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Is the Mambo project using stolen code?

By Jem Matzan on September 17, 2004 (8:00:00 AM)

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<ed by cp 9.17> Updated: 9/18/04 9:31AM EST On Wednesday a man named Brian Connolly posted an open letter to users of the Mambo content management system, threatening them with civil and criminal action if they continue to use Mambo. He claims that the Mambo project contains proprietary, copyrighted code that belongs to him and is currently in use in his customized Furthermore CMS. Is this the little brother of the SCO Group debacle, or a legitimate copyright infringement claim?

The wording at the beginning of the open letter is pretty harsh:

If you are presently using the software application "Mambo OS" in any release post October 3, 2003, you and your organization are potentially exposed to CIVIL LITIGATION and possibly CRIMINAL PROSECUTION.

The message goes on to say that the code in question comprises the lead story block -- a block being a dynamically generated section of a Web page that has code separate from the main page. Content management systems use blocks to create and extend dynamic, database-driven Web sites. Another portion of code was illegally donated from Furthermore that allows easier administration of the front page, Connolly says.

No money to go after major litigation

"This is much worse than SCO," Connelly told NewsForge today. "But I don't have millions of dollars to go out and sue everyone. SCO and IBM are the big guys, but down here in the trenches is where it's happening and we don't have a forum to resolve this kind of problem. The Mambo people have been uncooperative."

The problem doesn't really start with Mambo, though, or its parent company, Australia-based Miro International. The trouble started with a man named Emir Sakic, who was contracted by Connolly to make some proprietary modules for and modifications to Mambo that made it look like a newspaper portal, as shown on the Furthermore home page. Eventually it got so that Mambo and Furthermore had divergent code bases that made them almost into different programs. Connolly says that Sakic then modified the Mambo code so that it would use Furthermore's proprietary modules and illegally gave the project one of Furthermore's blocks -- the lead story block -- and modified the back end. Mambo was given functionality from Furthermore that it did not have before.

Sakic contacted Connolly by email and asked him after the fact if he could put this code under the GPL. Connolly, of course, told NewsForge he said no, but it was too late.

Modifying, hosting, monitoring, and administrating open-source and proprietary CMS software is by no means an illegitimate or unethical practice -- this is what Connolly does, and he's far from being the pioneer in this industry. Since the users or customers are essentially paying a company like Connolly's to custom-design a Web site for them, the issue of licensing doesn't come up -- customers are not being given software and they are not purchasing software, they are purchasing a service which is delivered dynamically through software and software development.

Connolly is upset that code he developed to sell services has been misappropriated. According to Connolly, Sakic admitted clearly in his email to Connolly that he'd donated this code to Mambo, but at that point the damage had been done. Upset, Connolly called the Open Source Software Institute to seek assistance with the matter.

Mambo community has been 'discussing' this for a while

Meanwhile the Mambo community had a discussion on the matter (this is one of several threads) with a general irreverence toward Connolly and his claims of copyright infringement, and the usual flippant remarks and misguided legal analysis that can be found on nearly any blog or forum that discusses such matters. The forum posts in the above-referenced thread paint an entirely different picture than what Connolly himself offers, but in the end it appears that in the new version of Mambo -- 4.5.1 -- the lead story block has been recoded in an effort to resolve the matter.

The story doesn't stop there. Connolly found about a dozen companies that were using a tainted version of Mambo and asked them to stop using the program entirely. One complied and even offered a settlement check as compensation for their unwitting error. The remaining companies did not comply or complied in ways that were not satisfactory to Connolly.

Upon contacting the OSSI, Brian spoke with John Weathersby, the executive director of the institute, who in turn spoke with IP expert/author Larry Rosen briefly. According to Weathersby, Rosen would not comment on the matter at the time because he needed to see the whole picture and talk to everyone involved. The only advice Rosen could offer was to get a lawyer to deal properly with the issue. No one recommended suing or threatening end-users.

Weathersby agreed to act as a sort of mediator in the dispute but didn't have the chance to talk to the Mambo project members about the issue. "We've got to address this in a level-headed, business-minded way," he said. "I'd like to see everyone calm down, put all documents on the table, see everybody's cards, and resolve this."

But by that point things had already gone too far; the Mambo community was far from cooperative, Sakic had more or less gotten away with allegedly stealing code that he was paid to develop, and competitors were allowed to take advantage of the situation.

NewsForge was unable to contact Sakic by phone on Friday to seek comment on the matter at the time of publication, but Connolly says that Sakic admitted what he'd done in email. According to Connolly, Sakic was contracted for about eight months to assist in development of Furthermore. He was paid for his services, and Connolly said at no time did he ever tell Sakic that he was free to donate any code.

Suing end-users 'not prudent'

"If it is as he says, and they do have his code in Mambo, that's not right," Weathersby told us Friday afternoon. But at no time did either he or Rosen advise Connolly to post his notice about suing end-users of Mambo. "That's ... not prudent," said Weathersby. "Every site I have -- including the OSSI homepage -- runs on Mambo."

All things being equal, one thing is certain: Connolly believes that his code has been stolen, despite the fact that he has not personally examined any code in Mambo to verify its origin. He's just going by what his contractor told him and what he's observed. The legal issues in this matter are for the courts to decide, but will it be Sakic in court, or some innocent end-user?

Connolly doesn't want license fees or special control over Mambo; all he wants is to make money off his services, and he can't do that if every Mambo user has parts of his software that make his work valuable.

Emir Sakic's response

Emir Sakic has contacted NewsForge has given us this exclusive reply in response to this story. The following is copied verbatim from his message:<?p>

Back in September 2003 Mr Connolly paid me to do the Mambo Open Source customization for his site Literatigroup.com. There was no copyright agreement or contract signed.

