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Feature: Legal

Closing the legal briefcase on Mambo vs. Furthermore copyright dispute

By Jem Matzan on September 29, 2004 (8:00:00 AM)

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<ed by cp 9.28> By now most of you have heard of the copyright infringement and code theft claims involving the Mambo content management system and businessman Brian Connolly. Legal questions have been raised, guesses have been made, commentary has flowed forth, and all involved in the dispute have had their 15 minutes to relay their sad tales of injustice. Now it is time for the facts, and NewsForge can definitively say that Connolly's legal claims against the Mambo community are baseless.

Some background: Brian Connolly, co-founder of the Literati Group, had paid Mambo developer Emir Sakic to customize Mambo OS (in this instance, OS stands for open source, because there is a closed-source version of Mambo called Mambo CMS) to look like a newspaper. Part of this customization involved Sakic coding a text block for the front page that would span the usual two-column news listing. This lead story block involved little more than a colspan HTML attribute inside of an otherwise standard table cell element and a few lines of associated code to make it look somewhat different.

Connolly believed that this customization was a proprietary one. Since his contract with Sakic (which Sakic says was never signed; Connolly refused to provide NewsForge with a copy of the alleged contract) stipulated that all copyrights would be assigned to Furthermore, Inc., he figured that he would be able to further protect what he refers to as his "invention."

Unfortunately, this invention is neither unique nor new. Many other content management systems have this functionality and have been using it for some time -- some are proprietary, such as the BBC News Web site, and some are free software, such as Slash, which has an extensibility that allows a "lead story block" function.

The red herring

When Connolly first put up his Furthermore demo site, he noticed that his server logs showed that a perceived competitor had downloaded about 20MB worth of data from his site. Connolly immediately interpreted this as wholesale code theft when, in fact, he had no reason to believe that any theft had taken place. The competitor was in the process of designing a site around Mambo OS and, like Furthermore, also employed the lead story block. NewsForge contacted this competitor and found him to be extremely upset over Connolly's threats; the competitor insisted that we not use the name or any details about their company in this story, but vehemently denied that any sort of code theft took place.

Mambo uses the PHP extension for the files that contain code, and that code is never published to a Web page; instead it is rendered by the server and turned into HTML, which in turn is rendered by the browser to show you a Web site. If you want to view the HTML code, you can easily do so by selecting the View Source option. Since the viewer never sees what's in the PHP files and cannot access them directly without special access to the Web site, it would be impossible for anyone to download Connolly's code without root or direct FTP access to the site.

Someone could, however, legally save the HTML to their hard drive and attempt to reverse-engineer the code back to usable PHP. This is a lot like trying to design the machines that manufacture automobile parts by examining a finished car. Alternatively someone could make the site static by using the viewable HTML.

Copyright infringement or code theft?

Dan Ravicher of Open Source Risk Management told NewsForge that there is a distinct difference between copyright infringement and code theft. Connolly claims that this situation involves both.

It would seem to be a fairly clear-cut case if you only see Connolly's side of the story. But the code committed to the Mambo OS project was not the same code that Sakic wrote for Furthermore. The Furthermore code was nine lines of hardcoded HTML, according to Sakic; it did not have to be dynamically generated because Furthermore is not designed to be theme-able. Mambo, on the other hand, is designed to be fully customizable. So a month later, in October 2003, Emir Sakic developed a way to do the same thing dynamically and committed it to the Mambo core.

Sakic's mistake was not in developing and distributing a derivative work of the code he wrote for Connolly, but in emailing Connolly to tell him what he'd done, with the facetious comment, "Hope you don't mind" tacked on to the end. This is where the trouble started, yet no illegal act had been committed.

Code was not stolen verbatim -- all parties agree on this matter -- and it clearly was not an act of malice on anyone's part. Therefore, according to Ravicher's definition, this contribution was not code theft in the legal sense.

Copyright infringement is a broader term and would seem to be a better fit for this situation; after all, the contract called for all copyrights to be assigned to Furthermore, Inc. But the code was a derivative of GPL-licensed code, thereby making it a derivative work of the parent code and automatically licensing it under the GNU General Public License.

Connolly claims that since he is the copyright holder of the original code that he can prohibit redistribution of a derivative work of that code even though it's all licensed under the GPL. Eben Moglen, counsel for the Free Software Foundation and Columbia University law professor, wrote an article called "Enforcing the GPL, Part I" in August 2001 in which he wrote:

Copyright grants publishers power to forbid users to exercise rights to copy, modify, and distribute that we believe all users should have; the GPL thus relaxes almost all the restrictions of the copyright system. The only thing we absolutely require is that anyone distributing GPL'd works or works made from GPL'd works distribute in turn under GPL. That condition is a very minor restriction, from the copyright point of view.

So because the code falls under the jurisdiction of the GPL, no one can place any restrictions on redistribution, including the copyright holder. This means that even if it could be definitively said that Sakic created a derivative work of the code that he'd written for Furthermore, Connolly has no legal recourse for preventing its distribution or use.

Just to make sure, we also asked Open Source Initiative attorney Larry Rosen, author of the new volume Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom and Intellectual Property Law, about this point of legal trivia.

"By definition, all software released under the GPL means that one can assume the work may be copied, distributed, or otherwise modified by any other user," Rosen said. "The creator can't 'GPL' something and then turn around and say, 'I really didn't intend this to be used any other way.' That makes no sense."

Mambo users are safe

After having argued on the Mambers message forums with developers and members of the Mambo community and seeing that no progress could be made, Connolly decided to move the issue to a larger venue. His final method of defending what he perceived to be his invention and property was to put up a Web site telling his half of the story and threatening to sue some of the approximately 5 million Mambo OS end-users. To better accomplish his goal, Connolly contacted SCO Group spokesman Blake Stowell and, during the course of a five to 10-minute phone conversation, obtained media contacts that Stowell thought would be helpful to Connolly's situation.

Nothing can stop Connolly from making good on his public threats to sue innocent end-users -- anyone can file a lawsuit for any reason -- but the legal basis for such action is nonexistent. Larry Rosen told us that he "could not imagine any court issuing a judgment against any user of software released under the GPL, as long as the user abides by the rules of the license."

