Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
News

Can an Open Source Project Be Acquired? 336

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-just-don't-get-this-one dept.
prostoalex writes "Can an open source project be acquired? ZDNet's Between The Lines says yes, one just did. Software startup JasperSoft acquired Sourceforge-based project JasperReports, which involved acquiring the copyrights and hiring the lead developer for the project." I guess the point he tries to make is that the new corporate overloads can essentially have a free and non-free version of the code, and more or less orphan the free version. The problem of course is that if the non-free version gets good, others will simply fork.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Can an Open Source Project Be Acquired?

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:14AM (#12348274)
    At least in some large parts of the EU, for example Germany and Austria: You cannot sell the copyright to the work you did or give it away in some other way. It's just not possible. But of course you can sell exploitation rights.
    • by Cow Jones (615566) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @12:15PM (#12348915)
      There is no such thing as a "copyright" in Germany and Austria. You're probably referring to the "Urheberrecht", which is a very different concept. It can't be registered, it can't be sold, but it can be passed on to your heirs.
      • by infonography (566403) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @12:54PM (#12349320) Homepage
        For clarification purposes here is the full text translated [216.239.39.104] In Germany one proceeds from a uniform copyright, with which the protection of the material as well as the economic interests are closely with each other connected (so-called monistische theory). Copyright is therefore explained for in principle untransferable. Copyright is by the copyright law and used patent rights ( copyright law - UrhG) of 1965 regulated, last extends by the law for the regulation of the copyright in the information society of 2003 , which particularly with Multimedia applications is concerned. It belongs to the commercial legal protection and thus to private law .
      • by Basje (26968)
        Well, IANALYet, but both Germany and Austria are bound by international treaties to implement copyright:

        a. there's the WIPO Copyright Treaty, to which Germany is a party [wipo.int]
        b. there's the Berne Convention, to which both Austria and Germany are party [wipo.int]
        c. there's the European Copyright Directive, for which the deadline of 2002-12-02 has passed, and thus should be implemented in Germany. As for the last one: European Law was determined in the "Van Gend en Loos Case" to have preference over local laws. So where th
  • What's the problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by javamann (410973) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:14AM (#12348276)
    The original source is still available. Another company is just going to continue on their own line and sell it. If you don't like it you can code to the original.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:21AM (#12348359)
      Open Source Company JasperSoft to Advance JasperReports

      A new company called JasperSoft (http://www.jaspersoft.com) has formed to invest in JasperReports and offer support, services and complimentary commercial products for JasperReports. I will be joining JasperSoft as Founder and Architect for JasperReports. This will allow me to work full-time on JasperReports enhancements, and direct a new team of professional open source developers to accelerate the JasperReports roadmap.

      JasperReports has become more popular than I ever imagined it would. And the community has been demanding a higher level of investment and advancement in JasperReports than I alone can deliver, even working full-time. JasperSoft will help to increase the investment in JasperReports by adding full-time professional open source developers to the project.

      JasperReports will stay open source forever, and its advancement will accelerate with the additional resources now being applied to it. JasperSoft and I are committed to investing in, and building the best open source reporting products available.

      JasperSoft will also offer Support and Services for JasperReports, which a number of JasperReports customers have been requesting. See http://www.jaspersoft.com/services_tech_support.ph p for more information.

      JasperSoft is a new company, headquartered in San Francisco that was formed by a combination of open source and commercial reporting domain experts. We have some of the brightest minds in the world now working on JasperReports. JasperSoft also has a commercial product line, JasperDecisions that will offer complimentary capabilities for advanced functionality to the JasperReports community. The JasperDecisions product line consists of:

      Scope Server: a java server-based operational reporting solution for interactive, self-serve reporting and analytics.

      Scope Designer: a swing-based report designer for Scope Server report development.

      JasperDecisions is currently deployed in over 50 leading corporations and ISV's including IBM, British Telecom, Informatica and the US Department of Defense.