One of the customizations I did was to enable a ?leading story followed by two stories in separate columns? alteration of the frontpage component. I modified an existing Mambo frontpage component and hardcoded nine lines of code that would display the leading story. This alteration was a copy from another part of the original frontpage component released under GPL and copyrighted by Miro International Pty. I was not the original author of the frontpage component in question and thus, Brian Connolly does not own this code.

A month later (October 3, 2003) I developed similar functionality and contributed it to Mambo core. I did not use the same code as the nine lines delivered to Connolly. I implemented a different, dynamic solution with selectable frontpage settings. Again, this code was not same or derived from the snippet made for Literatigroup.com. It was a different development which can be verified by comparing the frontpage component files (I have all files in question).

Mr Connolly still claims that Mambo contains the code developed for him when in fact it does not. If you would take a look, you would see that the code in Connolly?s site differs from the code in any version of Mambo. While software implementation can be protected by copyright laws, ideas in software are not covered by copyright. Nothing stops anyone to implement the same (in this case just a similar) functionality using different code. Not to mention that the whole file was a GPL derivative and, as such, must remain GPL.

Mr Connolly still seems to think that he owns exclusive rights to the ?leading story? concept in Mambo and requests the frontpage component re-licensed according to his terms. There were hundreds of sites all over the internet that used the same layout even before October 3rd 2003, so Connolly cannot say it was originally his idea (for example see http://news.bbc.co.uk).

I should mention that Connolly has distributed copies of Mambo under the GPL on his homepage (http://www.literatigroup.com/furthermore/, now removed, screenshot available) which means he has acknowledged that Mambo is GPL and Copyright Miro International Pty. Connolly has only contacted Mambo about a year after alleged breach and during this time he was an active forum member knowing of the existence of this functionality in the Mambo core. Connolly also sent threatening emails to mambo users directly and has harassed them (see http://www.mamboportal.com/content/view/1562/). He has been taking my words out of context and posted flat lies in try to prove the claims he can?t prove by simply comparing the code in question.

To summarize it:
1) The code delivered to Brian Connolly is not the same as the code implemented in Mambo.
2) The code delivered to Brian Connolly was derived from GPL, Copyright Miro International Pty.
3) Brian Connolly distributed copies of Mambo that had the so-called 'infringing' functionality under the GPL.
4) There are no copyright assignments with my signature on.
5) Brian Connolly has no trademarks or patents on anything resembling the disputed functionality.



Emir Sakic
http://www.sakic.net

The official response from the Mambo project can be found here.

The situation seems to involve misunderstandings and misinterpretations, especially of and regarding the GNU General Public License. No matter who is right or correct, the end result is that the code that Connolly feels that he's rightfully paid for and should own is now available to anyone -- whether it should be or not. One thing that Brian Connolly said to us yesterday rings true above all else: "This will not be resolved in the media."

Jem Matzan is the author of three books, a freelance journalist and the editor-in-chief of The Jem Report.

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on Is the Mambo project using stolen code?

Note: Comments are owned by the poster. We are not responsible for their content.

But...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 09:00 AM
If the contractor took GPL'ed Mambo code and modified it for Connolly, and Connolly is distributing that code, then surely the modified code must be released? Or does he claim to not be distributing the code by only providing a service?

The guys at Mambo are pretty convinced that they are in the clear, especially as Mr Connolly has refused to show them the contract that would clear up if this was a work-for-hire or not. Mr Connolly may in fact be the copyright holder, but the GPL may still require the public relese.

One of Mr Connolly's big complaints seems to be that he had an original idea for the module, and that idea is now in Mambo. Copyrights do not cover ideas, only a patent or a non-disclose clause in the contract could prevent the contractor from re-implementing the idea. Only a look at the contract could clear this up.

Either way, threatening to sue end-users is counter-productive, and would have a low probability of succeeding (see groklaw for extended discussions on this point with regard to SCO).

John

#

Only Looking for a Mutually Beneficial Resolution

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 09:57 AM
First off, we have NOT DISTRIBUTED THE CODE!

Here are other relevant facts. They can also be found at http://www.literatigroup.com/verusumambo .

RELEVANT FACTS

1. We have a written contract dated 9/2/03 with Emir Sakic (a lead developer of Mambo) that expressly contains the provision “Upon finished project all copyright rights to code written by [Sakic] will belong to literatigroup.com [Furthermore’s parent company]. This contracted has been provide to Robert Castley, project manager of Mambo OS.

2. We have a written correspondence from Sakic 10/3/03 where he admits having “implemented” our code and IP “to official Mambo”... “Hope you don't mind.” We immediate responded that we did mind. Sakic’s response then was “Hehe I was afraid you would feel like that;” And “I understand.”

3. We have written receipts of payment for work done that describes the functionality being disputed by Mambo.

4. The code was then wrongly assigned to the GPL and the copyrights attributed with Miro International.

5. The present code still contains derivative elements of this misappropriation.

6. In an email from Mr. Sakic 8/18/04 he said, “Why didn't you demand that I remove the code then? Why didn't you get me sign an explicit agreement that I couldn't do that before we even started? I never again used any of the code I did for you anywhere else. OK, the leading story was your idea, but Mambo is consisted of ideas from 1000's of people.” Mr. Sakic needs to review his files. See #’s 1 and 2 above.

7. Robert Castley, Mambo Project Manager, 8/17/04 shifts responsibility for the matter to users of Mambo OS. He said, “Mambo can not be party to any disputes between individuals or companies concerning the use of Mambo.”

Bottom line: We would love nothing better than a mutually beneficial resolution. BUT, Mambo has beEN intractable in their rationale and resolution to keep our property.