Code comparison

It has already been established that all code in question is under the GPL and may be freely used, distributed, or modified. But as a further testament to the fact that the lead story block code in Mambo OS is distinctly different from that which powers Furthermore, we've prepared a brief code comparison. (Click on the below images to enlarge them)

Furthermore code
Furthermore code
Mambo code
Mambo code

In the left-hand photo you'll see the table that contains the front page stories in Furthermore. On the right, the equivalent code as obtained from the MamboForge online demo and configured to use the lead story option. This is not the originating PHP, but the resultant HTML that both sites generate. Brian Connolly refused to provide us with the Furthermore front page code and Emir Sakic refused to tell us where in the Mambo code his contribution was. Although we're reasonably sure we found the correct PHP in a Mambo file called content.php, we have nothing to compare it to. The HTML that is rendered by that PHP is a reliable basis for comparison, however, and it can be freely viewed by anyone through a standard Web browser. For this example, we've removed unnecessary white space and copied the content from the demo code to the Furthermore code so that you can better see the exact differences in how they are rendered. It should additionally be noted that Furthermore is not proprietary -- it is merely a customized version of an earlier version of Mambo OS, so there will be some inherent and unavoidable similarities.

The Mambo code is much cleaner; more of the presentation elements have been relegated to an external cascading style sheet, and in accordance with HTML 4.01 standards, the code tags are all in lowercase. It also uses a span tag to separate the author text style from the date text style. The Furthermore code uses div tags around the content and employs the deprecated font tag in the main content cell, whereas the Mambo code puts all font specifications into the style sheet. The primary operator here is the colspan="2" attribute, which turns a two-column table into a single-column for the specified row, thus producing one story with two below it. There really isn't any other way to code the colspan attribute without using separate tables, which is a far less elegant solution. Although we did not ask any copyright experts about colspan="2", there does not appear to be a legal basis for claiming a copyright on it.

That's the lead story block, and as you can see, there isn't much to it. Although Emir Sakic said it was nine lines of code, only one of them really made the magic happen.

Connolly admits that he has not compared the code for himself, or even looked at the Mambo code to verify that it contains code developed specifically for Furthermore. Brian Connolly told NewsForge that he "could tell just by looking at their site," meaning how the supposedly offending Mambo Web sites that employ the lead story block appear in his Web browser. Neither did Connolly commission any third party experts to compare code directly.

Conclusions

The Connolly/Mambo situation boils down to one man not doing enough research into the licensing details of the GNU General Public License, then taking his case to public message forums instead of private communication with the project leadership and eventually resorting to threatening uninvolved people with litigation.

The problem all along has not been that Connolly was violently seeking revenge, but that he'd made several erroneous assumptions about a wide variety of things, then used those assumptions to unintentionally mislead people. He spoke with Rosen of OSI, Weathersby of the OSSI, Stowell of SCO, and a few other unnamed sources who gave Connolly good advice. The problem is, he told them the wrong story.

No code was stolen or taken; rather two separate modifications were made to the same GPL code to accomplish the same very basic and common task in two very different ways.

Connolly told us that this would not be resolved in the media, but his actions paint a portrait of a man who tried very hard to gain support from the press and free software community. Based on his statements alone, he appears to be the victim rather than the aggressor, but the facts say that Brian Connolly is the victim not of code theft or copyright infringement, but of his own reluctance to perform due diligence in going forward with public threats before gathering evidence to prove his case.

This is hopefully the end of this story, but it also marks the second time that the boy has cried wolf in the press (the first being SCO). Each time a false code theft or copyright infringement claim is publicly made against free software, the patience and understanding of the community wanes. Companies like SCO and Furthermore, Inc. make it more difficult for genuine code theft and copyright infringement claims to be made by people who have checked their facts and gathered reliable evidence.

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

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Comments

on Closing the legal briefcase on Mambo vs. Furthermore copyright dispute

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you must be kidding...

Posted by: zambizzi on September 29, 2004 12:22 PM
Is *that* what this guy was raising such a fit about? A few simple lines of code!!??

It must be some kind of prank?

Life goes on pal, you lost nothing here even *if* there was foul play involved, which all the evidence points to the contrary.

What a joke.

#

Finally...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 12:50 PM
So the true facts of this case come out. Hopefully the media (C|Net, eWeek, NewsForge, LinuxToday, LinuxInsider and everybody else who published this drivel) will think twice before printing the unfounded accusations of a disgruntled individual soley on the basis of his rantings and ravings.

This story and its appearance in various media outlets has done a grave disservice to the Mambo community and to open source software in general.

Hopefully all of the other Big Guns who printed Connolly's distorted version of this story will also follow up with the facts. Mambo and the open source community deserved better, and the record should be corrected.

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GPL faq

Posted by: andrecaldas on September 29, 2004 12:54 PM

Connolly claims that since he is the copyright holder of the original code that he can prohibit redistribution of a derivative work of that code even though it's all licensed under the GPL.



He cannot prohibit redistribution, but he can prohibit distribution. The question is: did him distribute it himself? If he did, then he is in violation of the GPL. If he didn't, then the one who did is in violation of Connolly's copyrights.




Please, refer to the GPL FAQ:
<A HREF="http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#StolenCopy" title="gnu.org">
stolen copy
</a gnu.org>
<A HREF="http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#UnreleasedMods" title="gnu.org">
unreleased modifications
</a gnu.org>




The most important question, and only few people seems to be asking, is: "did Connolly distribuite its version of Mambo by any means?". And by "any means" includes: "binary form", "did he installed in his client's host?". If he did, and only if he did the modifications are GPL. If he distribuited it in binary form only, then he is in violation of the GPL




Also, comparing the outputed HTML code looks a little meaningless for me.




Of course: IANAL

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Re:GPL faq

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 01:06 PM
Sigh. But as the article makes abundantly clear the code is NOT THE SAME. For god sakes, it is a COLSPAN=2 that is at issue here! There is no reasonable argument on the planet that could convince me that Brian Connolly could copyright this or claim it as his "invention" or "trade secret." It is ridicously common layout technique, and the code to accomplish it is clearly different in Connolly's version of Mambo than it is the current version of Mambo.

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Re:GPL faq

Posted by: andrecaldas on September 29, 2004 02:25 PM


Of course, besides the question - "did Connolly distributed the code himself?" -, there is also the most essential question: "Was anything taken form Connolly?". But this is just what Connolly claims himself.




