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VA Linux to Sell Proprietary Version of Sourceforge 267

Posted by michael
from the brother-can-you-spare-a-dime dept.
Cassivs writes: "There's an article claiming that VA Linux is planning on selling a proprietary, closed-source version of SourceForge, SourceForge Enterprise Edition. See the letter to SourceForge members assuring them that VA Linux will continue to provide free hosting/etc. at SourceForge. They will also continue to maintain a GPL version of the code, SourceForge Open Edition." VA is Slashdot's corporate parent.
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VA Linux to Sell Proprietary Version of Sourceforge

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  • not really news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UM_Maverick (16890) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:18AM (#2212725) Homepage
    This really isn't a big deal. Linux/dot-com company sells new product. Where's the story? The only reason this got posted is because hundreds of readers would have moaned and griped if it didn't, saying "slashdot is censorware!"...

    As a side note, does anybody know of any companies that are actually using sourceforge enterprise for interenal development?
  • by dodson (248550) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:23AM (#2212744)
    There is nothing wrong with selling value added extensions, as long as they aren't violating the lisence on the original body of code.

    The idea has always been pay for people not software.

    Custom modifications and services are the only way Open Source will survive.

    Free as in Freedom not Beer. Get it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:37AM (#2212793)
    I guess people who submitted patches signed over copyright to VA. I doubt that VA employees own copyright to their work-for-hire, almost no employed programmers do. Makes me glad I didn't waste my time contributing to the source so that VA could cash in by selling me out.
  • by SweenyTod (47651) <sweenytod@swe[ ]tod.com ['eny' in gap]> on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:48AM (#2212828) Homepage
    In my opinion, this is a good sign for companies in the future. I mean, we have a company demonstratably commited to open source able to or trying to make some money from their open source. I hope they succeed.

    To me it shows that they've understood how to make a living out of the free software fad, and are showing others how to make dollars out of the service industry. Good for them, and I truely thank them for what they've given me in the past, in the form of sourceforge.net and sites like /.
  • by Tim C (15259) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:51AM (#2212839)
    There is nothing wrong with selling value added extensions, as long as they aren't violating the lisence on the original body of code.

    Of course, if you own the copyright on that code, then you are free to relicence it any way you see fit.

    You can't change the terms of the licence by which I acquired my copy, but you can make it available from you exclusively under its new terms.

    Of course, if the original licence was GPL-like, then you can't stop me from redistributing my version (although you are free to ask me to stop, you can't force me to)

    Cheers,

    Tim
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:55AM (#2212845)
    Well I didn't yet notice. Whenever there was something (serious) with VA there was first the slashdot story.

    Like VA leaving the hardware sector -> slashdot story.
    VA reducing staff count -> slashdot story.

    I guess you don't have any proofs for your statement, slashdot usually picks on all equally and doesn't stop with it's corporate parents :o)
  • by dingbat_hp (98241) on Friday August 24, 2001 @09:00AM (#2212864) Homepage

    I can't see why a company may want to deploy sourceforge on site

    There's no way I could get my PHB to use an open off-site SourceForge. The corporate mentality just can't cope with it - they really would rather we shared nothing and we lost half our changes.

    After all, putting any of our product source into SourceForge means that it instantly becomes contaminated with the Cancer of Open Source (tm), and we would have to offer RMS a seat on the board. It must be true, he read it in Pointy Haired Weekly.

    If I have a copy of SourceForge that I can spend proper money on, and I then get to label a box in the machine room as "Our SourceForge machine", then I might get to use it.

    Oh, and VA Linux have to get some revenue from somewhere!

  • Repeat after me... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 24, 2001 @09:03AM (#2212871)
    ..."you can't make money on free software." Free/open software is a terrific way to do things like help bring computers to low-income areas and prevent companies from obtaining and abusing monopoly power, but as a business plan it stinks on ice. Even if some company like RH manages to squeak into the black in the near future (real operating profit only, please) it will be just barely, and it won't be enough to fund serious growth over the long run.

    The more realistic you are about business and the way the world works (as opposed to how the open/free community wishes it worked) the more you have to wonder why VAL's stock isn't already down to about 10 cents/share and RH's isn't about a buck a share.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 24, 2001 @09:03AM (#2212874)
    If Microsoft were adding closed source extensions to Sourceforge and selling it as a package, I think the Slashdot story might have run just a bit differently...
  • by phoey (182032) on Friday August 24, 2001 @09:07AM (#2212883)
    People don't realize that there is a FEE in
    FREE. VA Linux is only using their right
    to sell Open Source/Free software (GLP'd)
    with proprietary extensions.
  • by quakeaddict (94195) on Friday August 24, 2001 @09:11AM (#2212893)
    Polish up your resumes guys,and start recruituing volunteers to help you run /..

    From the article:

    And VA needs a proven business model. It reported revenue of $16 million Thursday; most of its loss was from its abandonment of Linux computer sales in favor of software and services. The company said $267 million of the loss was from non-cash charges for goodwill, intangible assets and restructuring charges because of VA's departure from the computer business
  • by jallen02 (124384) on Friday August 24, 2001 @09:14AM (#2212902) Homepage Journal
    It does not matter.

