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Dear Matt Mullenweg: An Open Letter from Wix.com’s CEO Avishai Abrahami (wix.com)
210 points by yoava on Oct 29, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 170 comments



This response still doesn't address the core issue:

The Wix mobile App uses GPL code but the rest of the source code of the app has not been made public so far as required by the GPL. At least they missed to add a written offer to distribute the source code. If they will publish the source if someone requests it has to be seen.

When it comes to attribution it gets more difficult. As far as I understand the code from Wordpress is under plain vanilla GPL 2 without any supplements [1], so attribution is not required.

[1] https://github.com/wordpress-mobile/WordPress-Editor-iOS/blo...

EDIT: If anything, this whole controversy shows one thing: Open source licenses (particularly the GPL) are still not widely understood.

(I assume ignorance on WIX's side).


From the lead developer:

https://medium.com/@talkol/how-i-found-myself-accused-of-ste...

> I know some developers are scared of using GPL, apparently for a pretty good reason. The WordPress GPL Rich Text component in question, is actually a wrapper around another Rich Text component named ZSSRichTextEditor which is licensed MIT. In retrospect it would have been easier to use it directly.

https://github.com/nnhubbard/ZSSRichTextEditor

https://github.com/wordpress-mobile/WordPress-Editor-iOS

So, Wix built a wrapper for a GPL piece of code, which was just a wrapper for a MIT piece of code. According to this tweet[0], the only thing Wix needs to do is to assign a GPL license to their code...but alas IANAL.

[0] - https://twitter.com/nitrogen/status/792486850845773824

EDIT - From the OP's blog:

> When you embed and use GPL code, you have to release the entire thing as GPL. (That’s why it’s called a viral license.) So they need to release not just their changes to the editor, but the entire app that was distributed.


The WordPress-Editor-iOS GPL license should be invalid, because it includes the sources from the ZSSRichTextEditor project which is MIT licensed.

Which specifically has a clause:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

edit: reading the readme.md in the WordPress-Editor-iOS project, they list the following projects that were used in the codebase:

  ZSSRichTextEditor (License MIT)
  CYRTextView (License MIT)
  HRColorPicker (License BSD)
  jQuery (License MIT)
  JS Beautifier (License MIT)
Instead of retaining of the licenses for the projects. They removed the licenses, and replace it with the GPL license.

IANAL - I think that is not how you re-license someone elses project.


Are you saying that someone took MIT licensed source code, removed the copyright, and then licensed it under GPL?

[edit: I guess with your edit that is exactly what you are saying, so how can it be legal to pull that stunt?]



Actually, the LICENSE file is for their project (which amusingly, he seems to have gone from the original GPLv2 to MIT a year earlier: https://github.com/wordpress-mobile/WordPress-Editor-iOS/com...).

Even at that time, the source code included from the other project seems to have the embedded MIT license notice (e.g. https://github.com/wordpress-mobile/WordPress-Editor-iOS/blo...).

And in the README.md they have attribution, mentioning the licenses of the underlying dependencies.

tl;dr: The LICENSE file is for this project, not the underlying libraries they copy-pasted in (which other than say the png files, seem to have their MIT/BSD info in them).


That's a good reason to include license terms in each file. I don't think that Wordpress people were malicious here. The LICENSE file usually contains the global licensing terms (as seen in many GNU projects). Each source file should still contain the license or a mention of the license. MIT-like licenses are usually put verbatim in each files, while verbose licenses like GPL just get a pointer to the LICENSE file.

On some files, the MIT license is correctly present at the top of the file:

https://github.com/wordpress-mobile/WordPress-Editor-iOS/blo...


Good find.

Any source file found before Mar 20, 2015 should be covered by Neil Stoker's copyright and the MIT license. This includes WordPress derived code.


MIT license doesn't cover derived code. Only attribution is needed.


But that doesn't mean you can strip out the license either.


Well, you can relicense the MIT-licensed code. They might have had to include the text of the MIT-licensed component license, but that would still have no effect on the license of the derivative work - it would be GPL.


That license change would only apply to the changes and additions, any of the original code would still be MIT licensed, also if the changes are trivial then the whole re-license might fall through.

Copyright would still lie with the original authors as well, after all sub-licensing allows you to pass on the rights that you already have, but does not give you any new rights.

Since the MIT license is mostly a super-set of the GPL you will lose some of the MIT parts if you sublicense but if you wish to gain more rights than what the MIT license already provides you with it will likely not work when tested in court. The best way to deal with stuff like this is to stick to the original license unless you have consulted with an IP lawyer that signed off on your plan, it is very easy to get these things subtly wrong.


There were over 1000+ commits made in over a year -- all of those changes and improvements are GPL. (You can make GPL mods to MIT code and release those all as GPL.) If Wix had used the original ZSSRichTextEditor they would have been fine, but they didn't.

The key thing to understand is that being “compatible” with the GPL means that you can take code written under an MIT license , and put a GPL license on it if you want to. The MIT license allows for this, but, the reverse is not true. The GPL does not allow you to take GPL code and change the license to MIT, and it definitely doesn't allow you to take open GPL code, and make it proprietary.


You can include MIT & BSD libraries in a GPL-licensed app but you can't include the resulting GPL work back into an e.g. BSD-licensed app. Same as you can include jQuery in a proprietary app which has its own license.


You cannot remove someone else's copyright and license.


The MIT/BSD licenses are explicitly compatible with re-licensing derived works in this way. The GPL is not.


They may be compatible but you cannot remove someone else's copyright and license from their source code. They specifically say you must include the license.


Wix is still in the wrong though. Saying your vendor is in violation of their license doesn't give you any right to violate their license.

I anal but I don't think this nullifies WordPress' GPL.


Wix may still be in the wrong, but WordPress is definitely in the wrong for removing copyright and license. IANAL but both of these companies would look awful funny in court because disregard for other people's licenses doesn't help your case when someone disregards your license.


As far as I can see the files that were originally under MIT still have their original copyright statements intact, as comments above illustrate. Which files are you alleging have had their credits removed from?


In this case the WordPress-Editor-iOS retained the copyright notice in the file copies from the ZSSRichTextEditor project. But did not include the LICENSE file.

Also the wordpress-mobile developers mixed their source code with the MIT licensed one. Just one LICENSE file I can find in the WordPress-Editor-iOS.

The MIT/BSD projects are not separated out. I think they can claim GPL license on their created code, but that has to been clearly identified. Easier if they removed the MIT/BSD components, and make them git submodules.

In addition, the wordpress-mobile developers created code do not contain a copyright notice.


> The MIT/BSD projects are not separated out. I think they can claim GPL license on their created code, but that has to been clearly identified. Easier if they removed the MIT/BSD components, and make them git submodules.