      Today, JasperDecisions is based on its own XML report definition, called RDL (Report Definition Language) and does not support JRXML at this time. However, future versions of Scope Server will have support for JasperReports. For more information on JasperDecisions, see http://www.jaspersoft.com/products_jsps.php

      This is a significant day for JasperReports, which has graduated from an open source project developed and supported by me when I could find time, to an open source product supported by a community of developers around the world, and now backed by a company and a team of professional open source developers who are committed to building the best available open source solution. I hope you will continue to work with me to make JasperReports better than ever.

      Teodor
      • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @02:04PM (#12350109) Homepage Journal
        JasperReports will stay open source forever, and its advancement will accelerate with the additional resources now being applied to it.

        Well, then it's a good thing.

        As a JasperReports user, I can say the system is fundamentally sound and well designed, but squirrely to use. The big picture stuff is great, but it needs a major dose of attention to detail (like documentation for example). It also needs a decent set of design tools. Out of a half dozen people working with this product at my work place, I'm the only one able to have consistent success with it.

        There's no reason this product can't take out crystal reports -- it's basically sound and very powerful, it just lacks polish.

    • No Problem (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mfh (56) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:22AM (#12348363) Journal
      He's talking about the problem that exists when a company acquires an open source project to close it -- but it can't ever truly be closed now can it.

      The problem of course is that if the non-free version gets good, others will simply fork.

      That's only the problem for the company that bought it. It's no problem for any of us to take the open source version and de-orphan it. Having a deep pocket benefactor is actually a positive for open source. Look at IBM. They haven't acquired rights to anything yet, but in the future they may start buying up Open Source projects... you never know.

      But acquiring an open source project can be a solid benefit for any business. This is good when companies take an open source project and fully fund it. That's part of the Open Source dream, IMHO. Money can still be made on services!

      Who cares if it's forked into a closed area? There still is the old source to build on!
      • Re:No Problem (Score:5, Interesting)

        by KarmaMB84 (743001) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:35AM (#12348501)
        And what happens when the lead developer only works on the closed version? Realisticly, most open source projects will die off if the core dev(s) stop working on it. The forking idea is a fantasy for anything other than the most important/popular projects like X.org/XFree86.
        • Re:No Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ScottEllsworth (225538) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @01:38PM (#12349768)
          This is how it should be.

          Open source has two benefits: customers of the product have access to the source, and a wider community can read, change, and improve the source. Announcements like the Jasper ones force the community to decide where they stand.

          Put another way: if the lead devs decide to move, and get paid for their work, then we find out whether the project was robust or fragile. If the community does not step up to the plate, then they did not care enough.

          To me, that is just fine. It makes it clear where we put our time and treasure. Projects that fail for this reason were fragile, depending on the good will of one person.

          Scott
        • Re:No Problem (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 2short (466733)

          The whole point of it being open source is you don't need the original developer. If someone else cares about it enough, they'll become the new lead developer on the open version. The alternative becomes a pretty silly question: If no one cares, who cares?

          If someone develops something cool, and makes it open source, I say good for them. If someone else thinks it's cool enough to buy the copyright and hire them, I'm not going to criticise them for taking the money.

          Normally I hate the open source argumen
      • Re:No Problem (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Total_Wimp (564548) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:39AM (#12348553)
        Who cares if it's forked into a closed area? There still is the old source to build on!

        I think this breaks down somewhat when you consider the importance of the developers. In this particular case, the purchasing company not only got the code, but the lead guy who created and/or managed the code.

        The FOSS community would not have a huge problem on it's hands if some company acquired and closed a branch of the Linux kernel, but there would be much wringing of hands if Linus went to the closed branch and stopped managing the free one.

        TW
      • Re:No Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kfg (145172) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @12:30PM (#12349074)
        That's part of the Open Source dream, IMHO.

        The American Dream(tm) has been a bit perverted of late. It has come to mean getting a Good Job and acquiring lots on money and stuff so that you may hire people to wipe your ass for you.

        This isn't The American Dream. The American Dream was becoming independant, unbeholden to anybody, on one's own property no matter how poor one was, because land and independence is the greatest wealth. The mortgage burning party used to be a big deal. It meant you had bought your freedom. Now everyone will take you for a financial idiot if you aren't indebted to the maximum your creditors will allow, simply because you can't acquire the most money and stuff otherwise.

