[IMPORTANT] Gephi license: leaving GNU AGPL to BSD?

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jbilcke
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Re: [IMPORTANT] Gephi license: leaving GNU AGPL to BSD?

Post by jbilcke » 15 Nov 2010 20:10

Right - I understand the merits of the true goal of this "GPL bashing" debate : having companies using Gephi, in the hope this will trigger more job opportunities.

You may indeed have more users with BSD. People will have their well-paid jobs, working on proprietary versions of tools based on the Gephi Toolkit.

However, I have now a question: how will you get individuals release their additional work on the Toolkit, if they don't have to because of the licence?

I'm asking that because I think not everyone is a "Stallman", as dedicated to open-source values - why bother to do nice code, documentation, commit patches, release modules, if you already have short deadlines, a lot of added-value features to add, pets and childrens, and too few time?

I believe lack of future contribution is be the real risk, while Gephi still need to grow to become a better tool, and attract more users

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Re: [IMPORTANT] Gephi license: leaving GNU AGPL to BSD?

Post by admin » 15 Nov 2010 20:57

how will you get individuals release their additional work on the Toolkit, if they don't have to because of the license?
I don't know how. But take a look at what happens in practice: but do open source projects fail and become proprietary? No.
Do Hadoop fail for example? No.

I don't know why, but permissive licenses is not a threat. The difference may be that developers of these projects are paid for, because it's part of their job...

MPL and dual licensing are also solutions valuable to consider, but we need to know more about how it works for the second.

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Re: [IMPORTANT] Gephi license: leaving GNU AGPL to BSD?

Post by heldersuzuki » 15 Nov 2010 22:33

At this point I think adoption is much more important for Gephi than the political view behind the license. If companies are able to use Gephi's platform for their own profit I think it'd awesome, because it'll represent a great validation for Gephi and ultimately some of the benefits will flow back to the community.

Even Stallman recognized that adoption is ultimately more important than the license itself when he created the LGPL.
"However, in the case of libraries, we found that insisting they be used only in free software tended to discourage use of the libraries, rather than encourage free applications. So, while we hope the new library license will help promote the development of free libraries, we have to regret that it was necessary."

Gephi as a platform is closer to a library (in the sense of software "linkage"), but I don't know whether LGPL applies.

As I wrote, I suppose there might be already some demand for a less restrictive license, otherwise this topic wouldn't be brought up.
Since it's coming from Sebastien, I trust him (and Mathieu and Jeremy) enough on what would be the best for Gephi, I don't think he should disclose anything concrete (if there's any) because I can't see how it'd help.

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Re: [IMPORTANT] Gephi license: leaving GNU AGPL to BSD?

Post by mbastian » 16 Nov 2010 09:00

I think it's important to precise this proposition is our (and I mean the community) choice and is not motivated by any demand, request, complain or pressure from anyone. Sebastien and I had the opportunity to discuss with quite a bunch of actual or potential users and contributors and this debate is the result of this experience. It's our responsibility to discuss these issues and make the best decision for the project.

To complete, from my experience, the xGPL licenses are obviously scaring companies legal departments a lot. Though when there is nothing to be scared or confused of, for instance when the Gephi Toolkit is just used (linked), many companies will decide to avoid any potential trouble.

Please go on the discussion, the dual-license idea is interesting indeed. The main point is I think to move the core modules to a more permissive license. The core modules are those the Gephi Toolkit is based on. Therefore the Gephi Toolkit would have a typical "library" license. The rest, which is mainly user interfaces modules (not less than 50% of the total code however) could be maintained in a GPL license. That would avoid distribution of forks.

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Re: [IMPORTANT] Gephi license: leaving GNU AGPL to BSD?

Post by aurelienb » 16 Nov 2010 10:31

If I can share two work experiences (in private company). It will offer echo for 'business point of view'. This is not specific to gephi but a generic comment about free software :

1) Big software company : they have a legal team. But only few people. So if your project is small / experimental / not destinated to customer for the 'nexts' month, the unofficial request is to use permissive open source software (they love Apache Licence / BSD). So sometimes people just check the licences. If this is too restrictive regarding 'usage' in the company, the software/lib/piece of code go to the bin.

2) Unlaunched small software company, aka startup : we have no legal team. We cannot have doubt with strict licences so we use only permissive licence.