If the author wanted to state that nothing was taken from Connolly, he should do so the same way you did on your comment! Instead, he cites some completely out of context Eben Moglen's quote.




The article should just say nothing was taken from Connolly. But instead, it says:




Sakic's mistake was not in developing and distributing a derivative work of the code he wrote for Connolly, but in emailing Connolly to tell him what he'd done, (...)



Because of the above quote, I cited the GPL FAQ. The above states that Sakic distributed some code he did not own (as far as I understand). If this was not what happened, this is completely missleading!

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Re:GPL faq

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 06:32 PM
>Sigh. But as the article makes abundantly clear the code is NOT THE SAME.

Depending on the exact terms of the contract between Connolly and Sakic, this may or may not be relevant. It is possible that the contract said that Sakic assigned to Connolly the copyright on *any further work by him* on Mambo. But then, Sakic even contends that he signed any contract.

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Re:GPL faq

Posted by: Jem Matzan on September 29, 2004 01:08 PM
You're ignoring the fact that Sakic's code was a derivative of GPL'd code belonging to Miro International. Connolly does not own anything relating to the code, despite what the contract said.

Even if he did own the copyright to the code, reread the quotes I gave from Larry Rosen.

-Jem

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Re:GPL faq

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 01:45 PM
Relating to the quotes from Larry Rosen, he talks about GPL'ing something and then taking it back...

Fully GPL'ing something (in this case the pieces of code that were developed under contract, if valid, and thus whose copyrights belong to Furthermore) requires it to be released or distributed to some third party.

That is, if you write a scratch program that you haven't properly finished, you may already have attached a GPL notice to it. But unless YOU, the copyright holder, have already distributed the work yourself, no other third party has received a licence to the program, and thus no one is allowed to redistribute it (since it wasn't distributed yet).

No matter if your program contained some GPL code from other project. Yes, the code from the other project remains GPL'd and no one may change that. But the new, original pieces that have not been distributed yet are not yet licenced to anyone under the GPL.

I think Larry Rosen will find his quote a little bit out of context in this article.

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Re:GPL faq

Posted by: Jem Matzan on September 29, 2004 02:49 PM
You're still misunderstanding this issue. All of the code -- Mambo, Furthermore, the additions that Emir made -- are all GPL. Being licensed under the GPL, as Eben Moglen said in his article quoted above, removes most of the restrictions of copyright. That means that you as the copyright holder have relinquished all of your rights to refuse distribution of the work. You can't place restrictions on GPL code, or else you are violating the license agreement.

And it was also a derivative work of a previously copyrighted and GPL'd work -- again, you can't place restrictions on that.

I doubt that this code can even be qualified as a "work" because it is appallingly common, previously and widely used, nonspecific to the task, and extremely brief.

Third, the code was not copied into Mambo. The code was hardcoded into the front page of Furthermore (in fact what you see above in the code comparison may actually be some or all of the code that Sakic wrote for Connolly), and Mambo's code is generated dynamically according to the style settings in the backend. Both the Furthermore lead story block and the Mambo lead story function are derivative works of the same GPL code. One is not a derivative of the other, it merely does the same thing in a totally different way.

So right there you have three ways that Furthermore/Connolly cannot place restrictions on the code, and some reasoning that it may not be copyrightable anyway.

-Jem

#

Re:GPL faq

Posted by: erhnamdjim on September 29, 2004 04:03 PM
I think you're still missing the point. A company is not required to redistribute any changes it makes to OSS code as long as it the company only uses the amended code internally. i.e. as long as they don't pass on their version on to anyone else. If they do release their product commercially, and only then, do they have to release the amended source code under the GPL.

#

Re:GPL faq

Posted by: Jem Matzan on September 29, 2004 04:45 PM
Requirement or not, the restriction on distribution is still lifted. Besides, we're not talking about unique programs, we're talking about code that was derived from GPL code.

The code developed for Furthermore was not used in Mambo. It was never distributed. Even so, if it was hardcoded, it's publicly viewable.

The Mambo code that added the lead story function was a derivative work of Mambo code. The Furthermore lead story block was a derivative work of Mambo code. Both appear to do the same thing, but they are coded differently. Both use a common attribute to a table data tag, colspan="2", to accomplish their primary purpose. Emir Sakic coded both methods. All code is under the GPL. These are the only similarities that they share. Somehow you are still assuming that code was improperly taken.

*Now* do you understand?

-Jem

#

A license has no power to coerce actions

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 09:03 AM
You're still misunderstanding this issue. All of the code -- Mambo, Furthermore, the additions that Emir made -- are all GPL.

Not so. You have a mistaken belief that modifications automatically become GPLed due to some mysterious force. The GPL is a license, which means that it grants extra rights to people if they follow its stipulations. It is not a signed contract, so it cannot force any code to become GPLed.

So, when the GPL says that any redistribution of a derivative work must be done under the GPL, this doesn't mean that the derivative code is forced to become GPLed by the GPL, this means that the GPL witholds its grant of redistribution privileges to those that try to distribute a derivative work that is not wholly GPLed -- making such a distribution a violation of copyright.

That is the GPL's only power -- to withold its extra rights from those that don't follow its stipulations. It has no power to transform anyone else's code into GPLed code. Only the copyright holder has the power to do that.

#

Re:A license has no power to coerce actions

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 06:25 PM
Indeed.

If I make a derived work of a GPL'd program and distribute it under a proprietary license, that *does not mean* that you are allowed to strip that license from my work and apply the GPL instead.

It only means that the copyright holder of the original GPL'd program (and nobody else!) may sue me for copyright infringement. You can't be sure that the lawsuit will end with my work falling under the GPL -- and even if it would, you can't act in advance as if it already had.
For instance, we could reach a settlement by which I'd pay some money and acquire the rights to keep selling my work under the proprietary license.

Until my license is declared void in court or I relicense my work (either on my own will or because forced by court order), *the license remains legally valid and binding* and by no way you can ever redistribute my work under different terms.

#

"Code theft"?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 03:30 PM
"...there is a distinct difference between copyright infringement and code theft..."

What is this difference? I would have assumed that code theft was a euphimism for a particular type of copyright infringement.

#

Re:"Code theft"?