        Free software is The American Dream applied to "intellectual property." Its dream is to insure that the code remains independent, no matter how poor.

        But you may be right in that the dream of Open Source(tm) is more akin to The American Dream(tm) and that this is the primary division between rms and esr.

        The GPL is still squarely aimed at independence, however.

        KFG
  • by drunkennewfiemidget (712572) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:14AM (#12348280) Homepage
    Many other projects have had large corporations buy them up, fork them, and ignore the free version.

    But as the article plainly says -- and where the real beauty in open-source lies -- if the free version is good ENOUGH, someone else will come along, pick up the pieces, and continue making a better product out of it.
  • I'm sorry, what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:14AM (#12348281) Journal
    You're going to have to give some concrete examples of dually licensed projects where the closed one is worse off than the open one.

    That's a pretty big claim.

    As for open source projects getting bought up, I think that's great for everyone. The open source stuff still remains open and the programmers who worked on the project get some real (read monetary) appreciation for their work.
    • Re:I'm sorry, what? (Score:2, Informative)

      by swv3752 (187722)
      Netscape.
    • Well, it's not great for RMS. Of course he's never had to work for a living.
    • Re:I'm sorry, what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sylvandb (308927) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:36AM (#12348524) Homepage Journal
      Sometimes the code for an open source project pretty much just disappears. I'd say that makes the open version much worse off than the closed version.

      http://dvarchive.sf.net/ [sf.net] or http://www.sf.net/projects/dvarchive/ [sf.net]

      It was GPL licensed, but the original author changed the license terms and managed to get sourceforge to delete everything that had once been available from the SF page. For a year or more he had claimed that he had lost the sources and was going to upload when the new version worked. Obviously that didn't happen.

      I think this happened because the project's primary user base was not open source fans, so very few copies of the source were ever archived elsewhere. Apparently, open source developers were never interested enough to create a fork or even keep a copy of the source while the source was available.

      Now the source simply is not available for the current version (3.x), nor even the last versions which were ostensibly GPL'd (2.1 or 3.0). (The license for the current version is not GPL.)

      It has happened with other projects, and will undoubtedly continue to happen. It won't happen any time soon with Linux kernels or emacs, but when something isn't incredibly popular, it can and does happen.

      My lesson leared from this, is to keep a copy of the source for anything and everything in which I am even a little bit interested. Still get burned sometimes though.

      sdb
    • Re:I'm sorry, what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Redfriar (85415) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:39AM (#12348550)
      I think if you take a look at the TOra [sourceforge.net] project, you'll see an example of the closed fork doing worse than the open one. TOra stands for Toolkit for Oracle, it is a feature competitor to Quest Software's TOAD toolkit.

      I was thrilled when I found TORa, and when I found the project had a windows port. It's DDL/Data extraction is by far the best feature for my day-to-day work.

      At some point, Quest Software hires the TOra developer, and closes the source on the Windows port. I was still so enamoured with TOra that I pestered the Quest sales staff monthly to find out when it will hit the price sheet, so I can buy the now closed version. I don't think they ever intended to sell a competing product, though.

      So, 9-12 months later, the Windows port is defunct [globecom.net], with Quest claiming that all features of TOra are now available in Toad.

      I wouldn't call this a successful acquisition, unless you count Quest Software (for squishing a competing product) or the original developer of TOra (which, I admit, has to make a living some how). Perhaps you could count Mac and Linux users as winners here, as they still enjoy an open-licensed version, whose developer is now on a steady payroll related to the project.