Regards,

Brian Connolly
President
Furthermore, Inc.
bconnolly @ furthermore.com

#

Re:Only Looking for a Mutually Beneficial Resoluti

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 11:19 AM
Right-o. So the way you resolve it is simple. You need to sue the distributors of the software. Has the RIAA filed a lawsuit against a downloader? No. They're going after the people offering the music for download. Same thing applies here. Your remedy is to halt the distribution of any infringing code. There is nothing illegal being done by the end users, even if the code bears your copyright, because they didn't copy it themselves (which is what copyright is all about)<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... in short, threatening end users is just stupid. They've done nothing wrong and it makes you look like a fool because everyone knows that you cannot possibly have a case against them.

And worse, it makes you look like you're chasing
after deep pockets instead of the real
infringers.

Just like sco.

#

Re:Only Looking for a Mutually Beneficial Resoluti

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 11:32 AM

After reading <A HREF="http://mamboserver.com/The_News/News/Statement_regarding_Furthermore.com/" title="mamboserver.com">this</a mamboserver.com>,
I've come to the conclusion that you're not like sco at all. You just an idiot.



1.You hired a contractor to do some work for you.



2.The contractor modified GPLed code for your business. Because you don't release your code,
you were not required to release his modifications no harm no foul.



3.However, the person you hired was not trustworthy. They released the code behind your back, in apparent violation of the contract.



4. Now, you're claiming copyright on the code,
saying that it cannot be released.



5. In reality, what has happened is that
you've had a trade secret revealed.



6. And I'm sorry, but there's absolutely
*nothing* you can do to the end users, because
there is no copy right infringment. You
can have a copyright, or a trade secret
but not both.



7. Even if you were to go down the copyright
route, since the code modified was GPLed,
your code must also be considered GPLed.



8. I also hope that you realize that you
get what you pay for. You outsourced to
asia. You got burned. I'm sorry
but I have no sympathy.

#

Re:Only Looking for a Mutually Beneficial Resoluti

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 21, 2004 03:57 PM
>> You outsourced to asia

Quite a racist comment<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:|

#

You have an issue with the contracted worker

Posted by: flyfishin on September 18, 2004 11:34 AM
Based on the information you put on your site concerning the NET Act and EEA, you have an issue with the person who distributed the code. The developer is the one who misappropriated your code. Since they are based in Pakistan is seems you are out of luck and are venting your frustrations by threatening end users.

#

Re:Only Looking for a Mutually Beneficial Resoluti

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 12:09 PM
``1. We have a written contract dated 9/2/03 with Emir Sakic (a lead developer of Mambo) that expressly contains the provision “Upon finished project all copyright rights to code written by [Sakic] will belong to literatigroup.com [Furthermore’s parent company]. This contracted has been provide to Robert Castley, project manager of Mambo OS.''

Non-exclusive rights?

#

Re:Only Looking for a Mutually Beneficial Resoluti

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 12:49 PM
Mr. Connolly,
How about I quote the line of the contract that you like to leave out?

"Project consists of various modifications and customizations of Mambo Open Source CMS for the client, details listed below."

Got that? Even your contract states the work was a modification of the Mambo Open Source code.

Maybe you should head to the local book store and grab a copy of "Programming for Dummies" so you can understand what you really had a contract for.

Mr. Sakic did not own the code he modified, therefore, he cannot sign ownership over to you. What part of this don't you understand?

#

Re:Only Looking for a Mutually Beneficial Resoluti

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 19, 2004 03:41 AM
IANAL nor am I Mr. Connolly. However I am a programmer with an interest in copyright issues.

There is no question that Mr. Sakic does not have sole ownership of the output code. There is _also_ no question that Mr. Sakic generated a valid copyright claim on his modifications. If I modify your document, you do not wind up with ownership of my efforts - we both have claims on the final output. Overlapping copyright claims to the same text are frequent and are a well-understood situation in copyright law.

I believe that any lawyer would agree that the contract says that the generated claim is assigned to Mr. Connolly. Therefore Mr. Connolly is a copyright holder to that section of code, and copying, modification, distribution etc may not take place unless permitted by fair use or by all copyright holders, including Mr. Connolly.

The only real legal question that I see is a question of fact - was what went into Mambo actually the copyrighted code or did Eric Sakic (as he now claims) write it again.

Again, IANAL and this is not legal advice.

#

Re:Only Looking for a Mutually Beneficial Resoluti

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 19, 2004 12:24 AM
Do all your clients cms's run on your server? Or do you install it on their server? If the latter, that's re-distribution.

As for it being some great Trade Secret idea, you have got to be joking, it's common industry practise. It's 9 lines of code, and you're not a exactly going to win new business on that point alone.

How about giving us the FULL facts, not selected cut-and-paste snippits that appear biased in your favour?? A full copy of all contracts, e-mails and code and then we can decide who's right here. If you have been wronged, prove it to us and we will put it right.

Your dispute is with the contractor, not with the innocent users. Leave them alone.

John.

#

Re:Only Looking for a Mutually Beneficial Resoluti

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 19, 2004 05:21 PM
I am not a lawyer, but I read Groklaw a lot...
I do not know which country's laws control Mr Connolly's contract (if indeed he remembered that clause), but his complaint seems to be basically "someone stole my Intellectual Property". Let's ignore the fact that that phrase is perilously close to an oxymoron. Under U.S. law, then:
1)is the idea patented? Where's the patent? Given the number of people who feel this is an obvious, non-original function, it may not be patentable, even if one has been issued.
2)is the idea a trade secret? Not anymore. Once the secret is widely know, it's not a secret any more and loses its legal protection as such.
3)is the IMPLEMENTATION copyrighted? Who knows for sure; however, the IDEA is NOT copyrightable. Enforcing copyright on a 9 line code snippet, although possible, doesn't seem easy since an obvious implementaion of a trivial function is difficult to claim ownership of. Given that Mambo's implementation does something (at least slightly) different, the code may well not be a derivative work under copyright law.
Sorry, Mr. Connolly, but those are the only 3 forms of "Intellectual Property". Perhaps you could offer us some vague idea of what it is you think you own, that is legally enforceable?