Posted by: Jem Matzan on September 29, 2004 03:34 PM

Quoting Dan Ravicher:


"I'd also note a very stark difference between code theft and copyright infringement. The former connotes an intentional act of taking from another with malicious intent. That's a very very serious charge to
make against another and one should be darn sure to have evidence to support such a claim before making it. Copyright infringement is a much broader category of behavior that can include actors who had entirely good faith intentions to respect the rights of another, despite in the end not succeeding in that aim."


-Jem

#

Re:"Code theft"?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 04:55 AM
To exist a theft, there is someone who should be "restricted" from the use of something.

There is no such thing of code theft unless the "thief" would erase all the other existing copies of the code.

What you are looking in this case is not "theft" but "illegal copy"...

Mind about the terms, because, illegal copy is a copyright violation... and theft is a crime... (in most countries, they are in diferent branchs of the law, meaning that the first is in "civil code of law" and the other in "penal code of law").

With the advent of DMCA everything is a crime so, the distinction is futil...

#

A few bits of HTML?

Posted by: OwlWhacker on September 29, 2004 03:36 PM
I expect that most Web designers could write a page such as this without any need of looking at other people's code.

HTML isn't like programming in C, it's a markup language. It's not exactly difficult to use the few tags that HTML provides.

Would you go into somebody's house and say, "I'm sorry, you can't have that chair beside the fireplace at that angle, I've done that in my home!"

If you did say that then people would think that you had mental problems.

It's not as if this is some new layout that nobody could ever think of, is it? I suppose the company wanted to patent it.

Ah well.

#

Re:A few bits of HTML?

Posted by: Don de Los Alamos on September 29, 2004 03:58 PM

*\\ Would you go into somebody's house and say, "I'm
sorry,
you can't have that chair beside the fireplace at that angle, I've done
that in my home!" *\\



lol Good analogy; but if I could, Martha Stewart would be headed back
to court, yes indeed.

#

Furthermore's Response to Matzan, point by point

Posted by: Furthermore on September 29, 2004 07:02 PM
The following is Furthermore's response to Jem's article. We take notable quotes as they appear and answer each:

1. “Now it is time for the facts.”
-- Great lead. However, Jem then delivers an op-ed piece comprised almost entirely of conjecture and conclusions.

2. “Newsforge can definitively say that Connolly's legal claims against the Mambo community are baseless.”
-- Actually, Newsforge cannot "definitively" say anything legal. Moreover, it is patently illegal for Matzan and Newsforge to provide something that can be construed as legal advice.

3. “Connolly believed that this customization was a proprietary one. Since his contract with Sakic stipulated that all copyrights would be assigned to Furthermore, Inc., he figured that he would be able to further protect what he refers to as his "invention." Unfortunately, this invention is neither unique nor new. Many other content management systems have this functionality and have been using it for some time.”
-- Newsforge draws a simple contrary conclusion here. It is certianly NOT an authoritative and vetted legal opinion. The forum for that is a court of law.

4. “It would be impossible for anyone to download Connolly's code without root or direct FTP access to the site.”
-- That’s an assumption not based on any firsthand evidence. Hackers hack variously every day. But that aside, Jem then argues that the "competitor" was in the process of "reverse engineering." However, reverse engineering would still require the permission of the copyright holder.

5. “The code committed to the Mambo OS project was not the same code that Sakic wrote for Furthermore;” and "Emir Sakic developed a way to do the same thing dynamically and committed it to the Mambo core."
-- The code committed to Mambo was done under contract and paid for by the Literati Group. The contract stipulates that “Upon finished project all copyright rights to code written by [Sakic] will belong to literatigroup.com."

6. “Sakic's mistake was not in developing and distributing a derivative work of the code he wrote for Connolly, but in emailing Connolly to tell him what he'd done, with the facetious comment, ‘Hope you don't mind’ tacked on to the end. This is where the trouble started, yet no illegal act had been committed.”
-- Sakic was NOT being facetious. It was genuine because a misdeed had been committed. Newsforge is again discounting fact for the sole purpose of drawing a bias legal conclusion.

7. “Code was not stolen verbatim, and it clearly was not an act of malice on anyone's part.”
-- Not quite sure what Jem is getting at here. It seems that his argument is that if one only slightly misappropriates... and with a good attitude... Well, that's okay.

8. “Copyright infringement is a broader term and would seem to be a better fit for this situation; after all, the contract called for all copyrights to be assigned to Furthermore, Inc. But the code was a derivative of GPL-licensed code, thereby making it a derivative work of the parent code and automatically licensing it under the GNU General Public License.”
-- This confuses copyright and GPL. GPL does not automatically rob one of their copyrights.

9. “Connolly claims that since he is the copyright holder of the original code that he can prohibit redistribution of a derivative work of that code even though it's all licensed under the GPL. Eben Moglen, counsel for the Free Software Foundation and Columbia University law professor, wrote an article called "Enforcing the GPL, Part I" in August 2001 in which he wrote: ‘Copyright grants publishers power to forbid users to exercise rights to copy, modify, and distribute that we believe all users should have; the GPL thus relaxes almost all the restrictions of the copyright system. The only thing we absolutely require is that anyone distributing GPL'd works or works made from GPL'd works distribute in turn under GPL. That condition is a very minor restriction, from the copyright point of view.’”
-- Moglen's quote is misapplied. BOTTOM LINE: THERE IS NO DUTY TO REDISTRIBUTE MODIFIED GPL CODE. The code was redistributed improperly by the Mambo project as it was gotten without Furthermore's permission. This also makes derivative(s) an unlawful by-product.

10. “Code comparison”
-- Jem is partially comparing one derivative work with another derivative work. It's apples and oranges and certainly misleading.

11. “Mambo users are safe. [BUT] Nothing can stop Connolly from making good on his public threats to sue innocent end-users -- anyone can file a lawsuit for any reason -- but the legal basis for such action is nonexistent.”
-- Incorrect. Mambo users are not safe, per se. And that's not a consequence of the wildly erroneous "anyone can file a lawsuit for any reason" assertion. On filing a claim, an attorney certifies that the pleading "to the best of the signer's knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry, is well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law."

A LEGAL CLAIM is the single most important point in this matter. The fact that this matter rises to that potential puts users of Mambo OS in jeopardy. And what makes this such a lightning-rod issue is that users of any OS software developed by projects without the systems and safeguards in place to protect users, offers them a trojan horse of LEGAL EXPOSURES. Unfortunately, that might be more common than not.