      Had they kept TOra intact for Windows users, and priced it competitively with TOAD, I would have been happy to be a paying customer.
    • Re:I'm sorry, what? (Score:3, Informative)

      by swv3752 (187722)
      Netscape. Worse in Security and worse in bloat.
    • Re:I'm sorry, what? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Goo.cc (687626) *
      How about OpenSSH vs SSH?
  • Yes (Score:4, Informative)

    by kevin_conaway (585204) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:14AM (#12348287) Homepage
    The author answers his own question in the first sentence of the article (emphasis mine):

    Here's a wrinkle that many devotees of open source either don't know about or don't talk about: Open source projects can get acquired by commercial software companies.
    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Qzukk (229616) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:21AM (#12348352) Journal
      either don't know about or don't talk about

      Or don't care about. If you're a user of open source, you're free to continue using the open source version you received before they were acquired. If you're a developer of open source, it's your source to sell or not to sell, depending on how idealistic you are versus how hungry you are.
      • Re:Yes (Score:3, Insightful)

        by maxwell demon (590494)
        And if you are a developer using other OSS for your development, you're also secure because OSS licenses cannot be terminated, except by violating them.
        • You are not secure. You can get nabbed for trademark infringement.

          Let's say Linux gets acquired (bad example because of the number of copyright holders, but I'll use it because it is familiar).

          Let's say you've been making a distribution of Linux.

          They can't take away the license to the code, but the GPL, etc doesn't give you a trademark license, so you are now infringing unless you rename everything in your product from Linux to something else.

          And I have heard of a linux company telling people they can't
          • They can't take away the license to the code, but the GPL, etc doesn't give you a trademark license, so you are now infringing unless you rename everything in your product from Linux to something else.

            I would dispute that - the product you're distributing is in fact Linux. therefore, calling it Linux is not going to dilute anybody's trademark. It'd be different if you made another unix clone and called that Linux.

            And I have heard of a linux company telling people they can't use their trademark recently

  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:17AM (#12348312) Homepage
    I guess the point he tries to make is that the new corporate overloads can essentially have a free and non-free version of the code, and more or less orphan the free version. The problem of course is that if the non-free version gets good, others will simply fork.

    Taco, please tell me you're not really having trouble wrapping your head around this one, and that you're just pretending to be staggeringly obtuse for the sake of, well, whatever reason you'd want people to think that you're staggeringly obtuse.

    If I own a piece of code, I can do whatever the hell I want with it--including sell it to somebody else. It doesn't matter whether or not I've licensed it out under the GPL or other such Open Source license. Unless I surrender it to the public domain, I own that code, and I can license a GPL version, sell a closed version, offer a crippled demo, auction off a signed copy of the source code for a million dollars, and build an extra-shiny-and-nifty-for-my-eyes-only version--or whatever else I'd like to do with it.

    • How much of the code was contributed by others?
    • Don't bother replying to Taco (or any other /. admin ) in the threads. They don't read slashdot. (Or there email, but that's another story).
    • by photon317 (208409) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:32AM (#12348466)

      There are some subtleties that most people don't realize, however.

      For the sake of example, assume a given project has only a single author. Said author owns the copyright to the code, and distributes it to the public in an unrestricted fashion under the terms of the GPL.

      If a random member of the public wanted to fork/commercialize his code, they are bound by the GPL to keep re-releasing their changes under the GPL. However if the original Author wanted to fork his own work and make a commercial effort out of it, he can do that and make his future contributions proprietary, as the GPL doesn't apply to the Author himself (he didn't license it to himself, he owns the copyright to begin with).

      Therefore, it is entirely possible for an individual author to write and maintain a peice of free software for years, and then fork his own work into a proprietary commercial derivative that nobody has any future rights to the code of except him. What he cannot do, of course, is revoke any code he already published under the GPL. This leaves his user community able to pick up the work from the last GPL version the Author released and continue the effort under the terms of the GPL.

      However, most significant projects have multiple Authors, and all of the Authors would have to agree on this course of action in order to do it. That's why such a thing can't really happen to a body of work like glibc, gcc, or the linux kernel: there are far too many authors with the copyrights in the code all over the place, and you could never get them to all agree to come under one commercial roof together and make a proprietary fork.
      • by maxwell demon (590494) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:45AM (#12348616) Journal
        Well, actually for code in the GNU project (GCC, glibc, etc.), you have to assign copyright to the FSF in order to contribute your code to the official version. Therefore from a copyright perspective, the FSF could actually make any such code proprietary. Of course actually it cannot anyway, because part of the copyright assignment contract is AFAIK that the FSF contracts not to do that, so if they did it anyway, it would be breach of contract (which is unrelated to copyright). Not that I'd suspect the FSF of a desire to do so. ;-)
      • It's essentially why this sounds like scare mongering to me.