Using MIT licensed projects doesn't require you to keep the code for the parts you've adopted eternally isolated from your own. If that were a requirement, that would entail an inability to make any improvements without also distributing those improvements under the MIT license―which is directly antithetical to the permissiveness that the MIT license aims for. The parts do not have to be easily separable.[1]

To be clear: mixing MIT source into a project (whether by copying files, or by copying snippets) and distributing the result under a license that is not MIT is something that is absolutely kosher. The only requirements are that you have to reproduce the MIT license text and any corresponding copyright notice somewhere when you start distributing the thing to other people. Look into what Google and Apple do with Android and iOS or type about:license into Firefox for three really great examples of how to satisfy the requirements of third-party projects when incorporating others' code into a project with a license that differs from the original.

The only thing Automattic is in the wrong with here is to have linked to the licenses and copyright notices of the original project rather than include a copy of if inside their own distribution, which is arguably a faux pas in some circumstances and in some circles, but it's easy enough to remedy and no court would ever award past damages for it.

1. For a license that does work like that, i.e., a weak, file-based copyleft, you can look at the MPL. http://mozilla.org/MPL/


The WordPress-Editor-iOS GPL license should be invalid

If the license is invalid, then default copyright terms apply, which means nobody can use the editor at all. Remember that licenses - yes, even the GPL - grant rights, they don't take them away.


> I’ve spoken to some [WordPress] engineers… They even gave me a WordPress T-Shirt.

OK, that sounds like permission to violate the GPL to me!

Edited to add: My sarcasm would be dickish if either of these guys from Wix actually addressed the core issue instead of responding with nothing more substantial than “But I thought we were friends!”


If he's calling the people who work on WordPress engineers he could probably plead ignorance.


>> When you embed and use GPL code, you have to release the entire thing as GPL. (That’s why it’s called a viral license.) So they need to release not just their changes to the editor, but the entire app that was distributed.

Incorrect. Your code can be licensed under MIT Expat, Apache 2, whatever, but you must still respect the terms of the GPL which means providing the complete, corresponding source code.


Exactly. Regarding "everything we improved there or modified, we submitted back as open source", unfortunately the GPL doesn't let you redistribute code after modifying it while only releasing the modifications. I guess "we will release the app you saw as well" may mean that they'd open source the whole app and thus be compliant, but it's unclear.

Also the fact that the company was once also known as "Wixpress" is easy to verify [1], not sure why he would contest that.

[1] http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/AMDA-29IDMU/0x0xS1193...


It's unclear under copyright law whether distributing the bundle of [code that calls GPL'd code + GPL'd code] makes the entire bundle fall under GPL [1].

It's pretty clear that if you modify some GPL'd code, you have to relicense that modified under GPL. It's not clear whether that holds when all you did was call the GPL code for a different product.

There're two main possibilities here:

1. The entire bundle is a derived work; under the terms of the GPL, derived works must be copylefted under GPL. This is the FSF's position as stated on their FAQ.

2. Wix's code + the GPL library is a 'mere aggregation', as defined by the license. Their only obligation is to distribute the library itself, along with modifications, under the terms of the GPL, but not their own code. For example, Linux distributions redistribute GPL + non-GPL code together, without making everything GPL.

None of these questions have really been tested in the courts.

[1] http://www.epiclaw.net/2012/01/31/combining-or-linking-propr...

PS: There's also a third possibility, which is that the whole thing is a derivative work, but calling the library falls under fair use.


> It's unclear under copyright law whether distributing the bundle of [code that calls GPL'd code + GPL'd code] makes the entire bundle fall under GPL [1].

My recollection was that GPLv3 made it so that if you included any GPL code, you had to opensource the entire. That freaked people out, so there was another GPL, LGPL meant mainly for libraries and other code that is linked into your code, so you won't have to release your code if you just linked against it. Of course, you'd have to release the modifications if you modified the LGPL'ed code to use it in your own.

IANAL, etc.


Yes, the LGPL explicitly says that you're allowed to link.

But the converse, that linking implies a derivative work under GPL, has never been adjudicated in a US court.


The Apple iOS AppStore effectively prohibits GPLed code. So Wix is in hot water two ways. Clever of the CEO's blog post to not even mention the GPL.

"Yes, we did use the WordPress open source library for a minor part of the application (that is the concept of open source right?)" -- ha ha no.


What TOS claim license and no reuse to this, which they can't. The distribution of the app through the App Store links to developer site. The Wix landing page (developer site) carries a link to Wix terms which state:

2.2. You undertake and agree NOT to: (caps mine) copy, modify, create derivative works of, download, adapt, reverse engineer, emulate, migrate to another service, translate, compile, decompile or disassemble the Wix Website, the Wix Services (or any part thereof), any Content offered by Wix or Third Party Services for use and display within User Websites (“Licensed Content”) and/or any part thereof in any way, or publicly display, perform, transmit or distribute any of the foregoing without Wix’s prior written and specific consent and/or as expressly permitted under the Wix Terms;

So they're claiming proprietary license to Wix Services and no reuse of work that contains WP code which they cannot under the terms of the GPL.


Out of curiosity, why is GPL software prohibited on the app store?


The FSF argue that the App Store's ToS restricts app redistribution and therefore is incompatible with Section 6 of GPLv2: "You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein."

Similar language is contained in each GPL and GPL-alike license.

http://www.fsf.org/blogs/licensing/more-about-the-app-store-...


> The FSF argue that the App Store's ToS restricts app redistribution and therefore is incompatible with Section 6 of GPLv2: "You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein."

I anal but why would it restrict recipient's exercise of the rights? I believe as of iOS 10, you can compile your own apps on your iPhone without paying an Apple tax and I imagine the apps have source code publicly available in summer git repository probably on GitHub anyway?

I don't think the argument is that you as a developer are prohibited from using GPL code on apple app store. The argument (rightly) is that you should not participate in that ecosystem because it is a serfdom but then emacs exists on Windows which despite all the overture of "Microsoft loves open source" didn't come even close to saying in practice "Microsoft loves free software". Such is life. You can't win them all, Charlie Brown.

tl;dr I anal but I don't think the GPL prohibits you from putting your app on the app store. Just make sure you somehow give the source code to everyone who installed the app.


> I anal but why would it restrict recipient's exercise of the rights? I believe as of iOS 10, you can compile your own apps on your iPhone without paying an Apple tax and I imagine the apps have source code publicly available in summer git repository probably on GitHub anyway?

In order to download apps from the App Store, I have to agree to the App Store terms of service. Those terms say that I will not redistribute anything I download from the App Store. That is a "further restriction" that makes distributing on the App Store incompatible with GPL.

That I might be able to get a redistributable copy via some other mechanism, such as compiling the source code from the developer's GitHub repository, is completely irrelevant.

It is worth noting that this is different from the case where GPL software is included in physical goods. For instance, if some membership discount store sold you a router that contained GPL code, and part of your membership agreement with the discount store was that you could not resell items purchased there for three years, there would be no GPL problem (assuming that the membership store is just buying the routers from the manufacturer and passing them on).

The difference is that when you distribute your app on the App Store, you only upload one copy to Apple, and then Apple makes a copy of that every time someone downloads. Since Apple is making copies, Apple needs permission of the copyright owner, and so GPL is relevant.

