Doing the right thing

Canonical is doing the right thing. Yes morally as well. By choosing the MIT/X11 license instead of the GPL the Banshee developer explicitly allow using Banshee in a closed-source for-profit project without giving back anything.

To start whining about moral, now that someone actually takes advantage of this right is somehow premature – in the end you had the choice how to license it, right? If you don’t like what happens change the license! Maybe a proprietary one this time, as open source obviously is not restrictive enough for you and you have to resort to “morality”.

As for me I would be perfectly happy if Canonical would simply keep 100% of the Amazon revenue – after all its their product (yes putting together the pieces makes it something new).

As a user I care most whether the product works and I use ubuntu as it works best for me. And since canonical did a great job so far providing what I want, I think the decision should be up to them whether to spend the money on shiny new icons or to give something back to the banshee developers.

For reference: this and this.

  • http://sixgun.org/fab Fab

    You are conflating issues. Morality has nothing to do with licenses used. Even under GPLv3 changing the affiliate code would of course be permitted. That doesn’t mean it within the intentions of the Banshee developers nor does it mean it is the right thing to do. It is not.

    Of course, it’s Canonicals right to take all the revenue but is morally wrong IMHO seeing as Ubuntu and Canonical (like every other distro shipping Gnome) has a huge debt to the Gnome Foundation. Fedora for example is acutely aware of this and would never pull a move like this, it is also trying to give Gnome credit whenever it can because they know that they owe all this desktop awesomeness to the Gnome devs.

    Banshee made their intentions clear when they gave 100% of the money to Gnome. Canonical is free to change this but it is not justified by pointing to the license used.

  • http://maxolasersquad.com/ maxolasersquad

    What you have the right to do, and what is right for you to do are not the same. We celebrate that we have a free speech, but we do not celebrate all exercises of that right. Indeed we often take the time to rigorously criticize those who choose to exercise their right to free speech in ways that we believe are damaging to society.
    Likewise, nobody is disputing that Canonical has the right to do what they are doing, but it does not logically follow that what they are doing is right. Many feel that what Canonical is doing is in bad faith to the developers, and when dealing with a community, especially when a large part of that community does their work pro-bono, it is important to act in good faith to that community.

  • http://www.rojtberg.net Pavel

    Well my point was that arguing with morality in this case is just wrong. By choosing an Open Source license you say that everybody may use your software as he wants – without asking you for your opinion.
    If then somebody actually does not ask for your opinion and you are pissed because of that, the problem is not morality but that you chose the wrong license in the first place ;)

    As for the debt to the Gnome Foundation; sure Canonical should collaborate with Gnome where appropriate, but that does not mean that they always have to find a compromise. For instance Canonical does not have to contribute to Gnome-Shell, if the think Unity is better. So funding specific parts of Gnome (Bugzilla, GTK) instead of letting the Gnome Foundation decide where the money should go is perfectly fine for me. But maybe this is exactly where our oppinions diverge.

  • http://www.rojtberg.net Pavel

    @maxolasersquad: that argument goes in both ways: while we have accepted that the right of free speech is a good thing, we have not yet accepted people actually taking advantage of this right.
    Of course we may disagree with the others oppinion, but that does not mean that the other used his freedom of speech in a wrong, “immoral” way ;)

  • http://oskar.twoday.net/ Oskar

    I really have to agree with this post. When you choose a license for your project, you’re not deciding what other *may* do with the code (or just how far you’d let them go). You actually expressing what you *want* licensees to do. Now if Canonical does something that many people find wrong (for whatever reason), we have one of the following situations:

    a) The Banshee team wanted exactly this to happen. That’s why they chose this license. Blame the Banshee team.
    b) The Banshee team had no idea what they were doing when they chose the license. Again, blame the Banshee team.

    I’m a Free Software fanatic. GPL is my middle name. I think even the LGPL is the plague and more of a proprietary license than a free one. But really: If they release software under MIT/X11, who has a right to complain? Not the Banshee team (because Canonical did what Banshee devs wanted) and certainly nobody else.

  • Anonymous

    Oskar, you are so very completely wrong:

    1) There are plenty of awful things FOSS licenses you to do with software that is not condoned by the authors.
    2) You seem to be implying that there is a FOSS license (eg GPL) that would have prevented this; there isn’t.
    3) The FOSS community is more than its licenses, and to be a part of it you have to adhere to social norms.

  • http://oskar.twoday.net/ Oskar

    Miss Anonymous, the term “FOSS” alone that you’re using tells me we’ll never come to an agreement, no matter what. Free Software and Open Source are such fundamentally different concepts… you just cannot mix them and make them one “FOSS”. (Well, you can; I just couldn’t.)

    And it *is* about licenses. You can have your own little free software project (and an open source project, too) and be perfectly fine without any community around it. It’s the license and the license only.

  • Marie

    It isn’t just about the licenses and the right to do it. It is about the perceived greediness of Canonical and its impact on public perception. There is a reason that it is creating such debate — it stinks of selfishness. 50/50 might have gone over a a lot better. Regardless, many people don’t use Banshee anyway because of bloat and mono.