        I take these finer points about the GPL to be good things.

        "Acquiring" an open source project and "orphaning" free code are just inappropriate adjectives for the everyday, ordinary activities of developers coming and going from a FS/OS project.

        Add to this, as you point out, the difficulty of developing a consensus among copyright owners and although the article is basically correct, this journalist is starting to sound especially desperate to be
      • The FSF describes [fsf.org], generally, how assignment of copyright to the FSF works for GNU projects, but I am having a devil of a time finding a copy of the assignment questionnaire that they mention.

        Does anyone know what this thing looks like? Surely it involves more than emailing the maintainer and saying "I assign the copyright of my contribution to the FSF?"

        • Found it. Here's an example [madnom.com].

          So why is this not easily accessible at www.fsf.org?

        • by k98sven (324383) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @12:23PM (#12348999) Journal
          The FSF describes, generally, how assignment of copyright to the FSF works for GNU projects, but I am having a devil of a time finding a copy of the assignment questionnaire that they mention.

          Yes, that's because the FSF purposefully doesn't have them available online. The reason is that the FSF has several different assignment forms depending on what kind project you are contributing to (e.g. original work or an implemenatation of something else), on what kind of contribution you're making (new original code or old code) and depending on whether your employer (if any) possibly has claims to your work.

          Too many people were filing the wrong forms, and it was wasting time.

          Does anyone know what this thing looks like? Surely it involves more than emailing the maintainer and saying "I assign the copyright of my contribution to the FSF?"

          Yes, they want a paper form, signed and mailed. Typically it'll require you to confirm that all your contributions are your own original work and that your employer does not have claims to your work.
          (This being the form for original contributions where the employer has no claim. If you have an employer who might have a claim they want a different form where the employer waives all claims.)
      • However, most significant projects have multiple Authors, and all of the Authors would have to agree on this course of action in order to do it.

        I'm very curious about this.

        If I'm a developer for a comercial, proprietary software vendor then all the code I write become property of the company. That's pretty straight forward.

        If I did volunteer coding on the library web site, I would assume (but don't know for a fact) that my work would become the property of the library unless other specific arrangements
    • Agreed,

      It looks like these guys followed the proper channels. Bought the rights and hired the author. This is the same procedure as any other SW project (like a shareware author).
    • There is nothing factually inaccurate in the article, and the finer points that you list are listed in the article itself. So what are you ranting about? I know, no-one reads the article, so mod me down for not repeating the /.-basher's mantra.
      • There is nothing factually inaccurate in the article, and the finer points that you list are listed in the article itself. So what are you ranting about?

        There's nothing wrong with the article. It's the writeup that irks me. I'm ranting about the fact that Taco is either:

        1. Truly incapable of comprehending a very basic tenet of ownership rights, or
        2. Putting on airs of befuddlement to make a perfectly innocuous transaction seem byzantine and threatening.

        Either Taco has a dullard's grasp of one of the most

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:18AM (#12348316)
    We've always known that an author can remove the license on software they wrote. Of course, that doesn't change YOUR license, and they do still need to provide access to the source if it was under the GPL, specifically, when you got it. However, they're under no obligation to give you updates or changes from future versions of their own code.

    So, the corporate buyout angle is a red herring. This is no different from any developer taking their ball and going home.
  • Is this anything like a company buying another? Like how Novell bought SuSE?

    Technically, all that makes a "project" a "project", is the fact someone's coding on it. Hire the coder, have him sign something to turn the license for the software over to the company, and poof, ownership is transfered.

    So what's the whoop here?
    • Re:I don't get it. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tassach (137772)
      So what's the whoop here?
      None at all. Taco's trying to drum up ad impressions by posting an intentionally inflamatory article. Push the GPL Violation hot-button around here and people get more worked up than a bunch of Southern Baptists do over gay marriage.

      Can we moderate an entire story as "Flamebait"?