The membership store is not making copies. They are just receiving the copies from the manufacturer and passing those on, one to one, to their customers. The first sale doctrine applies, and so the membership store does not need the copyright owner's permission, and so the license terms are irrelevant.


The thing is, the copy you get from the App Store is encumbered by the ToS licensing terms, which conflicts with the GPL. That you can get an unencumbered copy from Github doesn't fix that.


I don't understand the distinction. Does that mean any DRM encumbered store would also automatically be in violation of GPL? I'm thinking steam, origin, or any store that doesn't like you sharing binaries with others.


Depends on their specific Terms of Service. Some GPL software is distributed through Steam, so the platform itself apparently doesn't have mandatory rules like that (or nobody complained yet, although I remember some press when they forgot to include a GPL license notice a while back, so people have at least been looking at it). Just because the platform can do DRM doesn't mean it's not compatible with GPL code, if proper exceptions exist.

If they blanket-apply restrictions to usage of all software redistributed through the store, then yes, they are incompatible.


AFAIK it's because all app store apps have proprietary DRM by apple, and since it's built into the app, it would be violating the GPL to distribute the app without also releasing the source code for apple's DRM.


That seems more pedantry from the FSF than anything else.

You are perfectly free to distribute the source code to an app you publish to the App Store. The fact that binary compiled from said source code is digitally signed is ... neither here nor there.

By that rationale, PGP signing source code would fall afoul of the same, after all, which is the bit that is compiled - the signed code, or the unsigned code?


>You are perfectly free to distribute the source code to an app you publish to the App Store.

But the GPL states that when a user receives a binary, they may request the complete corresponding source code to that software. That doesn't mean most of the code, minus this proprietary bit that handles DRM.


By that reasoning, you couldn't use any compiled GPL software on Windows, either, since the code will be linked with Microsoft's runtime libraries (which are decidedly not FOSS).


The GPL has a system libraries exception that covers this.


Wouldn't the DRM handling system be considered a system library, thus falling in the same exception?


"Yes, we did use the WordPress open source library for a minor part of the application (that is the concept of open source right?), and everything we improved there or modified, we submitted back as open source ..."

That is not the concept of the GPL though. They need to release the source for the entire derived work, not just that one component. It's not Wix's choice -- it's required by the license, and the act of incorporating code under that license makes them bound by it.

For a letter written by a CEO, this one seems strangely oblivious to the real issues. Did he run it through the legal department at all? (Presumably not, since it's the weekend.)

Abrahami writes: "If you believe that we need to give you credit" -- but that's not the issue at hand. It gives the impression that he doesn't understand the differences between open source licenses, and that can be a serious liability for a company that builds so heavily on other people's code.

[Edit] I actually wish the GPL were finally tested in court, because that would resolve a long-standing question around its enforceability. The CEO of Wix admitted that the derived work in this case contains "more than 3 million lines of code"... The copyright owner of the GPL'd module could sue them to have all that released under the GPL, and (assuming Wix wouldn't comply) then we would finally know if the license holds up in court or not.


> The CEO of Wix admitted that the derived work in this case contains "more than 3 million lines of code"... The copyright owner of the GPL'd module could sue them to have all that released under the GPL, and (assuming Wix wouldn't comply) then we would finally know if the license holds up in court or not.

The copyright owner would win, but all they would likely get out of the court is an injunction stopping Wix from distributing the infringing product and monetary damages. They would probably not be able to force Wix to release source code.

If the GPL code is just a wrapper around MIT licensed code, as has been claimed, Wix should be able to quickly change their code to use that MIT code directly instead of using WordPress' GPL wrapper.


That would still be a major victory for the GPL. To my knowledge it has never been tested in court in the USA.

Everyone knows that the GPL is being commonly violated by companies that just don't care and developers who don't understand it. Any US legal precedent around GPL would be welcome.


If as some have commented, parts of the MIT license attribution were removed, Automattic might not have been legally allowed to distribute the software either. At which points the involved lawyers would have a field day trying to figure out how binding a license is that you use for distribution of works that you are not allowed to redistribute.


Say again? The Netfilter case was the first and is famous. Harald Welte vs. Skype was another.


You're quite right -- I was thinking about US only, not worldwide. Will edit to correct.


I suspect the reason those cases have been in Germany and not in the US aren't simply that Harald Welte happens to live in Germany, because the US surely has people who would like to put up a fight.

I guess a big part of the reason is that suing in Germany is costly, but not "you'll be poor for the rest of your life" costly.


WordPress isn't even properly GPL-licensed. No license in the top-level app file [1] [2]. The included license file doesn't selectively attach itself to all relevant files, and not to source files that have a different license [3]. WordPress contains copyrighted material that's definitely not GPL-compatible [4], so even if the previous points are considered irrelevant, it remains questionable if the source can be distributed under the terms of the GPL at all [5].

[1] https://github.com/WordPress/WordPress/blob/master/index.php

[2] https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-howto.en.html

[3] https://github.com/WordPress/WordPress/blob/master/license.t...

[4] https://github.com/WordPress/WordPress/blob/master/wp-conten...

[5] https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html See term 7.


IANAL and I'm not intimately familiar with the US legal system but I'm pretty sure the license applies to all code not explicitly covered by any other license, even if it's not added as a file header (otherwise all similar projects in which the license is merely distributed as the LICENSE file and referenced in the README would be unlicensed too). Term 0 actually only says a notice must be placed in the "program or other work" -- placing that notice in the readme seems sufficient if the readme is part of the program/work. The suggestion of how to apply the license is explicitly just a suggestion or recommendation, not a requirement.

The existence of non-GPL plugins without a proper exemption however might be problematic for re-distribution of the bundle in other GPL software. It could be argued that the plugin in question isn't part of the code covered by the GPL but then the official Wordpress distribution itself is obviously also not entirely GPL and can't be redistributed fully under the GPL.

For an example of partially GPL-compatible software re-distributed under GPL consider the program formerly known as IceWeasel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_IceCat (a modified version of Firefox minus the proprietary branding).


It's interesting that the Broadway play opened on January 16, 1964, just 16 days after the starting date for automatic renewal of copyright set by the Act of 1992. Had it opened just a couple of weeks before, and not renewed¹, it'd be in the Public Domain by now.

¹ Only 15% of works were renewed after its initial 28 years of protection, which just goes to show the insanity of the current default duration.


Copyrighted song lyrics are not gpl compatible? Well, hmm. Do you have a better example, say of included code under an incompatible license?


The bigger problem is that the lyrics are probably in direct violation of copyright unless they were used with permission. They shouldn't be part of the GPL code unless the copyright holder has permitted that too.

As it stands there semm to be two readings from this: 1) the plugin is not part of the GPL code and de-facto unlicensed ("All rights reserved"), meaning the plugin can not be included in GPL redistributions of Wordpress; or 2) the plugin is part of the code and the code is therefore not eligible to be distributed under the GPL in the first place.


No, they could sue to bring them in compliance with the license.

ONE of the options to be in compliance may be to release the entire project GPL.

Another option may be to simply remove the offending code.