    They can take sourceforge and sell it right now in its entire form as a closed source product if they want.

    So many people have missed this.

    Think of Quake I and idsoftware. They released it under the GPL and will sell it too you proprietary for your own purposes IF you want to pay.

    Sourceforge is doing the same thing.. They can sell the "GPL'd" version under any lic they want, they own the software.

    Jeremy
  • Sure it's news... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by duffbeer703 (177751) on Friday August 24, 2001 @09:21AM (#2212929)
    A leading "Open-Source" company is taking the work of the "community", repackaging it into a closed-source product and selling it corporations and government as a proprietary product.

    It is news because it highlights the death of the "Free Software" large-scale business model.

  • by RatFink100 (189508) on Friday August 24, 2001 @09:23AM (#2212936)
    They can sell the "GPL'd" version under any lic they want, they own the software.

    Yes they can - if they really do own the software

    The big question is - do they? Have the non-VA contributors signed over their copyright? And - something I've always wondered - how much of a contribution do you have to make to allow you to block this? If I make a 1 line change and submit a patch (C) Me - do they now have to consult me on licensing decisions? or is my work not considered significant enough to warrant that level of protection?

  • by seanmceligot (21501) <`moc.demmapsed' `ta' `mnaes'> on Friday August 24, 2001 @09:38AM (#2212976)
    It is news. It's an insult. They are just fostering the myth that open source is cute and fun for hippie-types, but not viable for a serious company. The model [tuxedo.org] is free the software, but sell the support and the customizations. You're good name, if you retain it, will bring in the revenue.
  • by dodson (248550) on Friday August 24, 2001 @09:58AM (#2213046)
    I don't think that is the case. They are proposing making custom modifications for specific client needs. As long as these modifications are for internal use and not for redistribution by the customer, there is not slap in the face to the GPL.

    I don't think they are making modifications for say a company that sells a shrink rapped source/project management system. Who will then bundle and resell the product. They are making modifications for a customer who needs X in their own source/project management system to execute their business.

    There is no conflict in such a situation.
  • Good for them (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HerrGlock (141750) on Friday August 24, 2001 @10:11AM (#2213084) Homepage
    That is one of the things I really agreed with as a business model that gives back.

    Make the most current version closed source and binary only, then each time a new version is out, put the last one into an open source license.

    Everybody wins. Sorta like how patents were SUPPOSED to work.

    DanH
  • by Jorrit (19549) on Friday August 24, 2001 @10:16AM (#2213110) Homepage
    As far as I know you can install the off-site SourceForge on an internal network too. So it can be behind a firewall if you want. That would solve all the security and speed issues. What SourceForge is selling is not an internet site but code to support something similar to SourceForge internally in your local intranet.

    Greetings,
  • by mami (209922) on Friday August 24, 2001 @10:17AM (#2213117)
    Why would nobody think of charging subscription fees to read, post and search technical mailing lists and its archives to generate income ?

    I never understoodd why, if the source code is open, the technical support to explain how an open source code software package works to other users and developers, is a thing you can get for free. This is a free like in free beer thingy and it is not necessary to give that kind of technical support away for absolutely nothing.

    A developer who donates code to an open source project might be willing to pay a little to the mailing list to show support for open source code in general (even though he already donates his work and his time).

    All the others, the ones who just profit from the knowledge of the (in general) few real developers of the package, who just use the mailing list to learn and get advice for free, should pay a subscription to fee to support the overall chance for open source software to make money for the developers and the companies who hire those developers, IMHO. May be it is time that the community helps itself to generate income for open source projects in paying "a little bit" to the most helpful and used item by all users and developers, the technical support mailing lists of any open source project ?

    I want to stay source code opened up as much as possible. I would pay a subscription fee to a technical mailing list, where developers help to explain their software's features, detect and fix their software's bugs and open up in which direction the software is going to be developed.

    I think cvs and bugzilla is the best and most beneficial invention of all things I have seen so far, for all, users and developers alike. I would not hesitate to pay a subscription fee to be able to read, post and search a mailing list's archives.

    Of course it has to be a low subscription fee that is affordable.

    Is that not a way to generate income for a company like VALinux too ? Or would it be just peanuts ?
  • by the_2nd_coming (444906) on Friday August 24, 2001 @10:27AM (#2213171) Homepage
    as long as the base is free and open (I.E. the main program and all the protocols and file formats) then the programs built on top of that base can be either open or closed, it does not matter. what is the one reason that MS is hated?
    because they place a barrior to entry to compete with their products. if windows, the protocols, and the file formats were all open and under the GPL and they sold word and office as a proprietary tool, I would have no issues with them, however, the barrior to entry is huge because they don't let anyone see anything.
    that is why Linux is so great, everything you need to compete equaly is available free and open. the sam priciple applies to sourceforge, the base system is open and free, this allows anyone to compete in this arena, VA is adding extentions to the system that are proprietary, to add value that is exclusive to VA, another company can come along and take the base code and add proprietay extentions on it to make its sourceforge have features that are exclusive to that companies product. nothing wrong with that, just let the market sort them out.
  • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Friday August 24, 2001 @10:32AM (#2213187)
    The target market for proprietary SourceForge extensions is tiny. The market for SourceForge at all, even the free version, above and beyond plain CVS is small as it stands.