      • Re:I don't get it. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bsd4me (759597)

        Can we moderate an entire story as "Flamebait"?

        No, but people with mod points can refrain from moderating any posts in the story. It may not do much, but it's something.

  • by redelm (54142) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:20AM (#12348333) Homepage
    Once out, the licensor of GPL code has no way of withdrawing the licence.

    Sure, the corp can buy the original copyright (and maybe some important later contributions) but that only gives them the ability to relicence the code.

    Practically speaking, they'd have to make substantial improvements/service (ala sendmail) or market to the uninformed before the product would be saleable. And any improvement likely could be added into the free tree.

    • The owner can't withdraw the license of previously published code, but they can certainly change the license on subsequent releases.

      (This assumes that the code has a single owner. Code with many significant contributors will need to have all of the contributed code rewritten before it can be relicensed.)
      • But wouldn't any subsequent releases be in fact based on--let's say for argument--the GPL, and therefore must have the resulting (subsequent) source code released under it as well?

        Wouldn't the same apply if a company decided for fork a commercial version?

        Is this what the pundits call the virality of the GPL? Personally, i feel it's the virility of the GPL that matters anyway. ;-)
        • The point is the original author's possession of the code isn't under the GPL. It doesn't apply to the copyright holder.
        • by mindstrm (20013) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @12:06PM (#12348812)
          No.. as the original author of some code, I am not bound by the GPL.. it's MY code, I can do whatever i want with it, including license it to whoever I want under whatever terms I want. The GPL is irrelevant to me.

          The only thing I can't do is revoke the GPL from code I've already released.. you are still free to distribute that code as long as you follow the terms. I myself, however, have no obligations towards you.

        • No. Because they bought it from the guy who wrote it. He *owns* it and then licenses it to you. Since he *owns* it there is no license for him. Becuase he *owns* it and did not license it from himself. The General Public *License* clearly only applies to code that you license from someone else and not code that you *own*.

          Now he can't take away your license but he can do whatever he wants with code that he *owns*. As others have pointed out there might be problems with code that other people have put into t
      • Or just have all contributors consent to relicensing.
  • by Evro (18923) * <evandhoffman@NoSpAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:20AM (#12348346) Homepage Journal
    If Bob writes a program (owns the copyright on 100% of the code) and releases it under the GPL, and then later decides to sell his project to some random guy, he is free to do so, but the people who have the GPL'd version would still have full rights to do with it everything specified under the GPL.

    If Bob writes a program, releases it under the GPL, and incorporates contributed code into the project, that's another can of worms. I would think if he wanted to "go private" with the code base at that point he would need to get the permission of everyone who contributed any code, much like Mozilla did. If he couldn't get their permission he would have to rewrite those chunks of code.

    Of course, IANAL, but that's what logic would seem to dictate; though logic has little to do with most software licensing schemes...
    • If Bob writes a program, releases it under the GPL, and incorporates contributed code into the project, that's another can of worms. I would think if he wanted to "go private" with the code base at that point he would need to get the permission of everyone who contributed any code, much like Mozilla did. If he couldn't get their permission he would have to rewrite those chunks of code.

      This isn't necessary if all contributors assign copyright to one entity. That's the FSF's policy, for example.

  • ... actually probably for BSD licensed code also, but my point is that even though the code is GPL, the copyright still belongs to the author. the GPL only allows anyone to copy/modify the code as if the copyright were their own. That is, the GPL gives non-copyright holders permissions that they would otherwise not have.

    The copyright remains and the author can sell his copyright to someone who can then close the source. Whatever was already released will always be GPL, but the copyright holder always ge
    • With BSD licensed code, ANYBODY can make a proprietary fork of the software. This is probably why Bill Gates loves having other people release their code under a BSD license but hates it when they release their code under the GPL license.
  • Doesn't it also depend on the size of the project and consent of contributors?