And the losing side (or settlement) may include attorney's fees.

There is no clause to the GPL that says "if you break our license even once, we get your project!"


I'm not a lawyer, but Section 5 of GPL v2 states:

"5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it."


"Another option may be to simply remove the offending code."

This would remove their dependence upon GPL'd code, thus obviating applicability of the entire GPL, including section 5.


Deleting a pirated movie you downloaded doesn't absolve you of the original copyright infringement.


The music and movie industries have changed tactics in that they go after the uploader/sender of a copyrighted work. And you would be correct that a simple "oh, sorry, I'll stop sharing that" would probably not suffice to remediate a case that's gone to court - the damage is already done: those that downloaded can't 'unwatch' the movie, and a sale can probably be proven to have been 'lost' as a result.

However, we've seen software copyright cases over source code being remedied in this exact manner. Courts take the type of IP into account. Perhaps a judge might think if the code can simply be replaced without tremendous effort and without drastically affecting the end users' experience, then that infringing piece of software probably wasn't that instrumental in the full app and thus the monetary benefit to the infringer from the infringing code wasn't all that great. Further, in GPL infringement cases, I don't know that the owner could demonstrate damages; we'd be stuck with a punitive award from the court. And here's the rub: GPL hasn't gone to court in the US.


> Perhaps a judge might think if the code can simply be replaced without tremendous effort and without drastically affecting the end users' experience, then that infringing piece of software probably wasn't that instrumental in the full app and thus the monetary benefit to the infringer from the infringing code wasn't all that great.

Exactly. If Wordpress can make a case that the code was integral to Wix's product (maybe even to the point that the product is considered a derived work under copyright law, not just in the GPL sense) or that violating the license gained them an unfair market advantage, they might be able to sue for damages.


Isn't that exactly what it does if enforced to the letter? That's exactly why companies not building SaaS applications have historically been cautious about it. Of course it comes down to the definition of "derived" and how a judge and jury interpret that.


My point was if there was a breach of the license, there are a variety of options to become compliant.

The leadership of each group may negotiate and find a solution. If that doesn't work, they'll hire lawyers who will attempt to negotiate a solution. If that doesn't work, it may go to court.

Saying "it must be resolved by X" is premature at best.


The GPL has been tested in court and the license holds up. I suspect many cases actually settle because they were not winnable for the violator and they were looking at substantial damages if the case came to trial. In this case there's usually some kind of confidentiality agreement [1].

If you ship GPL code and don't release sources for the entire derivative work that is a very shaky economic model.

[1] http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2012/novembe...


Nit: Wix is based in Israel, where the weekend runs Fri-Sat (because Sabbath) and Sunday is a normal working day. Although the blog is timestamped Oct 29 (Sat), which is during the weekend in any case.


It has been tested in court. Not all aspects, but there is no question as to whether it is enforceable.


Hasn't the GPL been tested in court repeatedly?


Not in US court. All US cases so far have settled. Though given that the pro-GPL side is usually just looking for compliance, not $$$, those settlements suggest serious doubts about winning in the minds of the alleged violators.

There have been a few in German court (Hellwig v VMware most recently). And probably some in other jurisdictions as well.


The fact that GPL cases often settle does not mean the GPL is weak. In fact at least in some cases it's because the violators know they will lose and have no motivation to proceed to trial.

Also, "pro-GPL" suites play out a little differently than many people suppose. The plaintiffs are not necessarily looking for compliance but trying to collect license fees. To pick an obvious example, let's say you develop an app with Oracle MySQL using the MySQL client libraries. By linking to the MySQL libraries (for example the Connector/J JDBC driver) your application has become derivative. If you ship a binary you now either need to release all derivative code under GPL V2 or pay Oracle a commercial license fee.[1] However, if you just ship with the Oracle driver and don't release code your GPL license automatically terminates and you are now liable for the commercial license fees.

This kind of case is open-and-shut if the copyright owners get a copy of your binary with linked libraries. This is also the kind of case that should never come to trial unless the plaintiffs are really greedy or the defendants somehow don't understand their legal quandary fully. Start-ups often use GPL for this reason--it's a powerful inducement to license.

[1] https://dev.mysql.com/downloads/connector/j/5.1.html

Edit: on the license fees, if you don't have a license you might owe payments going back years. The sum can run into the millions depending on the extent of violation, not to mention legal fees, disruption of having to do discovery, etc.


I don't think it has actually been "tested" in the true sense here. I believe every known case has either been settled out of court (so the court hasn't even had a chance to adjudicate), or has been decided based on some other technicality (like unclear authorship/ownership of the original).


The post being referenced: https://ma.tt/2016/10/wix-and-the-gpl/


Thx for posting. Seeing that this wasn't linked in the "Dear Matt" letter made me wonder if it was left off accidentally or on purpose.

IMO, it looks like the response didn't really address the core complaint of the original letter. Not conclusive, but makes it seem less like an accident.


Neither the CEO or the developer linked to the original. That's definitely on purpose.


For me I see Matt as an dog trying to mark what is his and slapping GPL license on top of everything. If so I would like to see some of the woocommerce plugins released publicly as it falls under GPL


WC plugins are 100% GPL. If you take a delivery of a plugin, you get all of the source code, and have all of the freedoms to use / modify etc. as WP itself.


The whole situation with large amounts of "premium" plugins that apparently are GPL for the most part (or at least should be) but don't like to talk about it, include all kinds of license activation features and are split into a separate "free" version with reduced feature set and advertisements splattered all over is a little strange. It's also very off putting when you're used to the typical way open source is developed and distributed.


My point exactly...


Yea, this is a question of GPL Licensing and Matt is right. WordPress and Automattic have both been huge proponents of open source and without GPL existing I would not be able to make a living (as well as the millions of software engineers in the world who use OSS every day).

The GPL is pretty clear about using GPL software and creating derivative work (i.e. an iOS app that, in part, uses GPL Licensed code) then distributing it to others, that you have to also include the source code along with the GPL license.

Wix should just open source the app and put an end to this - as it's obvious that they're violating the terms of the license.


Well, or they could just stop using the GPL code.


They still need to comply with the GPL for the software they have released to date.


What the hell is this these are companies that make millions of dollars a year arguing on the weekend with public blog posts. This is what lawyers are for. I automatically assume if you try to argue online you're in the wrong and are counting on public opinion to save you.


Not even lawyers, just raise it as an issue and try to work something out before yelling "Stealing Code" all over the internet.

There are so many packages, libraries & dependencies out there that missing a GPL requirement doesn't imply it was done on purpose.


> missing a GPL requirement doesn't imply it was done on purpose

This doesn't sound like the typical "junior dev who doesn't understand licenses added a GPL dependency" situation. Especially considering Wix's reply.

If you're arguing that nobody at Wix understands the implication of software licensing you're arguing all of their senior developers are unfit to hold senior positions.

A basic understanding of software licenses (i.e. at least Unlicense/CC0 vs MIT/BSD/Apache2 vs LGPL vs GPL/AGPL) is one of the first things I expect every junior developer to learn when working on a company product that involves third-party code.