#

Re:Furthermore's Response to Matzan, point by poin

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 08:04 PM
Idiot...
I'll break the law here : <colspan = 2>
There. Now sue me.

#

Re:Furthermore's Response to Matzan, point by poin

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 09:10 PM
Mate, you don't have a clue.

Reverse Engineering needing the copyright holders permission? Now there's a patently false statement.

And as for Jem "illegally" proferring a legal opinion, quick, someone arrest President Bush, he's not a lawyer but he keeps telling me that things are illegal... To make a statement of opionion about a legal matter is not illegal, in fact it called Free Speech and is Constitutioanlly protected. To pretend that you are a lawyer and profer a legal opinion is what's illegal.

And you obviously have no understanding of the differences between Copyright, Patent, and Trade Secret. Copyright does not protect ideas, only a specific expression of them. And 9 lines of code would almost certainly not be considered copyrightable by a Federal Court as it fails the Filtration, Abstraction test (oh oh, there I go illegally proffering a legal opinion). In fact, the code would probaly fall under the scenes a faire provision of the copyright law.

I could go on, but you're a waste of space and your case would be laughed out of any court in the land.

John.

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Re:Furthermore's Response to Matzan, point by poin

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 09:16 PM
P.S. I'm a Mambo user, you're more than welcome to sue me. I'll take great pleasure collecting the damages from my counter-suite for malicious prosecution.

John.

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Re:Furthermore's Response to Matzan, point by poin

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 09:13 PM
i have no horse in this race, but i am a web developer, so i'd like to ask a question.
- are you a developer or do you have a web design background ?

by the way, on point 4, reverse-engineering does _not_ require permission from copyright holders. by copyright law, only expression is covered, not ideas, so it would be pointless to require permission for what is legally allowed (i.e. an alternate expression of an idea)

l0t3k

#

reverse engineering would still require permission

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 10:33 PM
HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA<nobr>H<wbr></nobr> HAHAHAHA

MPfhhhh HAHAHAHAHHAHAHA

Lool Connoly, McBride wannabee, we are living in the post SCO age, the OSS community is pretty educated about legal matters these days. This won't fly. Copyright does not protect ideas, only the expression of ideas. You obviously don't know squat about IP law.

Look, you clown, your claim amounts to a patent claim. Do you have a patent on the disputed Mambo feature? No, you haven't. And even if you had, it would be bogus, since there is prior art.

Please, Connoly, Distuingished UbertIdiot, got to court, having Brian, vewy welease Bwian, Conoidiot make himself an utter ass of himself and his legal counsil in the courtroom will make great public entertainment! Please Brian, Idiot, go to the courtroom! We can use a second Darl!

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Re:Furthermore's Response to Matzan, point by poin

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 11:10 PM
So file a lawsuit, jerk. Put up or shut up.

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Re:Furthermore's Equally Flawed Response

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 12:10 AM
Sorry, I can't resist. Brian, you're so quick to point out others' mistakes and misinterpretations (although interpretation implies differing versions), you fail to recognize your own.

I'll respond to your response point by point, since it's your favorite method.

1. "Great lead. However, Jem then delivers an op-ed piece comprised almost entirely of conjecture and conclusions"

- There is far too much research and proffering of fact to be an op-ed piece. I will grant you that Jem's arguments are flawed here and there. But then so are yours...

2. "Actually, Newsforge cannot "definitively" say anything legal. Moreover, it is patently illegal for Matzan and Newsforge to provide something that can be construed as legal advice."

- Well, you're right that Newsforge cannot clam to be definitive on any legal subject. You are equally incorrect in stating that it is illegal for them to provide legal advice. ANYONE can provide advice, legal or otherwise. What is ILLEGAL is to make a legal decision without having governmental authority to do so, and the illegality has nothing to do with the act. It simply means the "legal finding" is not itself legal.

3. "Newsforge draws a simple contrary conclusion here. It is certianly NOT an authoritative and vetted legal opinion. The forum for that is a court of law."

- Funny you should mention that. I haven't seen you offer anything bnut contrary conclusion either. At least Newsforge backed theirs up with code comparison and research. Granted a vetted legal opinion can come only from a court of law, however you've overlooked the numerous cases the past 25 years which deal with IP and Copyright which state that the "contrary conclusion" Newforge provides has been legally held up in court several times over. Nice try though.

4. "That’s an assumption not based on any firsthand evidence. Hackers hack variously every day. But that aside, Jem then argues that the "competitor" was in the process of "reverse engineering." However, reverse engineering would still require the permission of the copyright holder."

- I'm not entirely certain which planet you were floating on at the time of this statement, but it wasn't Earth. Hacking into a system, by definition, is gaining root or direct ftp access. Newsforge's comment is completely correct. Reverse engineering does NOT, in any way, shape or form, require the copyright holder's permission. If one had that, you wouldn't need to reverse engineer anything. You could have the original. See the Apple/Real Networks battle over Harmony. Reverse engineering is allowed under the DMCA explicitly for Fair Use.

5. "The code committed to Mambo was done under contract and paid for by the Literati Group."
- That's incorrect. At the time of the code submission by Sakic, he was no longer under your contract, according to statements you yourself have made. You also did not pay for the code he submitted, nor is his code a derivative work. Having an identical end result does not constitute derivate work nor copyright infringement. The ONLY thing that will matter to a court of law is the process used to generate the end result. If they arre dissimilar, your claims will be forfeit. Considering the necessary changes to embed into the highly customizable Mambo source compared to your highly proprietary look and feel, your claim is certain to fall considerably sort of valid.

6. "Sakic was NOT being facetious."

- Can you read Sakic's mind? Are you at one with him? I know your answer to both of those questions is "No", so your statement is equally false regarding Mr. Sakic's intent. Practice what you preach, please.

7. "Not quite sure what Jem is getting at here."

- Which is precisely why so many people keep trying to explain it to you to prevent wasting the time and funds of so many potential people recklessly and baselessly. Perhaps you shouold read and pay attention rather than simply be contrarian and closed-minded. More on that in my final comment.

8. "This confuses copyright and GPL. GPL does not automatically rob one of their copyrights."

- While you are correct that GPL does not rob one of their copyrights, It does bind one to certain requirements of use.

9. "Moglen's quote is misapplied. BOTTOM LINE: THERE IS NO DUTY TO REDISTRIBUTE MODIFIED GPL CODE. The code was redistributed improperly by the Mambo project as it was gotten without Furthermore's permission. This also makes derivative(s) an unlawful by-product."

