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    I’m actually pretty interested to see companies explore this space more. The current situation is untenable, and having a bunch of companies try a bunch of different approaches will give us a more concrete understanding of how to approach the problem of making free software and making a living at the same time.

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      Submitting this because I think it’s an interesting explanation of both the circumstances surrounding a license change and the actual steps taken to effect that change.

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        Ugh. It’s spreading.

        It could be worse, but this sort of licensing is toxic to community and basically turns open source into just a marketing exercise. You can’t really build a community out of something like this, which means the entire project is vulnerable when the parent company is bought, fails, or loses interest, changes management, whatever.

        I have sympathy for open source companies dealing with unscrupulous competitors that don’t give back, and I hope they’re putting a lawyer on any company that’s copying documentation or marketing copy. But this approach… well, it sucks.

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          “You can’t really build a community out of something like this”

          There’s communities built around all kinds of proprietary software, esp Windows and Mac. So, you definitely can. If anything, a more open, but still paid, license might lead to even more community contribution than the proprietary ones get. More important, being able to charge for it lets them just hire developers.

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            These communities last as long as the company lasts and maintains the standards that produced the community. It’s much like living under a dictatorship: a good dictatorship will keep things working efficiently and trundling along well. But a bad dictatorship will let it all fall apart very quickly and there’s nothing anyone can do. How many open source contributors work on Java or OpenOffice now, really?

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              “These communities last as long as the company lasts and maintains the standards that produced the community.”

              This is again wrong as proven by all the people doing retro and vintage computing. Not even counting those that take care of popular, legacy systems. Communities do what they want to do.

              “a good dictatorship will keep things working efficiently and trundling along well. But a bad dictatorship will let it all fall apart very quickly and there’s nothing anyone can do. “

              I agree that company-driven work, whether writing code or community management, will go down if the company does. Thing is, F/OSS projects natural state is to not get supported by their own developers or even used by 3rd parties. Those that have success often get abandoned.

              The advantage of F/OSS over restrictive proprietary is a third party can pick up where others left off. However, that could be built into these source-available licenses where the license is perpetual and irrevocable for paying customers with forks allowed internally and to be distributed among paying customers. It shocks me that I’m the only one bringing up this possibility given the precedents. Goes back to (IIRC) Burroughs giving out source of its mainframe OS in 1960’s with customers sharing improvements that sometimes got rolled back into main OS.

              “How many open source contributors work on Java or OpenOffice now, really?”

              Most people don’t voluntarily work on projects that seem big with potentially a lot of people on them. Java and OpenOffice are examples. Your examples are unusual, though. Probably intentionally. One is owned by sue-happy Oracle with all kinds of legal and ethical considerations around contributing to that product. The OpenOffice vs LibreOffice situation would probably make most contribute to LibreOffice. The Document Foundation supports LibreOffice.

              So, both being infected by Oracle makes me think they’re not representative of the general situation. Do note that I often call for setting up the company owning the software to be a non-profit or public-benefit company with user-protecting goals chartered and contracted in. That should prevent or reduce some of these problems. If it’s a VC-backed or profit-focused company, I don’t trust their claims until the protections are solidified in writing with stiff penalties for abuses.

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            I think what’s spreading is enormous cloud providers legally cloning open-source software businesses and reselling their products for enormous profit without giving back, destroying the original businesses.

            Something like this is better than sticking with BSD, Apache, etc licensing: the source code eventually turns free-as-in-freedom, but with enough time delay that the original developers can still run a business selling it. With the existing permissive licenses, you can either run a business or you can have free software, but in the long-ish run not both.

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              the entire project is vulnerable when the parent company is bought, fails, or loses interest, changes management, whatever.

              From the article:

              It’s important to remember that Sentry “the project” has been developed almost exclusively by employees of Sentry “the company”;

              So I think that’s going to be the case anyway.

              To make money, you need some element that’s “scarce”. Open source software means that’s a bit trickier to figure out:

              https://journal.dedasys.com/2007/02/03/in-thrall-to-scarcity/

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                Notably, it isn’t really open source anymore. Per OSI’s definition rule 6 or rule 0 of FSF’s free software definition. Now it is just source-available, and it is misleading to call it open-source anymore.

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                  Although we’ve come to refer to the BSL as eventually open-source since it converts to an OSI-approved license at the conversion date, due to the grant restriction, it is formally not an open-source license.

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                I’m fine with this even though it is not ideal. But it is really difficult to compete if you also cover your competitors development costs.