This is either a rookie mistake (in which case Wix should have owned up to it and fixed it), malice or ignorance. And I'm not sure ignorance would save them any more respect than malice.


Or, posting online before contacting each other directly? Incomprehensible to me.


WordPress has GPL license and not LGPL! This means that if Wix uses/links ANY part of WordPress, the whole Wix should be under GPL license and source code must be made public because Wix is distributed and not used internally only (GPLv2, http://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/15878...)


How about linking to your own wrapper library which would be custom licensed in addition to GPL ?

closed_binary (closed) --> libW (GPL+custom) --> Wordpress (GPL)


libW in this case would pretty clearly be a derived work in this case, so would also need to carry the GPL license.


True but libW also has custom licence relieving closed_binary from make-it-gpl requirement. Unless GPL forbids libW to be anything but GPL'd.


That's why it's called a "viral" license. If your code directly links GPL code, your code is now GPL code too.

This is different from the non-viral LGPL (and MIT/BSD/whatever) which permits linking without "infecting" the linking code.

There's a handy workaround that is 1) never actually distributing the linking code or 2) putting the code behind a network interface and talking to that instead of linking to the code itself.

Both of these mean you're not "distributing" the infected code, so the requirement to publish the source code is not triggered. The second workaround is addressed by the Affero GPL which also requires source code to be published as an interface rather than as a distributed binary.


I was already aware what you have posted which ofcourse did not answered my question. What I came to know now is, from GPL-3.0/5.c

> This License gives no permission to license the work in any other way, but it does not invalidate such permission if you have separately received it.

which does answer it.


It does.


Given that this is from the CEO of a public company, it does not reflect well on WIX. CEOs set the tone for the rest of the company. Mr. Abrahami should have had the issue investigated and if what Wordpress says is true (and it looks like it it), apologize and take corrective action. That probably means removing the mobile app from the App Store while they rewrite parts of the app. Or they can release the source code. There really aren't other options.

I've worked with and for several large software companies. They have all taken GPL licenses very seriously. Mistakes can occur but GPL is not something they trivialize.


> "we did use the WordPress open source library for a minor part of the application"

Well, now you must release the source code of that whole application, immediately. There's no argument to be had, no "I did not even know we were fighting" - there's no fight, just legally binding requirements on what you release.


The GPL doesn't force your hand; "you have to release your code" is never the case. You can always just stop infringing :)

(IANAL, this is not legal advice)


Isn't the alternative admitting you have committed copyright infringement?


Yes, but that only entitles you to monetary damages, which may be small in this case.


Monetary damages can be in the amount of the infringer's profits arising from the infringement.

[The following is copied and pasted from a Common Draft annotation:]

Consider the case of Frank Music Corp. v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 886 F.2d 1545 (9th Cir. 1989) (Frank Music II): [1]

+ The MGM Grand Hotel had a floor show called Hallelujah Hollywood!, which included ‘tributes' to various MGM movies.

+ The floor show incorporated significant portions of the musical Kismet, which had been made into an MGM movie.

+ The court found that this went beyond MGM's ‘movie rights' and therefore infringed the copyright in the musical.

+ The resulting damage award included not just a portion of profits from the floor show itself, but 2% of the overall profits from the MGM Grand's hotel operations — including 2% of the casino profits — which, the court found, were indirectly attributable to the promotional value of the infringing floor show.

[1] https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=169034711262654...


Why do you think the monetary damages are small? Going head-to-head against a company that is apparently valued over $1billion by stealing their source code sounds expensive.


Depends on if it's determined to be "derivative" right?


The weird snarky passive-aggressive tone of this is really off-putting to me. "Hey dude, we'e released some cool stuff, check it out, maybe your business can use it"


"...that is the concept of open source right?"


I think the weird tone or writing style is because the authors first language isn't English


Wait. What's going here?

I've been reading some of the HN comments in response to this story and it seems you guys are saying that ANY codebase built on WP must be visibly released to the public.

So does that mean, millions of WP sites with custom mods must relase release their code in some capacity? If so, where? And how am I supposed to declare where the sourcecode can be found--a dedicated page on my site, a comment in my HTML?

I'm really struggling to understand how the guys at Wix are the villains in this story. It seems every year Mullenweg issues a Fatwa in response to some imagined violation of WP's GPL licence. He's really becoming quite belligerent over this crusade of his.

Seriously, do we all need to release our source code if we build stuff on WP? If not, why the hell is Wix getting so much shit?


It's more about distribution. So if you make some changes and keep it on your server you don't have to show the code to everyone, but if you release a plugin for third parties to download, then everyone who gets the download should be able to read, modify and distribute the plugin code under the same license. In this case the app is distributed to phones.


That gets a little iffy, though. If your custom plugin distributes CSS/JS/HTML to browsers, does that count?


If your custom plugin distributes its output, no. Generally speaking, the output of a GPL'd program is not also subject to the GPL (quines notwithstanding.)


WordPress's JS (and I'd argue its CSS/HTML) is much more integral part of the code for the system than mere "output", IMO.


Indeed. I was hoping to elicit some clarification and left out some of my own: if JS, CSS & HTML are part of the GPL'd product, I'd agree that those parts qualify as being 'distributed' to users.


It's about "distribution" of the software - which means that if a WP site is modified, and then given out to people to serve on their own servers (like a product that is based on Wordpress that contains for example, a ready made/installed curated set of plugins + themes), then this entire product must be opensource with the GPL.

If you are a person just running a WP site, using some custom plugins, BUT are not "Distributing" it, then you are ok.

The loophole of course is deciding whether sending out the html/css/js output of the site over the web to a visitor of your site counts as "distribution" (which is current "Not" by usual readings / interpretations of the GPL)


>So does that mean, millions of WP sites with custom mods must relase release their code in some capacity?

Yes. WP plugin developers who charge for their plugins cannot reasonably attack people who bundle and resell/redistribute those plugins. GPLclub and other "resellers" of the plugins get a lot of crap from WP developers for pirating their work but it's very clear that this is not how it works.

EDIT: This is assuming you distribute/sell your plugin.


The controversy here is over a mobile app where distribution is much more clear cut. My understanding is that "visiting a site" doesn't count as distribution and and that the AGPL was created to close that loophole.


If they distribute the code, then yes. However, hosting an application on a webserver you control is not considered "distributing" for the purposes of the GPL, AFAIU (this is the loophole the AGPL was created to fix).


If you modify wordpress then yes, if you write an external add-on then no akaik.


If you modify wordpress and distribute it as a software, right? Correct me if I am wrong but, if you modify wordpress and host it on your own server and serve it as a service you should not need to share all your code.


Yes, there are GPL licenses that apply to SaaS but the vanilla GPL (at least v2) doesn't as far as I know.


And wordpress does seem to have the vanilla v2 license


It is always amusing for people to debate about 'open source' and how licenses work. They, as the CEO of Wix has, repeat the same misunderstandings time and time again. You don't need a lawyer. You don't need an opinion. Set aside 15 minutes of your day and actually read the license. It is not complicated.