- See my comments above about derivative works and their determination by law. You still don't seem to undertand it.

10. "Jem is partially comparing one derivative work with another derivative work. It's apples and oranges and certainly misleading."

- No kidding! And what have you been doing? Holding up your Apples and claiming Mambo's oranges were derived from your apples. Read your own statement again and then explain to me what al this fuss you've been causing is about.

11. "Incorrect. Mambo users are not safe, per se"

- Not as long as you continue your baseless pursuit of this crap. It's sad that you would cost others money in legal fees defending what a court will grant them, but to incur that cost upon yourself is idiocy.

Now, for my final comment about your closing comment that I think sums up this entire farce:

"A LEGAL CLAIM is the single most important point in this matter. The fact that this matter rises to that potential puts users of Mambo OS in jeopardy. And what makes this such a lightning-rod issue is that users of any OS software developed by projects without the systems and safeguards in place to protect users, offers them a trojan horse of LEGAL EXPOSURES. Unfortunately, that might be more common than not. "

Well said. You obvisouly do not believe in OSS nor do you want it to survive or thrive. Your statement sounds like a Microsoft employee 2 years ago. Is this really what you're trying to prove? Perhaps you need to go chat with SCO some more about how successful this thinking is...

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Re:Furthermore's Equally Flawed Response

Posted by: David D. Scribner on September 30, 2004 01:24 AM

By breaking wind and announcing to the world that he just farted, perhaps Brian is hoping that Microsoft will slide some moola his way via a Baystar connection, too???

<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;-)

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Re:Furthermore's Equally Flawed Response

Posted by: flacco on September 30, 2004 07:06 AM
perhaps Brian is hoping that Microsoft will slide some moola his way via a Baystar connection, too???


precisely my thought when i first heard about his ridiculous rantings. it seemed like he was talking way too loud, hoping microsoft would overhear him.

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Re:Furthermore's Response to Matzan, point by poin

Posted by: OwlWhacker on September 30, 2004 12:24 AM
The main point is, there is no case.

You're confusing HTML (which by nature has completely open code) with program source code (the compiled result not revealing the code).

You cannot make an HTML layout structure proprietary. I'm 100% sure that most Web developers, having seen what a page looks like, could replicate the layout without viewing the source code.

This is foolishness.

If you really want something proprietary, build something that compiles into non-readable code. Development using HTML requires just about no skill whatsoever, and even the worst coder can only make a site that looks terrible.

There are far too many people that want to make money out of old rags these days.

I suggest that you take a look at SCO, and then decide not to follow that path.

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Re:Furthermore's Response to Matzan, point by poin

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 08:10 AM
You can't make colspan=2 proprietary and you can't make lead story spanning 2 columns proprietary however I don't think it's correct to say that you cannot make a HTML layout struct proprietary. Just because other designers could replicate it doesn't mean it's not copyrightable. A good architect could copy a building without access to the plans but they'd still be infringing on the original architect's copyright.

Furthermore are completely wrong but it's nothing to do with whether their code was readable or copyable.

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Re:Furthermore's Response to Matzan, point by poin

Posted by: OwlWhacker on September 30, 2004 03:26 PM
Don't be rediculous!

Copyrighting a building design is completely different from a 2-Dimensional HTML layout (which is severely limited, being just a bunch of rows and columns in tables).

There are plenty of Websites out there that use the same format, purely because those formats work best, not because they're innovative. It's like your average house, nobody would consider copyrighting an old house design that's been around for years.

Copyrighting a particular site 'DESIGN' is altogether different. When you combine graphics, color schemes, layout and content, you wouldn't expect somebody to replicate this. If somebody copied this site and had a logo "Winforge", news about Windows, I'm sure there would be an issue. To use the same layout of this site alone is not an issue.

Imagine if the New York Times decided that it was going to copyright the layout of its newspaper? Would the other newspapers in the world not be allowed to use the same format?

If physical newspapers can all look the same, and nobody minds, surely this whole issue reveals that there are now even more ignorant, arrogant individuals trying to make a buck out of things proprietary.

What a dirty word proprietary is becoming.

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Re:Furthermore's Response to Matzan, point by poin

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 08:57 AM
As others have pointed out, you are an idiot. Making such a public fuss about something so trivial and stupid has permanently put Futhermore Inc into a vast community's blacklist, along with SCO.

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Enough of this crap

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 09:07 PM
Brian Connolly is an aggressive lunatic. He wormed his way into the Mambo developer community, only to try and take advantage of them for his own gains. While he was getting to know the parties involved, he was overtly supportive of Mambo and Open Source. What a farce. He turned on them the minute he thought he had some sort of advantage. As many of us have known all along, he never had a case, and his motives are/were extremely suspect.

Thanks for shedding light on this matter that has absorbed way too much time from people who have no time for such nonsense. Hopefully all this press will protect others from being duped by him.

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Re:Enough of this crap

Posted by: flacco on September 30, 2004 07:14 AM
Brian Connolly is an aggressive lunatic. He wormed his way into the Mambo developer community, only to try and take advantage of them for his own gains.


yeah, this douchebag was hyperactively obnoxious on the UserLinux mailing list too, when he didn't get his way on some marketing issues. i checked out his <A HREF="http://literatigroup.com/webstation/www/index.pl" title="literatigroup.com">"literati group" website</a literatigroup.com> at the time, and it was just so over-the-top - totally electro-plated with a 24-carat pomposity...


but hey, the guy appears to make his living spreading bullshit, so i guess no one should be surprised by his actions.

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Scam Artist

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 09:41 PM
Interesting article at e-week:
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1651935,00.a<nobr>s<wbr></nobr> p

Connelly shows his true colours in his initial suggestion for resolving the dispute: give him the ENTIRE Mambo code base to do with as he pleases.

This is a man who is out to rip the community off, to steal our code, and make money off our hard work, without giving anything back.

Perhaps we are the ones who should be considering laying criminal charges against him for extortion.

