballs is probably enforceable.

An author can be prevented from suing you for breach of license if the author changed the license without telling you, and you reasonably relied upon the prior license not changing to do something reasonable under the prior license. This is the legal concept of estoppel - colloquially, the author is estopped from enforcing the license.

Another concept, unjust enrichment, may also apply. In this case, the author changed the license, and intentionally didn't tell his contributors who kept making valuable contributions, the author may be deprived of his enrichment, because it was unjust, and the contributors may have a right to withdraw their contributions, or have project remain under the old license insofar as those contributions apply (for example).

Mind you, these are common law concepts, and no doubt modified by statutory schemes (e.g. the UCC).

Re:Licenses (1)

cheros (223479) | about 7 years ago | (#18743485)

and intentionally didn't tell his contributors who kept making valuable contributions


To be fair to the guy, he wasn't very keen to take in contributions so that doesn't seem to be a huge problem. I think he could have just been a bit clearer about his intentions, and that includes the realisation that Open Sourcing may not have been quite what he intended to do.

Oh, and acting when angry isn't a good thing either, but we've all been there, I think :-).

The prime problem I can see is that he did something surreptitiously. Any savvy end user is going to ask questions at that point..

The obvious answer to the question is .... (1)

3seas (184403) | about 7 years ago | (#18743205)

absolutely! Yes!

The evidence of this is shown in the development of GPLv3

It's old school to bait and switch.
It up and coming to be Honest and open.

Perhaps honesty and openness was what was needed regarding the concerns that resulted in the flip flop?
Would the flip flop had happened?

Not a Unique Phenomenon (4, Informative)

ThinkComp (514335) | about 7 years ago | (#18743257)

I have been writing accounting software of my own lately (http://www.thinkcomputer.com) that also does taxes, and licensing has come up in the past week for me, as well. I used the PDFlib 6 library with PHP, which I paid over $1,400 for, to create PDF files so that my software could prepare tax returns, and all was working fine until my server crashed in March. I was forced to upgrade to new hardware, which I did, in the form of two Sun Fire X2200 servers running Linux. Installing PDFlib on my new setup didn't work, because even though my server had two processors, and I had a license for two processors, PDFlib detected four logical processors (each AMD CPU is dual-core). This was irritating on its own, but the fact that the newer version of PDFlib, version 7, uses a *different* system-based license (and of course they didn't tell anyone) that makes the number of logical processors irrelevant, means that the PDFlib acknowledge the flawed nature of their original license. When I asked them for assistance, since I needed to get my software up and running again, their response was that I should pay them $2,700 more in license fees for version 6 (more than the cost of the server) or $1,194 for a single-system upgrade to the new licensing scheme of version 7 (more than the cost of the original single-CPU license for version 6). To me, it sounded like extortion, but since the company is in Germany they can get away with it easier I suppose.

Needless to say, I'm never using PDFlib again, and I'm re-writing all of my code to use FPDF (http://www.fpdf.org), which is free, and works just as well. It's even easier to write code for. Stay away from PDFlib!

O Boo-Hoo! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743455)



O Boo-Hoo! The little girlie man gruntled by the big bad Germans!

Re:Not a Unique Phenomenon (4, Insightful)

dinther (738910) | about 7 years ago | (#18743493)

So the lesson is:

Never, ever, ever buy third party libraries without source. Without source you no longer own the solution you create. I have seen it happen many times before and these days I put a lot of pressure of the library vendor with the hard rule, "No source no Sale". Many of these third party library providers have gone out of business or shifted focus to other products. Without source I would be in trouble.

Never, ever, ever buy any software at all that licenses against a specific set of hardware.

Lately I more often contemplating switching OS to get away from the worst black box of all... "Windows" With Vista and the brain dead security rules introduced it becomes impossible to write software.

Gawd you must like crappy software (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743647)


Gawd you must like crappy software. Free stuff as a rule sux!