WOW DUDE

Clearly a great opening line. If you write an open letter, try not sounding terrible in your letter.


> There are more than 3 million lines of code in the Wix application

This always bugs me and feels disingenuous. Should I count all the modules/gems in my app? (A quick check of a Rails app found about 1.4mloc but about 25kloc is code I wrote - which should I count?)


I think Wix is a superior product for many businesses, but this post did not address the question of GPL violation.


> If you need source code that we have, and we have not yet released, then, most likely we will be happy to share, you only need to ask.

Well, the initial blog post makes clear what source code Automattic thinks they (and everybody) needs...


Matt hits on part of the issue clearly in his update on his post.

"I will say we look to Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace as innovators in the space with products that reach many small businesses, and Wix especially should be commended for its success and growth as a public company."

It is unfair to take the best parts of your competitors work and so freely use it while ignoring the overall scope of the license which permitted you to do so in the first place, pretending there isn't long established precedent. If Wix wasn't a successful competitor, nobody would know about their use of this code. Nobody would care.

Personally - it is why I love the GPL. I removes code from the equation because everyone who takes distribution has the code. So for services and apps, defense comes through excellence in execution, not defense through proprietary code (since running something successful requires so much more than simply code). It's why companies like to defend their market positions through proprietary code. They are afraid (and know) someone else could do it better, so they protect their investment at least by making someone else have to do it over as a hurdle to entry.

Anyone can take WordPress.org, make a WordPress.com-like free blog hosting company, and completely compete with Automattic. Many try to with their own stacks, and clearly are not doing as well as WordPress.com. That's telling, and why Matt is in the right.

My opinion is that it is a complete sin to include the good work of your competitor in your proprietary code. It is very revealing about the greediness and capacity of Wix's management to pull something like this. Even if they try to come off as good guys. They are hiding something bad. Why?

No company this dishonest should be trusted with anything. If I was with Wix, I would move to someone else on principle. So ... what else are they doing? What are they doing with your information they have about you then? And I will for sure highlight this behavior to people I know who use Wix.

Their only course of action to fix this is to admit their error and to fully open source their code. If they decide to retreat and remove the GPL'd code, it is a greater admission of what they were trying to do in the first place behind closed doors, and were just "unlucky" enough to get caught.

Shame on you Wix. Fix it. I have pity on you for falling victim to Wall Street's greed. You owe the internet more than that.


It seems like there are misconceptions about the GPL in both Wix posts.

It's interesting that Wix advertises "Start Your Own Stunning Blog" to customers:

http://www.wix.com/start/blog

but they are using WordPress for their own company blog.


People should realise that Matt also has for profit company Automatic and it's mostly defending his cash cow rather than spirit of open source.

Also speaking about originaly MIT licensed editor code which suddenly becomes GPL: Taking someones work adding modifications on top and slapping different license on top wildly unethical. As it benefits only the person who slapped GPL on top. As I know if you use GPL licensed code you must have GPL license. At least in wordpress case: https://wordpress.org/about/license/. So author can not use the improvements Automatic engineers made while using his library for profit.


Very true. Automattic have heaps of closed source code to run their proprietary platform and they don't release that to the public, yet they demand it from others.

Mullenweg has a history of "do as I say not as I do" in regards to GPL, and to my mind it's a bit of sour grapes on his part.


Distribution changes this. They do not distribute WordPress.com for download. They do distribute WordPress.org


Automattic doesn't do anything with WordPress.org but contribute to it.

WordPress.com uses a lot of WordPress.org code and other open source code (that they wrote and distribute), but I imagine there is a lot of (probably stupidly ugly) back end stuff they have not released that helps them run a service as huge as WordPress.com ... but they aren't distributing it so... if they did, I am sure they would do so under GPL.


This is pure obfuscation. He doesn't even mention the GPL in this post. He's legally obligated to release the entire application, and is probably scrambling now to find an Apache or MIT-licensed alternative to the WordPress editor.


The tone of the response really rubs me the wrong way.

> Wow, dude I did not even know we were fighting.

It's not a fight; it's a dispute over licensing.

> you say we have been taking from the open source community without giving back, well, of course, that isn’t true.

No, you were accused of not following a specific license on a specific piece of code.

> Here is a list of 224 projects on our public GitHub page

Open source is not a swap meet; you can't violate a license if you voluntarily release some other code to make up for it.

> and we will release the app you saw as well.

If that means "we were inadvertently not in compliance, but we are releasing the code and will be in compliance shortly", then that needed a tweet at most, not a rambling blog post about the fact you've got 224 projects on github. So I'm guessing this does not mean they're taking steps to become compliant?

> Yes, we did use the WordPress open source library for a minor part of the application (that is the concept of open source right?)

Yes, along with following the actual terms of the actual license when you use an open source library. You weren't accused of not adhering to the spirit of open source; you were accused of not following the letter of a license (which, if true, means you aren't adhering to the spirit of open source either).

> If you need source code that we have, and we have not yet released, then, most likely we will be happy to share, you only need to ask.

That's...what they did. You need to comply with the licenses of the libraries you use, you were asked to do it. You will "most likely" be happy to do it? You were asked; you're replying to being asked, and your answer is that you don't have an answer, but the odds are good that you'll have one someday? What does this even mean?

Considering the sheer mass of words, it's amazing that the word "license" and "GPL" don't occur even once. There's no attempt to address or discuss the actual accusation being made, just vague assertions that some stuff will be released someday, maybe, if you're asked, and hey how about a coffee.

All this needed was a tweet: "Thanks for heads-up; will be compliant shortly." Or maybe: "On advice of lawyers, we believe we are in full compliance, thanks." Reminds me of an old lawyer joke: If the facts are against you, hammer the law. If the law is against you, hammer the facts. If both are against you, hammer the table." I'm going to mark this down as "table hammering", and I think it rather sugests that Wix, at least, thinks their position sucks.


You know what? How about we discuss the tone of Matt's blog post too.

>I started playing around with the editor, and felt… déjà vu. It was familiar. Like I had used it before. Turns out I had. Because it’s WordPress.

No, it's only one open source library. Claiming an app is wordpress because it uses a shared library is like claiming Postgres and Apache webserver are the same because they both use libc. There's also a subtle claim of brand infringement here.

>If I were being charitable, I’d say, “The app’s editor is based on the WordPress mobile app’s editor.” If I were being honest, I’d say that Wix copied WordPress without attribution, credit, or following the license.

Not quite. Wix has given attribution and credit on their Github page. They have only failed to comply with the license terms.

>You can see the forked repositories on GitHub complete with original commits from Alex and Maxime, two developers on Automattic’s mobile team

Yes, that's called a git submodule with proper credit and attribution. If the commits were somehow rewritten to omit the author's information, THAT would have been a grave offence. Wix' publishing of the (partial) derivative work at the very least indication this was due to ignorance and not foul play. Yet Matt follows on with:

>Wix has always borrowed liberally from WordPress — including their company name, which used to be Wixpress Ltd. — but this blatant rip-off and code theft is beyond anything I’ve seen before from a competitor

Let's bring up an unrelated matter (which is debatable at best and irrelevant to software licensing) AND imply the whole thing was intentional and with malice. Not that it stopped Matt from using the "I could have gone to legal but maybe it was an honest mistake" argument in the comments later on. Note the use of the word "competitor".

