Bad advocacy

General 7 Comments

To celebrate my recent addition to Planet Advocacy, I’m going to tell a little story about bad advocacy. In fact, it’s hard to call this advocacy at all…

About 6 months ago, the GIMP developers were contacted by a concerned citizen about a company called Luxuriousity, who was rebranding and selling free software on-line, via Ebay and on their website. The person contacting us believed there were shenanigans going on, and that we should unleash the lawyers on them, or something.

I contacted Luxuriousity via the email address on their site, and asked whether they were aware of the conditions imposed by the GPL on distribution of binaries. They were, and pointed me towards gimp.org as a way to get the full source code. I did ask if they had an FTP server where I could get their modified sources, but they didn’t have one, and said they didn’t need one, since they included the source code on the CD they ship with the binaries, and provide an offer of source code on a CD to anyone who asks.

So, there’s two issues here.

First, Luxuriousity are selling GPL software. That is fine. Nothing wrong with it, there’s no requirement in the GPL to give credit, they haven’t removed copyright notices from source files, if they’re making money out of it it would be nice to help out and sponsor things like <plug>the Libre Graphics Meeting</plug> but there’s no requirement to do so.

Second, there’s the trademark issue. Luxuriousity rebrands the original programs, so there is no trademark issue. In fact, some people (notably MySQL) have insisted that they not use their trademarks, so they now consciously avoid the issue by renaming everything. This is no different than Inkscape being a rebranding of Sodipodi, or CinePaint rebranding the GIMP.

Now, these are complex issues that I don’t fully understand myself, and many in our community have strongly-held and passionate misunderstandings of these issues that go far beyond my own. People feel wronged (hurt even) that someone is “stealing” something they hold so dear and making a quick buck out of it by pretending it’s their own work. But since the copyright notices are intact, there is no such pretense. The developers have simply allowed people to redistribute their work.

If you followed the link to the Luxuriousity site earlier, you will have seen “System is currently down”. If you look for their software on ebay, you won’t find it. If you try to buy software from some of the pages behind the front page which are now available, you won’t be able to. Our community, on the basis of a flawed understanding of our foundations, has collectively hounded the company out of business. Their Ebay and Paypal accounts have been cancelled, and their server has been subjected to multiple DDOS attacks. They made the front page of digg, and some of the comments on that story are shameful:

1:

He’s gonna get DDOS by a whole bunch of people. i just know it. i hope so at least.

2:

http://digg.com/security/Kicking_A_Spammer_In_The_Nuts_Daily_Turns_Out_To_Be_Effective

You know what to do.

3:

Get wget or soemthing similar installed and in your system path variable and put the following in a .bat file:

:up
wget http://www.luxuriousity.com/images/sidephoto.jpg
del sidephoto.jpg
goto up

then just run it and hope he enjoys the bandwidth bill.

This type of behaviour does not do any favours to us or to our community. It’s against the spirit of free software. In fact, it makes me sick to think about it. The free software community I know and love is a fuzzy happy hippy place where people do good for their neighbours for no other reason than it gives them pleasure to make the world a better place.

It’s clear that that community has grown fast, and not everyone has taken the time to understand the nuances of what we do – we have a huge job to educate newcomers about the freedoms which we give to people by using the GPL. We cannot tolerate this kind of behaviour, and the only way to prevent it is education. Let’s make sure the diggers and slashdotters know what it means to be part of the free software community – not just the benefits, but the responsibilities as well.

LGM registration is open!

gimp, libre graphics meeting 1 Comment

Registration for the Libre Graphics Meeting is open. We debated for a while whether a registration page was really worth it, since the conference is free and open to attend.

We came to the conclusion that it was, if only to give us an idea how many people were coming, so that we could order roughly the right amount of t-shirts, conference packs and sandwiches.

One conspicuous absence is an “I need accommodation” field – we are not going to organise accommodation. We should have a list of hotels, and a block booking in a youth hostel, in the next couple of weeks, though. Lyon is quiet in mid-march, so it’s probably not something people need to worry too much about yet.

So – if you’re coming to LGM, please come & register! We won’t spam you (honest!) and you’ll be helping us out.

Board meeting this evening

gnome Comments Off on Board meeting this evening

I’m looking forward to the board hand-over meeting tonight. There was a similar twilight zone last year where new board members kind of go “what happens next?” and new board members probably don’t do enough hand-holding. The passing of the torch is the moment when the new board realises that the old board wasn’t really that good, and they can do better ;) It should be interesting.

And, Christian: the midnight oil is the oil you burn at midnight in your lamp. “Burning the midnight oil” just means keeping the lights on late.

GUADEC and creating passionate users

gnome, guadec 2 Comments

I just confirmed Kathy Sierra, of Creating Passionate Users fame, as a keynote for GUADEC 2006.

Kathy rocks, I’m looking forward to seeing her in action after having wasted so much time reading her blog.