    While its admirable for a company to strike out for new business, its probably time for the VA execs to fess up to the reality of it - the negative momentum on earnings is too much for the stock to bear. Once LNUX inevitably goes under $1, the dilution of the stock will bring the market cap to ridiculously low levels. Once the market cap gets under $80 million, the assets of the company are valued more than its valuation as a publically traded company (I believe VA has $83 million cash and securities).

    Why not just sell off the assets and simply redistribute the funds to shareholders? Really, this isn't a slag on the company or its employees - the math is simply against them. Morningstar has given them five more quarters and then they predict it is all over for them.

    I can't figure out why companies insist on spending every last dollar when its obvious that it isn't going to happen.

  • by dodson (248550) on Friday August 24, 2001 @11:12AM (#2213367)
    I understand that you were not saying there is a conflict with the GPL.

    I just don't see the slap in the face. The GPL built a robust code base that will be adequate for 95% of the people that use the software.

    We don't know what the nature of these custom modifications are. They may be something so specific that they would not have generated enough interest to be included in the main body of work.

    They may also be interfaces to proprietary systems (like SAP) that couldn't be developed without a change in the license.

    Now if the modifications turn out to be something that the general user base could have used and they end up being kept proprietary, then it will be a loss.

    I think we have to see how some of these mixed mode projects pan out before we will know for sure. But if companies don't try and discover some profitable synergy between GPL software and other lisences, then we may see a plunge in the availability of new software under such a lisence.

    I am going to reserve judgement and see how they handle this situation.

    Have a nice day.
  • by duffbeer703 (177751) on Friday August 24, 2001 @11:25AM (#2213420)
    The people controlling the site are the people who hold the pursestrings.

    People are free to change their mind of course, but it does not help your credibility when you turn away from a license or a philosophy that is espoused as the only righteous and moral path by the "community".

    What is hypocritical is that employees of VA Linux, namely the editors of this site, constantly and consistantly challenge the validity of copyright & patents as it pertains to "bad" organizations.

    Will those feelings change when VA feels the need to defend it's intellectual property? How about when Slash become a proprietary product? You better believe it.

    Feel free to moderate down to -1 Troll. I don't agree with the hivemind, sorry.
  • by duffbeer703 (177751) on Friday August 24, 2001 @12:48PM (#2213885)
    You are correct, of course, they cannot directly re-license the work of independent developers. Not directly, anyway.

    They CAN stop contributing to the GPL-version (they ARE the primary contributors) and extend the functionality of the application with proprietary modules. Who is to say those proprietary modules will not provide "enhanced" functionality that GPL'd code currently provides?

    The notion that the GPL can keep software free is a myth. The same tactics GNU uses to knockoff proprietary software can be used to proprietize GNU software. This job is even easier, since the source is available.

    The difficult part of creating software is designing it, tweaking it and finding/removing performance bottlenecks. The actual coding is not nearly as difficult. This why people & organizations patent the application of certain algorithms to certain problems.
  • by Brett Glass (98525) on Saturday August 25, 2001 @09:49PM (#2217184) Homepage
    In June, during the SiliconValley.com Open Source Roundtable, I pointed out [siliconvalley.com] to VA's Larry Augustin that basing the company's business model upon GPLed software prevented it from doing two things which are necessary to survival in a market where one is competing against "generic" hardware and software. These are: (a) differentiating one's products from competitors' offerings; and (b) adding unique value that others cannot simply copy for free. Larry never responded to my posting (in fact, he dropped out of the conversation at that point when I was hoping to read a response). But maybe he listened! While the company has now exited the hardware business (a shame; it was what they were founded to do) and is still competing with itself by offering GPLed versions of its products, it is moving in the right direction. I am convinced that a BSD-like approach will work for the company: creating unique enhancements that are at first available only from them, and then -- sometime later -- giving them to an open source project once they are no longer strategic. It would be better for VA if such projects used a truly free license such as the BSD License, so that subsequent improvements made in the open source projects could be rolled back into VA's own code.

    In all of this, it pays to bear in mind that the GPL was originally created by Richard Stallman as a way of destroying companies such as Symbolics and Lisp Machines, Inc. -- two companies which tried to build specialized hardware that was differentiated by uniquely powerful software. Just like VA. By embracing the GPL, VA Linux unwittingly clasped the serpent that was designed to hurt these two companies to its own breast. By backing away from the GPL and moving toward a win-win strategy that combines the advantages of open source and commercial software, VA can embark upon a sustainable business model.

    --Brett Glass

"We are on the verge: Today our program proved Fermat's next-to-last theorem." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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