[pmwiki-users] Commercialism in PmWiki (was: Google Analytics)

Carlo Strozzi carlos at linux.it
Sat Aug 26 01:49:27 CDT 2006

On Fri, Aug 25, 2006 at 07:48:20PM -0500, Patrick R. Michaud wrote:
> On Sat, Aug 26, 2006 at 12:08:09AM +0200, Carlo Strozzi wrote:
> > 
> > Hmm, but unless you rewrite PmWiki from scratch, the commercial version
> > will be based mostly on the original GPL code, and I'm afraid this
> > would be a violation of the GPL itself, and the various FSF affiliates
> > around the world may go after your customers. 
> It's not a violation of the GPL.  
> For all of the code that is in PmWiki, I'm either the original 
> copyright holder, in which case I can distribute those portions of 
> code under any license I wish, or for those small portions where
> I don't hold the copyright I've received explicit written licenses
> from the copyright holders that allow me to redistribute the
> code under any license I wish.  (And if there's anyone who feels


> Many organizations don't make this distinction between sales and
> support; they either (a) want to avoid anything that is GPL, or 
> (b) need something that allows them to write a check for what 
> they receive -- i.e., that turns the transaction into more of
> a contract.  And there are still other reasons why an organization
> would choose to purchase a restrictive EULA over using the
> freely available GPL.

Well, I'm sure you have good reasons to state that. I fact, I run
a small software company and we mostly provide support and services
to our customers, not software as a product in itself. So using the
GPL gives us a number of advantages, namely:

1) We pay less (virtually nothing) for the "raw material", which
   means cheaper solutions for our customers and higher profit margins
   for us.  All it costs to us is that if we write extensions/improvements
   we are bound to the GPL, but it would cost us *much* more if we had to
   build everything from scratch.

2) We always sign a contract with the customer, where we clearly state
   that we will use GPL'ed products as much as it is practical, and that
   we do so to the customer's advantage.

Unsurprisingly, our customers want to be supported, and that's what we
offer to them. Products are like, say, screwdrivers: they are not of
much use by themselves, and the money comes from what you do with them.
So if the screwdriver costs more, at the end of the day you get paid less :-)

However this makes sense only if you consider a piece of software
as a service. If you want to box it as a product then the GPL may
not be the best choice. But consider that the most successful company
of these days is Google, which sells software as a service and not as a
product, which is in line with the original nature of software, IMVHO.

In the past, the lack of connectivity forced people to run their own
stuff locally, and software companies needed to invest a lot into the
resources needed to reach their customers. Nowadays, with the advent of
the Internet, things have changed a lot (a few years back Google could
not have existed, while there was a lot of room for Oracle and Microsoft).

That said, I really wish you all the best with your plans, you deserve it.
I'm just wondering whether that would be a step in the right direction,
or rather a step back.

> Of course, any organization or individual can redistribute PmWiki 
> code if they wish, but they will have to do so under the GPL.  (And
> to use the "PmWiki" brand itself we'll need to have an agreement over
> use of the trademark.  :-)

Well, indeed trademarks may have more value than software and/or patents.
While we virtually always use GPL'ed stuff, we have registered all of
our trademarks.


Software Patents kill Innovation: say NO to Software Patents!
I Brevetti Software uccidono l'innovazione: di NO ai Brevetti Software!

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