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From the mouth of Connolly

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2004 09:46 PM
This was taken fron Brian Connolly's site http://www.literatigroup.com/furthermore/menu/Fur<nobr>t<wbr></nobr> hermore_Publishing/:

"So you want to be an international media mogul? Or, maybe your peer group, association or church is just looking for a more effective and better managed e-publishing solution. Or, maybe you are part of the hottest trend sweeping the planet, i.e. Generation “C.”
Gen “C” is what this is really all about. “C” is for content. It crosses all demographics. The phenomenon is represented by the tsunami of newly produced content on the Web. Tera bytes of new text, images, audio and video are being added daily by anyone with the right tools. Instead of asking consumers to watch, to listen, to play, to passively consume, the race is on to create, to produce, and… in a word participate.
In any case, here’s all you need to make that a cinch. FREE!
As you clicked on Furthermore Publishing, a sub menu dropped down. There you’ll find “Essential Components.” That will open an online file repository containing the elements. It’s a complete Content Management web application. Preconfigured as we’ve done for you here, it’s the New York Times, Inc. in a box.
For your convenience, we’ve assembled 20 of the top modules and components that will make your online publishing environment easy to set up and one of the most powerful systems available today....

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."

hmmm, what's the problem Brian. I thought you said it was FREE!


 

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no code comparison

Posted by: hanelyp on September 29, 2004 11:01 PM
"Connolly admits that he has not compared the code for himself, or even looked at the Mambo code to verify that it contains code developed specifically for Furthermore. Brian Connolly told NewsForge that he "could tell just by looking at their site," meaning how the supposedly offending Mambo Web sites that employ the lead story block appear in his Web browser. Neither did Connolly commission any third party experts to compare code directly."


This alone gives doubt to the claims Connolly has made. Properly such a comparison would be done before pushing claims.

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This makes me sick...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 12:31 AM
Obviously, Connolly has no real case. Many people who make false claims often have no real case.

What makes me sick is:

1. Connolly never compared the code. He has his own code, and the MOS code is readily available. All he had to do is compare content.php - He didn't even do that. Why not? it would be so easy for him.

2. Even though he hasn't compared code - he continues to aggressively threaten MOS users with legal action. Connolly's problem is with Sakic specifically, not with the thousands of MOS users.

That is what makes me sick - this lunatic threatens all of us (MOS users), that we may be violating his copyright. His issue is clearly with Sakic, a coder whom he commissioned. Mambo development team (excluding Sakic) is not liable, and most importantly, MOS users are not liable.

Connolly is clearly misguided (or just plain stupid, which I'm starting to believe) if he thinks he go around threatening MOS users.

We should respond with our own legal threats (though I can hardly back it up). I hope Furthermore and the Literati group go out of business. These type of "stunts" should be punished.


  - Avi (avicollege[at]yahoo[dot]com)

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Re:This makes me sick...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 02:47 AM
This situation proves that the stupidity and greed of SCO's officers is not a fluke. The fact that Connolly contacted SCO for advice clearly shows that there are plenty of people in the business world that are willing to attack the FOSS community (indirectly) through bogus claims of "IP infringement". Ultimately, they want nothing better than to be able to lay claim to simple ideas as "IP" that must be protected at all costs, and in doing so destroy as much of the competition as possible. It's an attitude that makes me sick--people like that should NEVER be in charge of any corporation.

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colspan=

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 07:56 AM
I've been coding HTML for 8 years and I had never in my wildest dreams imagined someone could actually try copyrighting an attribute on an element that dates back to the first version of HTML which included tables.

Europe = USA - IP?

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Re:colspan=

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 01, 2004 06:34 PM
Actually, HTML is a sibling language of SGML which was released by ISO in 1972 using IBM's Generalized Markup Language (GML) (circa 1969) as its parent architecture. One could span columns with SGML in its infancy and one could perform similar operations using GML in conjunction with macros. However, SGML (Standardized General Markup Language) is a langauge for creating other markup langauges, thus there are many sibling languages based on it (HTML, XML, HyTime, and the list goes on). Visit Robin Clover's XML Cover Pages on the web to learn more.

These languages were intentionally designed to allow end users the freedom to mix and match elements at will within the constraints of their parent document type definition (DTD). These markup languages were intended to control document structure in conjunction with high level languages.

The contractor in question was merely using standard elements and an associated high level language to do what we all do when designing for the web. 'colspan' is just one of the many attributes associated with the element. The contractor was evidentally performing a reasonally simple design technique that the buyer could not perform on their own, perhaps for lack of experience or for lack of interest in learning the technical intricaicies of page design.

Technical illiteracy, the lack of common sense, paranoia, and pure stubborness appear to be at the root of this entire fiasco.

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No such thing as automatic licensing

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 08:41 AM
But the code was a derivative of GPL-licensed code, thereby making it a derivative work of the parent code and automatically licensing it under the GNU General Public License.

This is completely false. There is no such thing as automatic licensing with the GPL. The GPL is a license. It gives additional rights to users above and beyond what copyright gives. It is not a contract, and cannot force anyone to do anything with their own copyrighted work. It simply stipulates under what conditions its additional rights are granted.

In the case of some code being created in combination with a GPLed codebase, the new code is copyrighted by either the person coding it or the person who contracted to own the work of the person doing the coding. This new code is not GPLed unless the copyright holder GPLs it.

If someone else were to take that combined code and distribute it, they would be in violation of several copyrights -- the copyright of the new code (which had not released the code under the GPL) and the copyright(s) of the GPLed source (which does not authorize copying when combined with non-GPLed code).

If the copyright holder of the new code were to distribute the combined code with either the GPL license notices removed or with the new code clearly marked as not falling under the GPL, that distribution would be in violation of the copyright(s) of the GPLed codebase. At no point in time would the code magically turn into GPLed code just because it was touching GPLed code. The copyright holder must release their code under the GPL for it to become effective.

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Re:No such thing as automatic licensing

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 09:12 AM

A license is a contract between the creator / marketer / distributor of a product to the user of that product. That's why it's called a license agreement.


I am not sure what form of crack that you are smoking, but you should try to understand law a little more before offering opinion. I do software for a living and deal with both licensing and derivative works based on original source.


A license agreement creates a contractual bond that can supercede copyright - just as most work-for-hire contract to develop custom software do. However, unless that contract specifically removes the right of the author (developer) of the code to exercise his copyright privileges, the author owns one-half right to the code itself, even though he was paid to produce this. This went to the Supreme Court for this decision. Oddly, the precedent-setting decision was over a sculpture, not a piece of code.


But you know what? Copyright isn't even the issue here.