So in a business point of view, I think people can use gephi but they will rarely change it.

Maybe an idea is to have different licences for the code (example: I use MongoDB, in AGPL, but driver is in Apache licence. If I have to modify something, it would probably be more the driver than mongoDB. And if we have to modify mongoDB we probably send the patch to 10gen, the company which support MongoDB (because their answers / community are very good).
(Of course a database system is not exactly like a Gephi platform.)



But this changement of policy can be curious for gephi developers who have already code for a GPL software. Maybe their aim was to code/integrate the community for a strictly free software and not for a permissive licence.

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Re: [IMPORTANT] Gephi license: leaving GNU AGPL to BSD?

Post by Yestin » 16 Nov 2010 10:32

Hi all,
I didn't care about the license initially until the debate began. I learned something about opensource license, I really admired the philosophy of Richard Stallman.

First,I want to discuss the two questions proposed by Seb.
Efficient development is only possible when someone has a full-time work on the project. It implies a correct salary, so the ability for the community at large to hire. That was the case for Mathieu and I ; that's why we were so fast.
That means if we use a commercial friendly license, companies will take much more effort on the development of Gephi. Our community will also have much more full-time enginners. Of course, the development progress will increase, but this might have some hidden dangers. Not all the companies is as enlightened as company hired Seb and Mathieu, they are not forced to share their source codes with the community. The companies will enclose their codes for their own development.
The GNU xGPL doesn't offer in practice the possibility to create industrial value, not because of the restrictions themselves but because it's too expensive for companies to get it evaluated by lawyers. There is barely no "employability" outside research for our developers to work on Gephi itself.
I don't know why should companies pay for lawyers if they open their source code to public (This is a law problem:0). In my mind, the cost exists because they want to make money by the source code.
Talking about the "employability", If developers work on Gephi itself, he/she can gain lots of programming ability, know theroy of visualization. By those abilities, they can get a good job. They should not only pay attention on companies which need Gephi developers.

On the other side, Gephi is a graph visualization tool, it can be used in many specific domains which might contains some secret. But I don't think the tool itself is secret, the most secret point is the data. If it did need to protect some secret things, we can deal with in this way: Let the companies submit an authoried certification, which can prove the project is a secret project and can't open to public. Before that, we give the administrators the rights to confirm the certification. This might be a new kind of licience.

Basicly, I don't quite agree with migrating license from xGPL to BSD. But any way, Seb and Mathieu is the creator and main developers of Gephi, you have the most dominant on the codes. I will support you whatever the decision is.

I also have some trouble, If we migrating license from xGPL to BSD since Gephi, that means we have two licenses on Gephi0.7. I'm afraid that the road will divided in two ways. Some will continue the xGPL, and others may use the BSD for their own and commerical aim.

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Re: [IMPORTANT] Gephi license: leaving GNU AGPL to BSD?

Post by jacomyma » 16 Nov 2010 17:43

I have a personal case of asking money to a big firm for a free software (it's only one example and it happened 5 years ago).

I developed a tool for Firefox (Navicrawler) and searched money to keep working on it as a part of my PhD. Orange (formerly France Telecom) agreed to give money to my employer to complete the missing funds of the project (enough to support several month of a full time work). I was supported by a head Researcher (D. Cardon, eternal thanks to him) but I still had to pass the wall of the lawyers. I was very clear about the fact that the software would be free and open source, and he totally agreed on that. But we didn't know how the lawyers would react to this. So what happened ?

They asked me if the license could be GPL (!). It was actually the only one license of this kind that they knew (at this time). I naturally agreed on that, and the Navicrawler is ruled by the GPL since... And it was quite easy to make the deal, despite my fears about a big capitalistic firm (where people still tend to suicide these days :cry: ).

My dissonant conclusion, is that GPL might also have some advantages for business, or at least it was the case few years ago (but it may be an exception).

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Re: [IMPORTANT] Gephi license: leaving GNU AGPL to BSD?

Post by admin » 17 Nov 2010 00:41

Just for clarity:

Both Free Software and Open source allow an application to be sold "as it is" by...anybody. Today, you or your company can package Gephi and sell it at the price you want, for the companies you want, with the support you want. The only restriction is to change the name, because Gephi is a trademark and you'll have to negotiate the right to use the name with the Gephi Consortium. To this point, we are in the same situation as the Mozilla Foundation.