What we're seeing here is not a license dispute. It's a quarrel between rival CEOs. If Matt really cared about compliance with GPL rather than bashing Wix he could have simply published a blog post saying "Hey Wix, I think you made a licensing mistake, how about you rectify it", or perhaps send an email to that effect - that would have been the honorable thing to do.


I think that was very well done by the Wix CEO. It doesn't matter that he doesn't seem to understand GPL. His job is not to put out a blog post saying yes, we're idiots, liable for everything. His job is to put out a good look for the company, and then deal with this behind closed doors. This is meant as a fluff piece, and he knows better than to provide any definitive statements on what Wix will do, that they could be held too. Again, positive spin, and handle the rest in private.


Judging by the response here, he didnt put forward a good look.


I don't think we are necessarily the specific target audience. If so, he probably would have done a better job with the technical details.


IANAL, but these guys are also not (but I think wix.com did consult them).

The WordPress component in question is based MIT license which might not included in valid way as GPL and Wix.com is using that component. I assume Wix.com's layers told them that this component cannot be protected under GPL so they are ok to use them.


The Wix CEO previously left a comment or two here in this thread but I see he has removed them. I think the heat is on, it is clear that he not only did not follow GPL but actually accidentally admitted to that in this own blog!


Really? I don't see any deleted, dead or even flagged comments in this thread (I have showdead on).


I definitely saw one last night, and I've looked for it again here today and I do not see it.


FYI: Wix has tooling for verifying their OSS policy https://github.com/wix/wix-oss-ci-police


In other words: don't use that tool because you shouldn't trust Wix with handling OSS licensing correctly?


Does Avashai Abarhami know what an "open letter" is?


I hate GPL. I don't want to publish my crappy code and make a fool of myself. No-one would want to use it anyway. I would be extremely impressed if they could even understand anything with all the esoteric and ugly hacks it exist of.


Most people who are seriously involved in open source know that GPL is ironically one of the least free licenses. So, basically, if any company wants to incorporate a GPL product into their project for distribution, they would have to essentially make their entire project's source code public also under GPL - Which is a completely undesirable thing to do for any company. The bad part about GPL is that it applies to everyone except the licence owner.

GPL is just the FSF's way of saying f* you to companies who didn't bother to read up on what GPL actually means. It doesn't actually fulfil its purpose as an open source license - It just puts all the leverage in the hands of the license owner.

Hypothetically, if the GPL also applied to the creator of the GPL product THEN it would be fair - But that's not possible because the creator would never sue themselves for breaching their own GPL.


> GPL is ironically one of the least free licenses

This is a common misunderstanding as you are talking from the perspective of a publisher, rather than that of an End User.

GPL is about enforcing the rights of End Users, not Publishers. So, from a End Users perspective, GPL is more free than say MIT as it gives the end user the freedom to look at and change the code of software that they are running. This takes away the freedom of the publisher to keep code secret.

MIT provides more rights to a Publisher than the End User as it allows the publisher to do pretty much whatever they want, but removes freedom to look and modify code from the end user.

It is all a matter of perspective, wherein lies the confusion.


> MIT [...] removes freedom to look and modify code from the end user.

Er, what? What's stopping the end user from just downloading the source code? The MIT license applies to them, too. Sure, they aren't guaranteed the source code of a derived work, but they are informed about the origin of the MIT-licensed source code (per the terms of the MIT license).

The problem with distinguishing between "publisher" and "end user" here is that - under the free software and open source philosophies - the two roles are one and the same. Anyone end user can be a publisher. It's thus nonsensical to claim that the MIT licenses (and other non-copyleft free software licenses) themselves somehow "remove" freedom from anyone.


> What's stopping the end user from just downloading the source code?

Ah, the ambiguities of the english language! You are talking about the original code, whereas I am talking about the derived work.

If the Publisher of a derived work chooses to not grant permission, the End User does not have the freedom to look/modify/redistribute the code of software derived from MIT licensed work.

> "publisher" and "end user" ... under the free software and open source philosophies - the two roles are one and the same

This is incorrect. Whilst it is true that sometimes the same person is performing both roles, the the roles can be mutually exclusive. I can use a piece of GPL'd software without publishing it. I do it all the time with Linux. The GPL is about protecting a person using the software as an End User (not "use" as in using it to create a derived work). The GPL gives freedoms to one role, and takes from the other.

Your statement:

> Sure, they aren't guaranteed the source code of a derived work

Is not compatible with:

> It's thus nonsensical to claim that the MIT licenses ... "remove" freedom from anyone.

It is clear to me that the ability for an End User to inspect, modify and redistribute the software that they are using is more free than not being able to inspect modify or redistribute at all.

Edit: It is true that the end user hasn't "lost" anything (or had it "removed"), as they never had the thing before the derived work was published, but they are certainly less free under the two hypothetical situations. Once again, the english language proves to be a tricky thing for me to wield, not matter how much care I take!


> Ah, the ambiguities of the english language! You are talking about the original code, whereas I am talking about the derived work.

Right, but when talking about freedoms regarding a specific work, the derivative works aren't really relevant, since my (as an end user) freedom to use/modify/redistribute/etc. the original work remains unhindered.

Likewise, my choice to release software under an MIT-like license does not in and of itself detract from end users' freedom; what downstream projects do with my code is not my concern so long as my in-code copyright notices are maintained. For all I know, my code is being used in projects with GPL or MPL or CDDL or Artistic License 2.0 or BSD-style or Apache or what have you licensing terms.

> the roles can be mutually exclusive.

That's not what "mutually exclusive" means. "Mutually exclusive" means that you can either be an end user or a publisher - never both. The whole philosophy behind FOSS dictates the precise opposite of mutual exclusion; the "Four Freedoms" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Free_Software_Definition) make this very clear.

Sure, you might happen to be one or the other, but the point is that free software empowers you to be both at the same time. By restricting one's freedom as a "publisher" (as you say), you're inherently restricting one's freedom as an "end user".


> the derivative works aren't really relevant

Um... why not? If I am the end user of a work derived from some GPL code, then having the freedom to see/modify and re-distribute that code is valuable to me. From the very start of this thread I have been talking about protecting the freedom of the end user. Perhaps an example can help?

But first, let me give an example of what I mean by "End User". I do not mean a programmer who "uses" GPL'd code by making changes to that code to make a derived work to redistribute. I mean someone who uses a piece of software to perform a task. e.g. Using LibreOffice to type up a document.