#

Re:Only Looking for a Mutually Beneficial Resoluti

Posted by: Paul Walker on September 20, 2004 11:40 PM
4. The code was then wrongly assigned to the GPL

Assuming Mambo is under the GPL, then the changes made were automatically GPL covered.

Note that the copyright covering the implemented code - not the original code - is a whole different ballgame. Also, if the object code was not distributed from your site, then there is no obligation to make the source available.

However, once the source has been released, and assuming the copyright holder had the right to place it under GPL - which in this case would seem to be required, since Mambo is apparently GPL covered - then anybody can redistribute it further.

#

Re:Only Looking for a Mutually Beneficial Resoluti

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 21, 2004 07:42 AM
>First off, we have NOT DISTRIBUTED THE CODE!
>Here are other relevant facts. They can also be found at
>
Doesn't matter. If the code that was modified came from Mambo project came from the Mambo project they *OWN* it, not *YOU*. Mambo is not a BSD or similar licensed program.

The Mambo license basically superceeds any agreement you may make with anyone.

#

Re:But...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 19, 2004 03:24 AM
First he says there's no copyright on the code he delivered to Brian. Then he says: "2) The code delivered to Brian Connolly was derived from GPL, Copyright Miro International Pty."

Here's how i think it went:
1) (Past) $DEVELOPER was asked by $COMPANY to develop $SOFTWARE.
2) $DEVELOPER did but there was no consensus on the license.
3) $DEVELOPER_2 added features in $SOFTWARE.
4/5/6) $DEVELOPER modifies $SOFTWARE himself even more after the contract. $DEVELOPER rewrites parts of $SOFTWARE not written by him. $DEVELOPER release $SOFTWARE under the GPL.
7) (Present) $COMPANY is pissed by #6 since the software he's running ain't unique anymore. $COMPANY feels not threatened fair by this event. $COMPANY spreads his version of the events, without important legal details, to spread FUD, so his website becomes (more) unique again.
8) (Future) Lawsuit starts. Little guy has hard times to fight Goliath because of money reasons but believes he's right. Important: #2 really matters. What were the contract details?

PS: IANAL.

#

Trade secrets.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 05:39 AM
Connolly does mention trade secrets, however, the contract Connolly claims Sakic agreed to was the following email:
<TT>I hereby state to complete the programming project for literatigroup.com under the following terms:

 
- Project consists of various modifications and customizations of Mambo Open Source CMS for the client [redacted]

 
- Project will be completed latest 20. september 2003 - Client will pay [redacted] US deposit and [redacted] US upon finished project

 
- Upon finished project all copyright rights to code written by me will belong to literatigroup.com Emir Sakic </TT>
If Connolly's claims are truthful then the contract did not include an NDA so Connelly's trade secret claims have no basis (though I am not a lawyer).

#

You don't understand the GPL

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 05:58 AM
Mr Connolly may in fact be the copyright holder, but the GPL may still require the public relese.

There's a widespread misconception that if you modify code which you're using under the GPL, you always have to release your modifications under the GPL.

This is simply not true. If you don't give or sell copies of your product to other people, you don't have to release source code. For example, if your code just runs on your web servers, you needn't reveal it.

#

Mambo claims that Connolly did distribute the code

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 08:15 AM
Mambo claims that Connolly did distribute the code. Presumably this would mean that those people (if any) who Connolly distributed the code to, were allowed to release the modifications under the GPL.

This is all kind of arbitrary anyway since Mambo claims that the code they used was original and not derived from the code developed for Connelly.

#

Re:You don't understand the GPL

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 07:03 PM
Errm, that's why I said _may_ require...

#

Where is the black and white paper?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 11:52 PM
If he is threatening to sue end user, does he have the paper work to prove it? such as signed contract or copyright file with the office?

I can claim all i want but without proper BLACK & WHITE signed paperwork, what can he do really?

#

What a joke...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 12:37 PM
It is unbelievable that reputable publications are printing Brian Connolly's story. He is a fraud, and his claims are utterly false:

1. He requested modifications to an *existing* Mambo component that was already GPL. He did not commission the development of a new component, but rather some very simply modifications to the GPL code already running Mambo.

2. The developer changed 9 trivial lines of code within this GPL code to alter the behaviour of the story layout so that it could show a "leading story". Any programmer knows that this is utterly simple, and that websites have been using this layout technique for about 10 years now since the advent of tables.

3. Even if Brian Connolly truly believes he owned this code, the code is over a year old and has long since been re-coded using a better technique.

4. Therefore, Brian Connolly wants to claim that the very "idea" of a leading story/two column layout is his "trade secret" and that he can copyright this idea.

5. Reporters: please check your facts before printing the delusional rantings of a disturbed individual with a vaporware company who wants some attention.

Please ask Brian Connolly to produce the "code" that he owns to power his big "trade secret. He will not be able to produce it, because it does not exist.

Thank you,

A Mambo User

#

Re:What a joke...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 05:24 PM
i'm not sure it's quite that simple (ianal): he contracted work to modify GPLed code, apparently with no intent of redistribution, but for exclusive use on his server.



otoh, it appears what is in mambo now (judging from yur post: i didn't look at the code) is highly modified from the contracted code, so most likely (ianal) reimplements the idea, iow (ianal) is not a copy, so copyright shouldn't apply. the idea seems not to be patented

#

Get a clue!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 12:28 AM
1) The code -all 9 lines- is not being used.

2) The GPL requires any derivative work to be made available under the same license.

Newsforge shouldn't have printed this bullshit that only allows enemies of open source to fan the flames and to spread FUD.

#

Re:Get a clue!

Posted by: Jem Matzan on September 20, 2004 05:13 AM
Please note that it is not a fact that there are 9 lines of code in dispute. That's only what Emir Sakic says -- Brian Connolly says differently. I don't know who is right, but they definitely disagree on many things.