Re:Not a Unique Phenomenon (1)

sjwest (948274) | about 7 years ago | (#18743879)

Excuse my ignorance here - but neither wishing to defend pdflib, or you what is wrong with the source code that pdflib apparently provides PDFlib Lite source code package http://www.pdflib.com/download/pdflib-family/pdfli b-lite/ [pdflib.com]

Love to know.

Re:Not a Unique Phenomenon (1)

iminplaya (723125) | about 7 years ago | (#18743989)

To me, it sounded like extortion, but since the company is in Germany they can get away with it easier I suppose.

It's much easier in Korea [washingtonpost.com] .

Re:Not a Unique Phenomenon (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 7 years ago | (#18744391)

"Stay away from PDFlib!"
The real lesson here is, stay away from software you don't have the source code to and the legal ability to freely improve and distrbute changes to.

fuck a 5poCnge (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18743881)

Don't walk around Deeper into the opiniMon in other the latest Netcraft sling, return it to significantly handy, you are free brilliant plan part of GNAA if

If it's GPL, doesn't it have to stay that way? (1)

musther (961493) | about 7 years ago | (#18743887)

The GPL says that any derivative works must also be GPL, so if version 1 is GPLv2 and version 2 is anything less than a complete rewrite, then surely it also must be GPLv2 (or later).

Am I missing something, or did this guy try to break the license of his own software?

Re:If it's GPL, doesn't it have to stay that way? (1)

NotoriousDAN (588957) | about 7 years ago | (#18744031)

That rules does not apply to the owner of the copyright; it only applies to licensees.

Haha - Terms and Conditions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18744013)

I found this part rather funny from http://www.sql-ledger.org/cgi-bin/nav.pl?page=misc /terms.html&title=Terms%20%26%20Conditions [sql-ledger.org]

Licenses are there to protect intellectual property however there will always be people who abuse a license thinking that the license gives them a license to steal. You will find people who distribute forks thinking they do anyone good. In reality they are just stealing someone elses hard work and circulating as theirs. Most of the time you will hear that their's is an improved version of SQL-Ledger and the original is a piece of shit.

Notably the last part.

TLUG (3, Informative)

hey (83763) | about 7 years ago | (#18744175)

This was the topic at the recent Toronto Linux User Group meeting.
http://tlug.ss.org/wiki/Meetings:2007-04 [ss.org]
The talk was by a Ledger SMB core developer.
I bought what he said... Ledger SMB is now on Source Forge, reacts to security issues,
accepts patches, is converting to a saner architecture, uses CURRENCY instead of FLOAT for money.
Seems like its a winner.

Re:TLUG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18744595)

ss.org? What next, nsdap.net?

Other Accounts Packages (4, Informative)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#18744445)

There are actually rather a lot of free and open source accounting packages around.

        * Front Accounting
        * Ledger SMB
        * WebERP
        * OpenAccounting
        * TurboCash
                    o Windows
        * GnuCash
        * Personal
                    o HomeBank
                    o jGnash
                    o GFP
                    o Grisbi
        * CK-Ledger
        * Compiere
        * Lazy8
        * Quasar
                    o Linux Canada
        * phpCOIN
        * opentaps
        * Bambooinvoice
        * GnuAccounting
        * phpOrganisation
        * OpenBravo

They are in various states of repair and different markets from the personal to the one man band to the multinational.
 

SQL-Ledger = Cavalier Security (2, Interesting)

The Breeze (140484) | about 7 years ago | (#18744545)

I never even tried SQL ledger, simply because while researching different Linux accounting packages I came across some post by one of the head guys, possibly this "Dieter" doorknob, replying to a user with something very much like the following:

"Well, I wouldn't worry about it. We are not that concerned with security because there's nothing that SQL Ledger works with that would be of interest to anyone except an accountant, and I don't think we need to worry about a bunch of rogue accountants."

That statement alone made me not want to touch the packae, even though it looked very nice otherwise.

Re:SQL-Ledger = Cavalier Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18744695)

"Its like watching a bunch of retards trying to hump a doorknob!"
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