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                  The one thing I don’t like is the conversion to OSS. The rich companies fighting software freedom make sure their offerings are perpetual, money machines. Those competing with source-available products should try to do the same thing. Then, more of the latter gets produced, updated, and maintained over time.

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                    I didn’t read the whole thing, but I expected it was the same thing as always: someone is selling our software as SaaS and we can’t allow that anymore. A skim of the article seems to confirm it.

                    So this is because of Opbeat, right? That started as a Sentry fork, got bought off now, and now some other big company owns it (Elastic, who rebranded it again as Elastic APM).

                    but defends against competitors repackaging our work in a way that threatens Sentry’s ongoing development.

                    It’s a brave new world

                    No it’s not. Other people selling your free software was always a concern. Copyleft sort of helps that at least they won’t sell it in a way that they can’t really undercut by adding their own features without their clients also getting free access to those features, but other people selling your free software is not a new thing. It’s been there since the beginning.

                    The only thing that’s changed is that people were getting around that by distributing software via web browsers instead of CDs, but now that other companies have figured out how to undercut web distribution too, people are again as reluctant to produce free software as they ever were.

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                      Copyleft sort of helps that at least they won’t sell it in a way that they can’t really undercut by adding their own features without their clients also getting free access to those features, but other people selling your free software is not a new thing.

                      The new things is SaaS. Amazon can fork Sentry, make improvements, and not be obligated to reveal their improvements even to their own users.

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                        The AGPL license protects you from that.

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                          Apparently the AGPL 3 is not as effective at that as one might think. I don’t understand all the details myself, but if Kyle Mitchell and Kate Downing both say it’s not effective, I believe it:

                          But even the AGPL’s obligations can be avoided by simply not modifying the AGPL 3 code, which there is often no reason to do, or by building layers between the AGPL 3 code and proprietary code. That’s why a lot of these middleware companies didn’t choose to relicense to AGPL 3 and why MongoDB, who was already using AGPL 3, chose to revise the AGPL 3 to expand the circumstances under which services running on AGPL’ed code must open source the previously proprietary parts of those services.

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                            I tried to warn people about the layering thing with this submission. It’s not theoretical: it’s an advertised benefit of proprietary micro-hypervisors that run GPL’d code. Those targeting AGPL would try such things, too.

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                            Interestingly we did a similar move and picked BSL for RhodeCode few years back (now we’re back at AGPL3)

                            BSL is good for “business side” ie. Investors like it, but end users/contributors don’t. We’ve got some bad comments about closing the source etc and BSL.

                            In the end of the day bigger companies try to protect their bussines.

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                            This wasn’t different when software was on CDs: Apple forked BSD-licensed code, changed it, and distributed opaque binaries to their clients.

                            The thing that is different about SaaS is that you don’t even have to let your users have the opaque copy of the software at all.

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                            I think the main problem is that the software in itself is only half of the picture. Without a proper model of hosting it at scale it may be near useless for some companies, that’s why those SaaS offerings pop up and grab all the benefits, sad as it is.

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                            If your goal is to run a business on a open source SaaS product, why not license it primarily as AGPL or GPLv3 and then offer competitors an option to purchase a commercial non-free license? That way they can either pay you to let them build upon it (and you should require royalties!), and you won’t lose money, or if they use the free version, they can only compete by offering it for a cheaper price, if they have more cpu to throw at it.

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                              It seems to me the point is that Sentry doesn’t want to compete on price.

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                                nor should they need to. Offering their hosted solution for money allows them to offer the on-premise solution for free. And compared to other similar services that offer the source code and nothing else, sentry’s documentation for self-hosting is outstanding and they seem to be willing to even invest time in making self-hosting as easy as possible.

                                That’s surprising because all motivation should pressure them into making it as convenient as possible for them to host it and as hard as possible for self-hosters to do it themselves.

                                But that’s absolutely not what they are doing which I like a lot.

                                I’m saying this as a paying customer of their hosted install, btw, but what pushed me over the edge to actually becoming their customer was the assurance that if worse comes to worst and they either shut down or get bought out that I will be able to keep my investment in the client-side integration by hosting the server parts ourselves.

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                              In open-source many developers expect users of the code to use in nicely for their own purposes, contribute back whenever they can, and fork only to compete on alternative ideas. But these are unwritten rules. Legally, permissive licenses permit full-blown freeloading that contributes nothing, and captures all commercial value that the code creates.

                              Understandably, it’s very disheartening to the developers who do the work to see someone else just slap their own logo and get the profits.