-Jem

#

You're wrong

Posted by: observer222 on September 20, 2004 06:27 AM
The GPL requires any derivative work to be made available under the same license.

No, it doesn't. The derivative work can be used within the organization that made the modifications, without making anything available to anyone else.

The provisions of the GPL kick in only when the modified software is distributed to somebody else. Then, and only then, the provisions of the GPL take effect: the recipient must be able to get full source code, and the right to modify/redistribute it himself under the GPL.

#

so crazy

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 02:42 PM
have you guys seen the relevant code? thats so crazy<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... it is a _normal_ block, seen in hundreds of thousands of webpages<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... this is guy is simply a joke!

n00b^tuX

#

GPL violation

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 05:24 PM
As someone already pointed out, the idea of a lead story layout is not original; major and minor news sites have been using it for years. The code to implement it is a few lines and consists of an if/else statement, it's so trivial that it's doubtful it could be copyrighted any more than Hello World can be.

It's also not an addon to Mambo but an integral part of the core code (i.e. GPL). Even a modified version of that code must be GPL (see clause 5) but as the GPL is widely misunderstodd I can't say whether Mr. Connolly understands this. As far as I can see he's trying to run a business based on Free software as if it's a traditional business and that's a non-starter.

As far as I'm aware if Mr. Connolly claims the code is not under the GPL then according to clause 5 he loses his own license to use it.

#

Not Re:GPL violation

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 11:48 PM
"As far as I'm aware if Mr. Connolly claims the code is not under the GPL then according to clause 5 he loses his own license to use it. "

No. If I give you a copy of a book, you don't need permission from the author or publisher to read it.

He is free to modify GPL software all he wants without releasing the code.

He only has to release his modifications if he distributes binaries.

#

Re:Not Re:GPL violation

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 11:35 PM
But he DOES claim it's under GPL. Please see his beta site:



<A HREF="http://www.literatigroup.com/furthermore/menu/Furthermore_Publishing/" title="literatigroup.com">http://www.literatigroup.com/furthermore/menu/Fur<nobr>t<wbr></nobr> hermore_Publishing/</a literatigroup.com>



Where he states:



"Note: these items are all under the GNU General Public License. Bottom line: this license was written expressly to guarantee your freedom to share and adapt the code."



Oxymoron? Hypocrite? You decide.

#

What I take away from this - some sane thoughts

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 07:59 PM
I gather that mr. Connely hired a contractor to do some private modifications to this Mambo project. The same contractor later submitted patches for Mambo that do the same thing.


I also gather that the private version (Furthermore) is not redistribututed. In fact, if Furthermore were redistributed, then clearly the GPL would be invoked and the changes would then become public. However, since it is not, the changes made can remain private, and for those wondering, there is no conflict with the GPL in this regard since no distribution has occured. So all those histerical posts about Connelly violating the GPL are irrelevent; he is actually not, at least in that respect.


The question then is really about the patch contributed to Mambo by the same person who did work for Connelly. It is possible this person was under a work for hire contract. While Mr. Connelly has failed to produce the contract, certainly the person in question must also have a copy, being a party to it. In fact, many issues seem to revolve around the actions of Eric Sakic, who I gather was the contractor in question.


Since the changes I gather were reletivily trivial, the Mambo project could have simply chosen to pull those changes once they were aware of the situation, and instead have someone who was never hired by Mr. Connelly submit a functionally similar patch. This would have left no issue of material dispute and should have ended any issues right there. Connelly would have his private and unredistributable version, and others would have a Mambo without any further basis for claims against it. I do wonder why they choose not to do this.


Assuming, and this is a large assumption, that indeed Sakic donated the changes he made to furthermore to Mambo, and his contract with Connelly did not permit this, it would seem that only Mr. Sakic has direct liability, for breach of contract. If indeed the changes are trivial (9 lines), I am not sure Connelly has any basis to further persue Mambo as a whole. If it were a more substancial contribution he might, but even then he would have no basis to hold end users liable.


Furthermore copyright protection also does not extend to ideas, just to their specific expression; in this case the specific code involved. However, again, if it is trivial, the simplest solution for Mambo would be to have someone else write a replacement patch.

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Re:What I take away from this - some sane thoughts

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 10:22 PM
However, since it is not, the changes made can remain private, and for those wondering, there is no conflict with the GPL in this regard since no distribution has occured. So all those histerical posts about Connelly violating the GPL are irrelevent; he is actually not, at least in that respect.,/i>

I thought the same thing until I re-read the GPL. The modified code is part of a GPL whole so must remain under the GPL. No other license is possible without the consent of all copyright holders on that component. Mr. Connolly is not under any obligation to distribute but the file is still covered by the GPL, if he claims otherwise he invalidates his license to use any of the code.


However, again, if it is trivial, the simplest solution for Mambo would be to have someone else write a replacement patch.

Already done as far as I know.

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ONE user ALREADY paid him = Distribution = GPL!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 11:38 PM
The articles have said that his site is the only one that has his code... all other sites are running someone else's code. AND the guy that hired the contractor has made a big mistake if he wanted to keep any derived from GPL's code private...he collected a settlement from one user already. Whereby instead...he could have said (if the code were his and he had not distributed any copyrighted modifications that were indeed his)... please just stop using my code. Instead he collected money.
Taking money for code use is SALE and distrubution of code derived from previously GPL's code... that means that the code then must be GPL'd too... because that is the way that the GPL reads.

To collect from others he has to write his own complete MOMBO knock off with his own code... and then license it under something else besides the GPL (BSD, etc)<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... then he can make money on proprietary work.

This is a case of a guy that wants his cake and eat it too! It is obvious that he is not a coder and has no clue about the GPL (and that his site would not run at all like it does without all the others that coded and chose to put their copyrighted works under the GPL.

 

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Can charge money for distribution (his own distro)

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 18, 2004 11:47 PM
He can not charge for disto that others have provided!