    I mean sure for a handful of developers on a small project it'd be pretty easy to acquire the project, assuming none of them were OS zealots. However, good luck trying to acquire something as big as, say, the Linux kernel.
  • by dutchd00d (823703) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:22AM (#12348373) Homepage
    According to http://jasperreports.sourceforge.net/message.html [sourceforge.net]:

    JasperReports will stay open source forever

    So it's probably premature to cry wolf.
  • by dominator (61418) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:23AM (#12348374) Homepage
    If you are a copyright holder, you've always been able to reassign copyright or relicense your work. This is not earth-shattering news just because it's a FOSS work being relicensed. Relicensing FOSS code is far more common than you'd think.

    The good thing here is that the original work is still covered under the TOCs of its original FOSS license, so the original author and others can continue making improvements and otherwise maintain the software.

    Otherwise, move along. Nothing to see here.
  • So what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by spiritraveller (641174) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:23AM (#12348383)
    Yes, like any software project, someone can come along, acquire the copyrights and rerelease it under whatever license they want.

    The difference with open source is that you have to track down individual contributors. With any popular open source project, it's going to be very difficult to find and get all those contributors to sell you their copyrights.

    Even still, versions released prior to the buyout would still be subject to the GPL (for example) and only new versions could be made non-free.

    Yes, it can happen. No it isn't anything to worry about.

  • by Noctrnl (110574) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:24AM (#12348389)
    Ok, so, a company bought up an open source project and put the lead developer on the payroll... How is this an inherently bad thing? Yes, I'm fundamentally pro-OSS, but one of the basic ideas is that it makes for better code. It just seems like the purchasing company in this case is taking a step in that direction by buying up a good project and paying a good developer.

    Having said all that; I really hope it's not a continuing trend.
  • It can be tricky... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spoke (6112) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:28AM (#12348434)
    It can be tricky to acquire the Copyright an open source project if there are multiple developers involved, as each one will need to agree to the aquisition.

    Unless each developer who submits code to the project also turns over the copyright to a single entity, it can only take 1 developer to dissent and prevent the aquisition from happening except under the terms of the original license.
    • That's always been a question of mine about the GPL. If someone makes a contribution, do they share copyright with the person who originated the project? If I say fix a typo in some comment somewhere would I have to give permission for any change in the copyright status?
  • This is essentially what Borland [borland.com] did with Interbase [borland.com]. Check the Firebird [sourceforge.net] web site, especially the project history [sourceforge.net] and you'll see how Borland changed their mind but only after the cat was out of the bag.
  • They bought the copyright. The GPL is just a license to use copyrighted work. They own the copyright now, and they can license it however the hell they want. Including using a Microsoft-style EULA.

    The point is that this is probably the last Free version of this software -- and is the source of the last available code to fork, ever. If the company so decides, nobody will ever get to see source to the newer versions.
  • Does that ring a bell? How about PhP? This was news a few years ago.
  • he says it will remain open source and they will sell enhancements. This seems similar to JBoss. It is open source, BUT if you want consultants, training, or 24x7 support it costs. This is really not a bad way to develop business around open source. For the folks that will read the free docs and figure stuff out on thier own great. For the Corp types that must have training and 24hr support thats there as well.
  • If a company hires the developer (whether "lead developer" or not) of a project and that developer takes the GPL'd source code and creates a new closed source project out of it for this new company he works for, he can't distribute the new program without also adhering to the GPL... his program is based off of an older version of itself that contains GPL'd code.

    Isn't that correct?
    • No, he ows the copyright, so he can do with it whatever he wants - including to start a commercial fork.

      Others could not do that, but the copyright owner can!
    • by slcdb (317433) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @12:08PM (#12348841) Homepage
      IANAL, but I though I'd add to the other poster's comments, just to clarify.

      The creator (aka "lead developer") owns the copyright to the software. The GPL does not transfer ownership of the copyright. All it does is license the software for others to use. GPL or no GPL, the copyright stays firmly in the hands of the creator.

      The creator, of course, does not need to license the software to himself. That would be silly. So the creator, unlike everyone else, is NOT obligated to abide by the "licensee" terms of the GPL. The creator must still uphold his end of the GPL, which is to ensure that the software AS IT WAS when it was licensed to the licensee remains licensed to the licensee as long as the licensee abides by the terms of the GPL.

