MyEclipse and JBoss spar over open source purity

A debate between Genuitec (makers of MyEclipseIDE) and JBoss / Red Hat exposes deep divisions in the community over what open source means and how it should be used. Does Genuitec follow the "take but never give back" model or is JBoss living in a "Cathedral made out of glass" and throwing rocks at others? Does GPL provide protection from "leechers" or is it just an excuse for viral lock-in that bites the hand that feeds it?
Written by Ed Burnette, Contributor

Genuitec CEO Maher Masri doesn't like what Red Hat employees such as Gavin King are saying about his companies use of open source in their MyEclipse product. Masri writes:

I truly believe many people who wear the open source badge completely miss the intent and spirit behind it. And, in the case of JBoss, even use it as a sharp stick to poke, bully and intimidate those that disagree with them.

The latest dispute started when Red Hat announced a partnership with Exadel that resulted in JBoss RichFaces and JBoss Ajax4jsf to be released under the Lesser GNU Public License (LGPL), and eventually the entire Red Hat Developer Studio (formerly Exadel Studio Pro) to be released under the regular GPL license. King wrote that GPL was chosen in part because Genuitec wasn't playing by the rules:

Some of us believe that Genuitec are skirting waaay to close to an LGPL violation over bundled modifications to Hibernate Tools. Repeated attempts on our part to get them to modify their behavior in this respect as resulted in nothing but empty promises. That's one reason why we decided to go GPL on the Exadel toolset - to break the Genuitec model of "take but never give back".

Masri counters that Genuitec has given plenty back to the community, citing that his company has shipped over 4 million downloads for its connector to JBoss and 3 million downloads of JBoss Hibernate, not to mention answering over 10,000 questions on its support forums on how to configure and use the JBoss application server. Masri:

You can imagine my surprise when the partnership announcement by RedHat quickly degenerated into finger-pointing and name calling all under the guise of the "purity" of open source. The conversation became even more surreal as the debate raged over what open source license would provide more protection from adopters that "leech" off the open-source code base.

All the licenses mentioned -- GPL, LGPL, and EPL -- require that modifications and improvements to the code be released back to the community so that all of its users can benefit. GPL goes a step further in requiring that if you want the right to to distribute a program that is derived from or linked to GPL code then you must also distribute your code as GPL. This contrasts with LGPL and EPL which lets you mix open and closed source in a single project. By choosing GPL for the larger Exadel work, Red Hat is preventing Genuitec from including any of that code in MyEclipseIDE (unless they work out a separate license). Masri again:

Talk about penny wise and pound foolish. Someone should really pick up the GNU manifesto one more time and realize that people who build tall Cathedrals made out of glass should not be throwing rocks at others...

If your business is based on open source, don't bite the hands that feed your success. And, if you don't want others to use your code then don't put it out as open source to begin with.

What do you think, should people other than the authors be limited in profiting from open source code? Or does any use of the code benefit all involved?

Note: The opinions expressed on this blog are mine alone and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

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