This guy can be sued himself for making such claims!

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He can take GPL'd code and sell it for a profit!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 08:23 AM
That is exactly what Red Hat, SuSE, and all the rest do... it's called "distribution" and the GPL does not say you can't make money from selling and supporting your assembly of GPL'd works.

It's ok to make money from GPL'd code!

He can't do what he is doing because of his actions and the fact that that his work (not really his because of no copyrights) is derived from previous GPL'd code. Once he distributes or sells, then he has to distribute all the code he has modified under the GPL.

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I think your right

Posted by: Galik on September 19, 2004 12:10 AM
Collecting money from one user qualifies as distribution hence he has donated the modified source under GPL. He should have gone after the contractor if he wanted to avoid distribution.

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Re:ONE user ALREADY paid him = Distribution = GPL!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 19, 2004 11:18 PM
Where did you read that the company paid for CONTINUED use of the code and isn't instead paying damages for the use of stolen code? Go read the GPL about the different modes of value for code.

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Code not stolen - please read the article again!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 08:38 AM
Since the code was not stolen, (to be stolen a court has to say this is a fact), in fact the article points to the author of the code saying that the code is not being used! This guy is trying to say the multiple column idea is his and what was coded. Prior art, lack of patent before prior art, and NO copyright ownership conveyed by contract with the actual author of the code... means that Mambo users really have no fear of this guy.

Because of no theft...any money he got is indeed a payment for the use of the code and that is a sale and or a distribution! A horse is a horse no matter how you color it!

What make you think this is different?

As a tip of the hat to your post... if this is a settlement for use of what you say is stolen code...well it is not stolen code. SO this company paying money could sue this guy for a return of funds... or we can chalk this story, of some sap paying this guy, up to the moral of the story or that "there is a sucker born every minute" (David Hannum, http://www.historybuff.com/library/refbarnum.html )

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Well, that settles it.

Posted by: regeya on September 19, 2004 01:38 AM
I work for a smallish newspaper, and we're looking for a better website solution. I'll make sure Mr. Connolly's business is listed in our prioritized list of options somewhere below "Let's ditch the website altogether."



This is one of the reasons I see "business ethics" as an oxymoron: business owner pays someone to modify someone else's copyrighted code, paid developer releases code under terms of original license, business owner claims exclusive ownership and decides to sue end users.



This is the worst sort of behavior, and if you do this to end users of a GPLed work, what will you do to a paying customer? Let's look at SCO, who has decided it'd be a swell idea to sue former customers that've since moved to Linux, claiming that they couldn't have made the move from SCO to Linux without misappropriating code. Why would I want to enter into a contract with SCO when they have a history of suing former customers?



I'm starting to think that the GPL and the world of business shouldn't mix, unfortunately.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-(

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Re:Well, that settles it.

Posted by: flyfishin on September 19, 2004 05:45 AM
The GPL and business do mix. See RedHat, SuSE, Novell, Oracle, IBM, and on and on. When a business understands the GPL they can work with it.

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Re:Well, that settles it.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 19, 2004 05:54 AM
Go ahead, stick your head in the sand and payout huge cash to someone to develop a solution that provides the exact same functionality as an existing Open Source project. It's you're bankroll...

I'm a professional web designer and make constant use of Open Source projects to provide the functionality my client's need. Whether its an auction script, bulletin board or a full on portal like Mambo, the various Nuke forks or whatever the Open Source community has revolutionized the availability of enterprise level solutions and assured that no one can charge for more than their time in customization.

I hope you realize you're taking the attitude that Mr. Connolly was hoping and praying many other businesses will. This way he's left with all this wonderful publicity while Mambo OS is being left lying in the mud he's contributed to stirring up.

What about all the legitimate applications of projects like Mambo? Where's the success stories about businesses, organizations and developers that have paid or been paid for development based on Open Source applications??

You don't hear about them because a developer is typically too busy to promote the "Hey Look What I Did" aspect of his business. He's moved on to the next paying project.

The client that comissioned the work isn't typically savvy enough to know where to post their kudos to the Open Source application. That's why they hired the developer!!

I'm sure, with a little time you'll see Furthermore dry up and blow away while the Open Source Community continues to thrive and grow.

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Re:Well, that settles it.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 21, 2004 01:14 PM
This is the worst sort of behavior, and if you do this to end users of a GPLed work, what will you do to a paying customer?

How about we turn this around, and look at it from his point of view. He *is* a paying customer, having paid one of the Mambo developers to develop some custom features for him. From his point of view, the developers are now ripping *him* off by redistributing the code he paid for.

Not saying he's right, but it's not quite as black-and-white as "business rips off GPL developers".

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Re:Well, that settles it.

Posted by: flyfishin on September 21, 2004 09:34 PM
The Mambo project is not redistributing Connolly's code. The developers liked the idea Connolly came up with and developed a separate implementation for Mambo.

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The furthermore site stinks. What does he ....

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 19, 2004 05:38 AM
The furthermore site is nothing at all to be bragging about. I'm just wondering why he seems to think this site is a big draw for bucks.

Nothing there as far as CMS function that I've not had for a couple years. Lead story code has been developed by many oss and proprietary software devs and it's certainly nothing that you cannot download for free or relatively low cost. I think my main gripe is that he's raising such a fuss over something he feels he can make a dime with, and his site truly does nothing more than a free news script that I've had for years. I use Mambo now. Sue me if you like, but before you do, do something with your site design. It truly stinks.

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Should be or not?

Posted by: Joe Barr on September 19, 2004 09:36 AM
You wrote:

No matter who is right or correct, the end result is that the code that Connolly feels that he's rightfully paid for and should own is now available to anyone -- whether it should be or not.


If what Connoly paid for was customization of a GPLd application -- as is claimed -- then how he feels about it, and how others feel about the GPL, are moot questions.