Now for an example of a derivative work where GPL adds freedom for the end user, but takes it away from the publisher:

I use Ubuntu on my desktop as an End User. Ubuntu is a derived from Debian, which is derived from GNU/Linux, a GPL licensed work. Because Debian and Ubuntu are derived from GNU/Linux, they must also be licensed under the GPL. As an End User of Ubuntu, I have the freedom to examine/modify Ubuntu's source code. The Ubuntu Team has to let me do it because of the GPL. If GNU/Linux was licensed under MIT, Ubuntu could be published as a closed source, proprietary software. I could still use Ubuntu, but I would not be free to look at the source code, modify it or redistribute it. True, with Ubuntu licensed as GPL, I am not free to package up my own closed source variant of Ubuntu, but neither would I have the freedom to do so if Ubuntu was closed source.

> That's not what "mutually exclusive" means. "Mutually exclusive" means that you can either be an end user or a publisher - never both

I concede that I have used that term incorrectly. Perhaps I am wrong in thinking this, but I suspect most people would have been able to glean what I was attempting to convey, but perhaps my use of english is too clumsy for me to communicate what I wish to convey.

> By restricting one's freedom as a "publisher" (as you say), you're inherently restricting one's freedom as an "end user".

What I am saying, and have been from the start of this thread, is that GPL is designed to put some freedoms above other freedoms. It's like the saying "Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins". Unlimited freedom cannot exist for everybody, under all conditions. GPL puts more importance on the freedom to operate/examine/tinker than to publish. The fact that an individual can have both their freedom increased and decreased at the same time does seem paradoxical, but when you realise different freedoms can be in conflict with each other, it does make sense.

Ok, I think I've probably written enough. I do understand what you are saying. The GPL takes away some freedoms. I hope that what I have written has convinced you that it grants you some freedoms at the same time.

Cheers and have a great night!


GPL is not about the end user. GPL is about the software.

The end user doesn't care about modifying the source code. And if the end user did care, the end user would also care about being able to chose a permissive license for their modifications. Because then the end user would be the same as the "publisher" you're talking about. This means there is no dichotomy between the "end user" vs the "publisher".

The GPL is about the freedom of the software, not the rights of the user. It effectively proclaims software as a common good that is inherently unownable. It does this for a philosophical ideal of a greater good (the popular comparisons with communism are obviously hyperbolic but not entirely unreasonable).

Making this about the "end user" vs the "publisher" is incredibly intellectually dishonest. MIT and friends grant the user of the code more rights by definition because the user can re-publish their modifications under a different license (without impacting the original code so nobody "loses" anything).

The irony is that this actually makes the GPL a useful tool for commercial publishers because it prohibits competitors from creating private extensions to the GPL code without making them public -- while the original copyright holders can still keep their non-GPL copy of the code around and make private extensions to that without having to obey the GPL (as long as they don't include any modifications others have made to the GPL code directly).

Heck, the common standard practice of corporate open source projects is to have all external contributors sign a CLA that effectively grants the company direct rights to the modifications outside of the project's license, allowing them to redistribute the modifications under any license they see fit.

The GPL is a restrictive license. It makes more restrictions on how the licensee can use the licensed work. This serves a moral ideal, yes, but don't kid yourself that this isn't restrictive.

It's like saying democracy is freer than anarchy. You might be correct in a philosophical sense (because in a democracy there is a system in place protecting the liberties you are afforded) but saying that democracy affords less restrictions would be absurd.


Nobody forces anyone to modify and distribute GPL'd software. If you don't like the terms of the license don't agree to it.

Clarification: If you don't agree with the GPL you also don't get to redistribute code licensed under its terms. Don't redistribute GPL'd code and somehow expect to not be bound by the license. If you don't like the GPL and don't agree w/ its terms that's fine, just don't redistribute GPL'd code then.


If you don't like the terms of the license, don't use code licensed under that license. You can't just download GPL'd code, disagree with the license, and continue using the code in a manner incompatible with that license.


I'll clarify: Implicit in my "don't agree to it" was "you don't get to distribute it". I'm not attempting to say that one can "disagree" with the GPL yet still distribute code that's licensed under its terms.


GPL specifies no duties for those who use software, just for those who "propagate" software.


> Most people who are seriously involved in open source know that GPL is ironically one of the least free licenses.

That's one way of looking at it. But another way is that GPL increases the freedom (by pulling contributions back into the open source), instead of limiting it, which is what would happen if no user was obligated to contribute back. It's about the possibilities, not limits, as some would say.

I've been around long enough (since the days Stallman introduced GPL) and do note a causal relationship between GPL and the blossoming of OSS. In no other field do you have people freely giving their endeavors back to the public, like GPL does.


>if the GPL also applied to the creator of the GPL product THEN it would be fair

That's not how copyright works, though, and the GPL, for better or worse, works within the framework of copyright law. The author may choose to distribute under any license they wish, perhaps multiple licenses, or perhaps give different terms to different people.


I think this is a golden example of how to reply to an accusation: lay down the facts, don't get down to the mud, but clearly expose the other side's errors - with class!


Sounded a bit snarky, and avoids the issue really: if wix plays equally they should do what wordpress does and give their code for free. a CEO should know that. The correct reply would be to apologize and build their own editor.


> The correct reply would be to apologize and build their own editor.

After first releasing the entire application that used some GPL code.


Why not just stop infringing? That is also an option. Just stop using the GPL code.


Assume they have sold me their software. I am using this app that contains GPL licensed code. AFAIK, they can't take back this software I've bought from them, and due to the GPL, they are obliged to provide the source code for the entire app to me if I want it.

Whether they stop infringing on any further sales of the software is of no consequence to me and to the software they already sold me.

IANAL.


The license doesn't reflect that as an option right? Yeah you might be liable for damages but if you could just create a product as a thin wrapper around GPL as a shortcut to get to market faster and dump it later when you get caught it would almost make the entire point of the GPL moot.


I mean, that's not how copyright law works.

Generally if you are infringing on copywrite, you just have to STOP infringing and you are good.

You can't embed gotcha clauses that say "if you break this copywrite, you have to pay me a billion dollars".


Absolutely wrong. If you pirate a movie but then stopped distributing it and deleted it, you're not off the hook.


> lay down the facts, don't get down to the mud, but clearly expose the other side's errors - with class!

That is, indeed, a good way to respond to an accusation.

It is not, in any sense, what Wix did. The response was free of facts, snarky, and didn't even address the claims the other side made, much less expose any errors.

What Wix needed to do was say "oh hey, good catch, we'll be compliant soon" or "thanks but we think we're compliant". They did neither.


Ok, fair point. I might have been light on the facts of the case.

But (the following is not you specifically :) but I can't just edit my original post) I got several negatives... They are not meant to show disagreement, if I'm not mistaken. Please remember to comment when you down vote if you see my comment as against the policies - otherwise there is no way to improve HN comments.


They're still not complying with the GPL though? It's completely cut and dried, it's not an argument where people can have differing opinions with varying degrees of validity. The GPL is a very well-known and widely understood license.


But if you stop infringing the GPL, the terms of the GPL no longer apply, so you cannot be forced to obey it's terms. You can however be sued for damages due to the historic copyright infringement.


And maybe just follow the licensing terms?




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