----

Now, more from my personal point of view:

I worked hard during two years for the Gephi project - weeks, evenings and weekends. Please don't imagine just a second that the worldwide recognition of Gephi is what it is now just because this is a great software. This is a prerequisite of course, but we also applied online marketing techniques and individual psychology to gain our visibility. These words are here just to remember that the development is not the only work in a software creation. Every contributions are great. So I would have the same position if I had coded a lot.

Surprisingly, I feel okay if someone/company I don't know build products or services the way they wants, and make money with it. And I would love to see a successful product based on Gephi so that this company would have significant benefits.

Why? Because I know that they will need advices, support, pro training, and would even pay me, you or a current Gephi developer to implement the features they need. The more they are able to make money with Gephi, the more they need the knowledge and skills of the people who already know Gephi. By giving the code, we would generate such opportunities that the community in general would benefit from it. The Gephi Open Source project would then attract even more skilled developers to contribute to the project, since they could reasonably expect very good job opportunities, like being hired at LinkedIn...

At the Consortium scale, we would be able to propose job partnerships with companies in a win-win scenario. Imagine that a company would need a shader engine for graphs into their own products, but is not interested by Gephi itself. As the Gephi community is recognized to lead the field of graph viz engineering now, they have interest of our experiences - don't forget that time is money for them. It would be a good deal for them to hire Antonio, for example, and share the code in Open Source so that a large community can test it, give quick feedbacks and real use-cases...The Gephi community would benefit rapidly from an efficient shader engine, and the company to have hired a skilled developer and lowered the cost with high quality. Btw, having opportunities means that you won't need to beg for money anymore - you'll have offerings because of the communication efforts made by the Gephi Consortium.

This is a network approach. You should understand that by lowering the barrier we will have an effect similar to percolation in systems, and business opportunities will suddenly become the rule instead of remaining the exception. The community will gain professional developers who dedicate a regular part of their working time to contribute to the Gephi project, instead of sacrificing their private time to work apart of their _real_ job. If the Open Source paradigm exists and is supported by companies, it is because they have interest in such a system, and keeping most of the work in Open Source cuts development costs for pre-competitive technologies. Gephi is such a technology, as it is mostly used in Research and R&D departments.

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Re: [IMPORTANT] Gephi license: leaving GNU AGPL to BSD?

Post by jacomyma » 17 Nov 2010 08:16

So, you want to switch to another license because it is supposed to foster more business opportunities. I think we all agree on this point: business opportunities are good for Gephi.

So let's address again this question: Why BSD is fostering more business opportunities than xGPL?

I agree on the principle of having more business opportunities. But I don't see why BSD is better (I ask for actual arguments, I ask for pragmatism, I can't make my mind on the basis of a generic theoretical discussion).

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Re: [IMPORTANT] Gephi license: leaving GNU AGPL to BSD?

Post by alexc » 17 Nov 2010 13:44

jacomyma wrote:So let's address again this question: Why BSD is fostering more business opportunities than xGPL?
If by xGPL you mean LGPL then it might be as acceptable as BSD for businesses.

I am new to Gephi, but I've been looking at a range of such products for sometime - they typically costs thousands of euros, but legal uncertainty will cost more and cost of opening all source code can be too high or often just not possible if business licensed some non-open source libraries.

In practice that means that business would prefer to pay money to commercial vendor to get peace of mind, even if they've got inferior product.

I don't think Gephi is one of the many usual open source products - you need to have data to visualise in the first place, this is something businesses do have and they need a tool they can use or build upon.

You actually have a pretty unique chance to get businesses on board - this will fund further development AND help Gephi live up to its full potential.

Another thing you need to consider is that (in my view but I am not a lawyer) your current license for toolkit might not actually help you achieve what you want anyway - effectively (again it's my view) it can be used by a business to feed its data for visualization without making any chances to source code, and thus not releasing anything and yet Gephi won't benefit from funds that could have been made available to it had you offered same toolkit under more permissive license. Once again - I am not a lawyer and I did not consult them as it would cost rather too much - we are not doing anything like this at the moment anyway.

I'd recommend offering toolkit/library for free only for non-commercial, academical usage - anything commercial and you sell license under more permissive license (BSD or LGPL - better BSD as it can cover not just library but front end as well).

Just my 2 cents.

Alex

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