Can open source police open source?

When a proprietary code base becomes popular, its owner brings in the cash necessary to defend their position in court. This is not automatic in the open source world, which thus remains vulnerable to small time scams.

The lesson I drew from CompuTex is that open source, by its nature, limits what you can do in the channel by eliminating the marketing dollars needed to do anything.

The same may also be true in terms of the law.

When the Free Software Foundation wants to go after some deep-pocketed outfit over GPL violations they can do so, knowing victory will bring cash.

But if the party in question has no deep pockets, if they're just doing a smash-and-grab on open source code, who becomes the cop?

I'm not certain whether LiberKey, a French outfit offering a host of applications a la Portable Apps, is engaged in such a smash and grab.

John T. Haller of Portable Apps thinks they are. He says they've have taken his software in violation of the GPL and are not giving users access to the source, also in violation of the GPL.

The LiberKey defense, written anonymously, reads like something from the old French Taunter sketch. It reminds me of responses I got over 20 years ago from something called Mirror, which cloned the look-and-feel of a modem program called Crosstalk and even copied its version number on their Version 1.0 release.  

It's possible nothing untoward is going on. It's also possible there are license violations here. The question is, who will investigate and who will put any violators to the legal sword? If these French types are just grabbing code and trying to stuff support cash in their pockets, they could be gone long before a legal paper reaches them.

When a proprietary code base becomes popular, its owner brings in the cash necessary to defend their position in court. This is not automatic in the open source world, which thus remains vulnerable to small time scams.

How do we stop them? Where do we find the cash to protect open source, not from the big boys, but from the small fry?

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All