The GPL is designed to prevent people from taking free software and making it closed. That seems to be what Connoly is trying to do. And that's what the GPL seems to be doing in this case. And that is exactly as it should be.

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Re:Should be or not?

Posted by: Jem Matzan on September 19, 2004 11:21 AM
But if you're using a GPL program to sell a service, and not *selling* the software itself -- which is what Connolly is doing -- then you can add all of the proprietary stuff you want to the program and not have to give others the source or anything else. The question here is, what constitutes distribution?

-Jem

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Re:Should be or not?

Posted by: Joe Barr on September 19, 2004 07:44 PM

The code is being distributed to the customer. The process appears to be that users download Mambo components from Connolly, and then -- if they wish -- hire Connolly to "tinker" with it for them.


He can call it performing a service, or anything else he likes, but if the code ends up running at the customer's site, that's distribution.

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The first person/org to try to "pull a SCO"! (NT)

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 04:11 AM
No Text

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irreverent?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 05:23 AM
>Meanwhile the Mambo community had a discussion >on the matter (this is one of several threads) >with a general irreverence toward Connolly and >his claims of copyright infringement

The thread in question did not seem to be irreverent, for the most part it was just saying that Connolly's claims of copyright infringement were incorrect because of x,y and z.

Ofcourse debating a community forum does give you the great advantage that you can always find strawman arguments to counter.

I don't see this discussion as being too useful as anonymous posters,like journalists, don't know the relevant facts and don't take the time to do proper research.

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Sakic does not come out of this well.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 06:16 AM
In a narrowly legalistic sense, perhaps Connolly is simply wrong.

But it seems likely that he was misinformed about the rights he would have in the code he paid for.

Most people outside the software community are unaware of the special features of the GPL. A responsible software developer, on accepting a paid contract to work on some GPL'd code, would explain to his/her client, in writing, exactly what rights and obligations the client would have in the resulting work. Almost everyone would expect that somebody who pays for work to be done, gets complete ownership of the results of that work, regardless of whether the code is 9 lines or 9000 lines. Turning round after the fact and saying in effect, "you didn't realize what you were buying? You should have read the license, turkey!" is not good enough.

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But Sakic claims Mambo implementation new.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 08:40 AM
Sakic claims that the implementation in Mambo was completely original, so Sakic's position does not depend on the GPL and is correct in more than 'narrowly legalistic sense'.

The claim by Connelly that Sakic violated their trade secrets also does not have anything to do with the GPL. It is well understood that no trade secrets exist without a NDA and the contract Connelly claims Sakic agreed to did not have a non-disclosure clause. We also can't blame Sakic for depriving Connelly of their trade-secrets by not signing an NDA, because it is hard to see how a 9-line piece of code whose output is published on the web could possibly have any trade secrets.

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But Connelly claims Sakic confirmed the copying.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 21, 2004 01:22 PM
Connelly says that he has email between he and Sakic, where the latter sought permission - after the fact - to copy the changes into Mambo.

Who's right? We don't have enough information to say.

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What classifies a "distribution" event?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 20, 2004 02:34 PM
My question relates to what is deemed to be a distribution event according to the GPL:

From the FSF GPL FAQ:
"Q. A company is running a modified version of a GPL'ed program on a web site. Does the GPL say they must release their modified sources?
A. The GPL permits anyone to make a modified version and use it without ever distributing it to others. What this company is doing is a special case of that. Therefore, the company does not have to release the modified sources.
It is essential for people to have the freedom to make modifications and use them privately, without ever publishing those modifications. However, putting the program on a server machine for the public to talk to is hardly "private" use, so it would be legitimate to require release of the source code in that special case. We are thinking about doing something like this in GPL version 3, but we don't have precise wording in mind yet.

In the mean time, you might want to use the Affero GPL for programs designed for network server use. "<nobr> <wbr></nobr>....so am I correct in assuming that what the FSF are saying is that in this latter case, that in fact in the current (v2?) version of the GPL, you can change a GPL app - publish the modified version to the web and never release the source ie that putting it up on the web is not according to the current version of the GPL deemed to be a "distribution event"?

If thats the case, then surely Mr. Connelly's little escapade did allow him to do what he did, and not have to release the source? (assuming he owned the IP which is potentially another wholly different question - but for now, I'm most interested in clearing up this 'distribution' point which is confusing me). But if the latter comment in the GPL FAQ ie "...However, putting the program on a server machine for the public to talk to is hardly "private" use, so it would be legitimate to require release of the source code in that special case."<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.....confused the hell out of me? Does the source have to be released or not? Is this just a general statement of philosophy from FSF or a statement of GPL licensing requirements ie that this IS deemed to be a distribution event?

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Reporters role

Posted by: jlar on September 20, 2004 03:55 PM
Interesting article - but I was wondering why you state something like this:

"One thing that Brian Connolly said to us yesterday rings true above all else: "This will not be resolved in the media.""

In my view journalists should not just report the opinions and viewpoints of the parties involved. They should investigate the case so that the readers have the facts. In this case this would mean doing a bit of code investigation, asking for a copy of the contract (or at least a chance to see the contract) and a verification of the validity of the eventual contract. Unfortunately none of this is done in the article.

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Re:Reporters role

Posted by: Jem Matzan on September 21, 2004 01:45 PM
This story deals primarily with legal issues, and I'm not qualified or interested in making a judgement on them.

The point of this story was to explain why Connolly posted his threats on the Internet. It's not my job as a journalist to be the teacher on the playground.

I do agree that more evidence would have been nice, but the only evidence I was able to discover was email between Emir Sakic and Brian Connolly, which I cannot verify the authenticity of. Then we get back into he-said they-said and it all becomes a public argument.

I'm just telling you what the parties involved told me about what has transpired. In the end, that's all any reporter can do in the absence of verified paper documents, video, or audio.