      However, the creator can re-license NEW versions of the software under any license he chooses.

      In theory, I imagine you could create a license which could restrict the creator's rights to license future versions of the software. This would be akin to a "promise" to not license the software EVER under anything but, say, the GPL. The GPL as it stands, however, has no such clause, and I can't imagine that most creators would want to tie their hands in such a way.
  • According to the JasperReports page [sourceforge.net]:

    A new company called JasperSoft (http://www.jaspersoft.com) has formed to invest in JasperReports and offer support, services and complimentary commercial products for JasperReports.

    Unless, of course, he meant "complementary"...

    Seriously, the above statement seems to be saying that they will be offering mostly support and add-ons, not taking the core product private. The JasperReports software is currently under the LGPL [sourceforge.net], so there is some assurance that the original will still be available in the future, if anybody cares enough to fork the project.

  • Take a look at SourceForge. The project was acquired by some company and abandoned.

    Another company forked, and brought us GForge, which incorporates SVN and other improvements. Too bad GForge isn't used by the SourceForge site itself.

    Food for thought.
  • Tora anyone (Score:2, Informative)

    by IvanHo (767188)
    Quest basically acquired Tora to kill-off one of the biggest "competitors" to their Toad product.

    A GPL version is still available from
    http://sourceforge.net/projects/tora/ [sourceforge.net]

    But, for how long? Will development continue?
  • by EvilStein (414640) <spam AT pbp DOT net> on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @11:57AM (#12348726) Homepage
    Remember that little piece of software called SpamAssassin? And Vipul's Razor?

    Both "bought up" by corporations, but the free versions are still very much alive and kicking.

    At least these JasperSoft folks have tried to answer the obvious questions and they'd continue with the free version.
  • How is this news to anyone? I must be missing something. Yes, an open source project can be acquired if every contributor agrees (licensing the their contributions to the company under a different license). And even then, the last free version is still around to be used and improved. I don't think this is some big "threat" to open source, given that it would only be feasible in a project where there weren't any major contributors to the project devoted to keeping it open. Sure it's possible, and it may

  • OpenH323 is an open source project that was acquired by a company in CA, Quicknet. For a while, the lead developers from Australia also worked for Quicknet. Quicknet also open sourced their telephony driver, getting it into the Linux kernel. Though, they are not the shining example they started out as; however, this forum is not the place for that discussion.

    One thing to be wary of -- when a corporate entity takes over an open source project, the health of the project may become linked with the health of t
  • I have never heard of anything like this before.
  • by Arkan (24212) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @12:25PM (#12349020)
    The article author should have checked the relevant URL: http://jasperreports.sourceforge.net/message.html

    It says, black on white, that the company "(...)called JasperSoft (http://www.jaspersoft.com) has formed to invest in JasperReports(...)". "Has formed to invest in". Not "has bought the project". The project has spawned a company, that it.

    Again, a wannabee journalist spinning some "news" on the basis that its brainwashed readers won't read the original announcement.

    Could some please teach those guys how to read, and how to report unpartially?

    --
    Arkan
  • by emptybody (12341) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @02:29PM (#12350374) Homepage Journal
    Sendmail [sendmail.org] has a commercial [sendmail.com] product with a bunch of features for people who like that sort of thing.

    Course their pricing is off the wall.
    I couldnt believe the FUD their sales skunks were telling the windows fools in my previous job.

    I convinced the company to save the $Kash and we went with the standby from sendmail.org.
  • by hpj (26910) on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @02:57PM (#12350642) Homepage
    I was the main developer and copyright holder to the open source project TOra (Still on sourceforge at tora.sf.net) and it was acquired and I was hired by the company Quest Software.

    One important aspect was that all code (I was carefull about getting copyright to any patches I applied at the time) was owned by me and I was the only person with CVS write access. Otherwise it probably wouldn't have been posible.

    Also, at the time I lived in Sweden (Which is part of the EU) so the talk about this not being posible in the EU is simply not true since I've done it.

    What happened with the purchase was that Quest forked the code and the designs and in some parts the code was used in Quests own projects. The original project is still very much alive and active though.

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.

Working...