-Jem

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Re:Reporters role

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 22, 2004 12:37 PM
This wasnt' journalism or reporting. You just posted a copy of Connolly's letter, which was already out there.

The issue here probably needed to come to light, but if you were going to report it, you should have added something too it.

Getting the developers take after posting Connolly's letter wasn't very bright either. If you were going to post one, you should have posted them both.

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Re:Reporters role

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2004 12:23 PM
Reporters role (Score:1)
By jlar (187202) on 2004.09.20 3:55 (#99199)
Interesting article - but I was wondering why you state something like this:

"One thing that Brian Connolly said to us yesterday rings true above all else: "This will not be resolved in the media.""

In my view journalists should not just report the opinions and viewpoints of the parties involved. They should investigate the case so that the readers have the facts.


Reporter != Journalist

I agree that's the role of a reporter, but a journalist does less (and should get paid less IMO).

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Miro is coming... Now where to hide.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 22, 2004 06:32 AM
Miro is supporting the views of Mambo Open Source and they are going to have the last word on this. They "are" copyright Mambo Open Source. Brian has a big problem coming his way.

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Connolly not a programmer

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 22, 2004 08:30 AM
and does not know what he is talking about.

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Re:Connolly not a programmer

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 22, 2004 08:40 AM
He absolutely is not a coder see: http://linuxworld.com/story/45708.htm?DE=1

He thinks a 9 line function that makes tables on a page can be copyrighted because he is an idiot, not because he has some legitimate claim.


"The significance of Furthermore is that the guy who was the prime builder is a marketing guy - not a developer, not even a wannabe coder. Brian Connolly is a business manager who had a vision for an application. He doesn't think in terms of features and functions as much as in "customer behaviors" and "business value."

The new truth is that the open source mindset, and the tangible artifacts that it continues to produce, are reaching new heights of accessibility. You no longer need to be a PHP or Perl guru to assemble real-world analogs (in this case, a newspaper redefined) that have real value for even less-tech-savvy general users.

Furthermore keeps the visitor's concept clear (the "newspaper gestalt") without sacrificing granularity of feature-addition and management for the truly technical audiences. No longer must developers lose the conceptual thread while digging through the sub-basement of code to enable some minor enhancement. Mambo's "bones" keep the end result and the path to get there tightly aligned.

Open source is on a seemingly inexorable path toward being part of the common business-building lexicon. Imagine a time when average users will readily stitch these components together to create a new application based on a unique vision of function. That time is now. It's one thing for the likes of IBM, Dell, and HP to include open source competence in their professional services; another for it to be so accessible that a marketing person like Brian Connolly could make disparate pieces function together. "

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Comments posted in forums by Connolly

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2004 04:49 AM
<A HREF="http://www.mambers.com/showthread.php?t=4959/" title="mambers.com">http://www.mambers.com/showthread.php?t=4959/</a mambers.com>
"1. Search engine ranking results certainly are effected by SEF
Advance. It provides for a potential where there was, in effect, none.
But "rankings," per se, are influenced by numerous other variables.
Your question is a little like saying "how did the golf clubs
influence his game?" SEF Advance is a "Big Bertha" driver.
2. With regard to components SEF'd, see the SEF Advance demo at
http://mambo.supershells.net/component/recommend/ .
3. Worth the money... ABSOLUTELY. We've done business with Sakic. We
think he's one of the brightest and most talented Mambo developers on
the planet. We used his expertise to build our site (see our staging
area at http://www.literatigroup.com/furthermore ). We couldn't be
more pleased. "

"We've been fairly quiet about it. We are withholding a general
announcement as we are presently in talks with a several major news
organizations.

Bottom line: It's more than a web site; and it's better than the best
blog application available today. This is the perfect CMS for the
micro enterprise that wants to launch a publication on the web. It's a
burgeoning market that has the potential to completely eclipse the
current 3.5 million bloggers.

Anyway... that's off topic. Back to the point: we are just thrilled
with Mr. Sakic. We are deeply grateful for Emir's skill and service."

<A HREF="http://www.mambers.com/showthread.php?t=7935/" title="mambers.com">http://www.mambers.com/showthread.php?t=7935/</a mambers.com>
Fully functional news site.... no. Complete... yes. It's a demo!

For what it's worth... the Furthermore demo and the LinuxWorld article
have already opened several big doors for us. As a result, we have a
strategic partnership with one of the largest news content syndicates
on the planet.

I expect we'll be making the announcement within the next three weeks.
Michael, you can count on the fact that the release will be more
aligned with your journalistic standards.

"The "approach" is a matter of perspective. If you can, stop thinking
about individual components and modules. Stop thinking about
individual sites for individual businesses. One-offs will kill ya.
Think about "shooting ducks in flocks" as a former mentor of mine use
to say. Think auto assembly line or Levittown.

Here, I am going to use Mambo as an example but this applies to lots
of Open Source projects:

First, find a business niche that presently pays BIG BUCKS for a
content management tool. Then configure/tailor a collection with the
various sundry parts in the Mambo library. As there invariably will be
a few parts missing, or parts that need to be tailored, hookup with a
top Mambo dev and pay him whatever he wants (and then some). Result:
Now you've got a vertical solution. That's Furthermore. That's Hot
Property, too.

Now comes the hard part. If you make it this far, you're at what will
make or break a venture startup, "Market Acceptance." Certainly, if
you've got a wheelbarrow of venture capital, you can buy your way in
to the marketplace. But those days are gone. As such, you've got to
earn your way in. I suggest you find a BIG NAME strategic partner
whose halo effect can get you into the party and provide the
credibility you need to mass market. We've aligned with one of the top
news content syndication companies globally. The trade: They get free
R&D and to own an exciting new market category and all the accolades
that come with it. And we get the chance to pull together a vibrant
enterprise (maybe).

That's it really. Because 98 times out of 100 you'll fail miserably.
But if you make it... "it's money for nothing and chicks for free!"

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