If you hire me to write some code for you and I sign a contract that assigns my copyright to you, and then I go and re-write (from scratch) the same concept with new code, I am not guilty of copyright infringement. You see, copyright covers content, not ideas or methods. Patents cover ideas and methods. Look at Amazon and the "one-click checkout". That's a patent, not a copyright that they used to prevent other web-sites from using the technology. If Mr. Connally can prove that he was the first to conceive of the idea for the colspan="2" when used with headlines, and he is able to obtain a patent for that concept, then he will be allowed to take all the other websites down or make them pay royalties to him should they wish to use his creation.


Somehow, I doubt that this will happen. In the meantime, he will try to be the SCO of Content Management Systems.

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Re:No such thing as automatic licensing

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 10:09 AM
A license is a contract between the creator / marketer / distributor of a product to the user of that product. That's why it's called a license agreement.


No, the GPL is a license, just as it says it is. You're thinking of things like a shrinkwrap license agreement which is a contract because they wrote it as one and they (think they can) force you to agree to it in order to use the software. They call it a license agreement because they are contracting with you to license their product rather than own it, and agreeing to such a license agreement signs away your rights under copyright. There is a huge difference between a license agreement that is written into a contract and a license. The GPL is the latter, not the former.

Here is some reading for you that will hopefully help you to understand the error of your thinking:


  • <A HREF="http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20031214210634851&query=GPL+contract" title="groklaw.net">
    The GPL is a License, Not a Contract</a groklaw.net>
  • <A HREF="http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20040403192359966&query=GPL+contract" title="groklaw.net">
    Robin Bloor Grokking the GPL</a groklaw.net>

I am not sure what form of crack that you are smoking, but you should try to understand law a little more before offering opinion.


Since what I said is true and you have offered nothing to refute it (other than trying to say that the GPL is contract when it is not), I see no reason to change what I said. Perhaps if you weren't so hasty to throw zingers around and insult people you would stop and consider what I wrote and either (1) come to realize what I wrote is true, or (2) show me, using logic, how what I wrote misses the mark.

(I have no comment on the rest of your message about what the real issue is in this case because that is outside the scope of what I was commenting on in my message -- I was merely refuting one mistake made by the author and was not commenting on the validity of the conclusion or the other issues of the case.)

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Re:No such thing as automatic licensing

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 10:19 AM
You have to agree to the GPL to install Mambo. Doesn't that make it a 'license agreement'?

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Re:No such thing as automatic licensing

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 11:08 AM

No. A license agreement (of the kind that we are talking about here) is a part of a contract because it is written to be one. "Agreeing" with a license doesn't turn it into it a contract. Calling a shrinkwrap contract a license is actually a bit of misnomer.

The license involed in a shrinkwrap "license agreement" involves a contract with the software creator to license their software rather than purchase it. In this case, since you didn't buy the software (nor receive a legal free copy), you have no rights to use it, thus a license is needed just to give you the right to run it.

In the GPL case, the license only comes into effect when you received the software (because a copy was involved) and might come into effect again if you choose to make a copy of it again. To just use the software doesn't involve the GPL at all -- since you received a legal copy, you have the right to use it based on copyright. Modifying some GPLed software is actually allowed by both copyright and the GPL (the GPL only needs to talk about modifications because it makes stipulations based on whether the software was modified or not).

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Re:No such thing as automatic licensing

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 06:43 PM
>You have to agree to the GPL to install Mambo.

No you don't.
You only have to if you *redistribute* it.

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Re:No such thing as automatic licensing

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 09:54 PM
You are saying that from experience? Or you are just talking out of your ass?

If you haven't installed Mambo, how do you know what you do and don't have to agree to in order to install it?

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Once again

Posted by: RJDohnert on September 30, 2004 10:46 AM
I will wait for a judge to decide and not rely on facts produced by a Open Source zealous author or website. In other words guys. i will believe it when i see it and not before.

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Re:Once again

Posted by: OwlWhacker on September 30, 2004 07:44 PM
But everybody knows that you won't see something that you don't want to see, and in that situation you certainly won't try to see it either.

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Ditto for Closed Source zealous authors

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 03, 2004 08:54 PM
Any business will receive hundreds of completely baseless legal threats, just because someone is threating to sue isn't a reason to believe they actually have a case.

Also, their legal case seems strange as they claim Sakic misused their trade-secrets, but the contract they claimed Sakic agreed to (but did not sign) had no NDA clause.

I'll certainly wait for a judge to decide before I'll believe that the non-conventional legal theories of someone who happens to have a website have any basis.

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Threatening users

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 11:10 AM
This businessman doesn't have a case for MANY reason, but above all, I do not think he will succeed with suing users. The users were not the ones who allegedly "took" his code. When we downloaded Mambo, most of us probably didn't have any idea that the code was even there and only became aware of it when this whole case came up. Therefore, we cannot be punished for unknowingly using something that came in a software package. It's kind of like if you've been talking your whole life and then all of a sudden someone says "Talking is illegal. You must now pay the price for every word you have said!" It's nuts, and even more so in this case since not only did we not know that our use of this snippet of code was illegal, but most of us, like I said, didn't even know the snippet existed!

Not that I want the Mambo developers to get in trouble, but I do think Mr. Connelly is wasting his time and money on pursuing legal action against users. It doesn't have a logical or legal base.

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Re:Threatening users

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 01, 2004 07:17 PM
It's my understanding that the author of this article and the Mambo developers have both requested a copy of said contract and it appears to be vaporware. Posting the contract might add some validity to Mr. Conelly's claims.

Aside from this, the dispute is over a technique that many of us use in various ways to achieve similar effects on a day-to-day basis. Within the constraints of the HTML DTD, there are only a finite number of ways to achieve the same effect using the attributes associated with a table and those attributes are part of an ISO standard which cannot be copyrighted. I myself have used similar HTML techniques with PHP, C#, and VB to obtain the same effect on Static HTML pages going back 6 years or so and dynamically for 4-5 years.

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Connolly has a case IF...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 03:55 PM
I think this man Connolly has a case IF, and only if, Sakic signed a contract that assigns the copyright for *any further work by him* on Mambo.
IF that happened -- but Sakic even contends that *any* contract was signed -- THEN Connolly owns the code contributed to Mambo, even if that isn't the code incorporated into his product. And since *he* never released that code (which, if he had, would have placed it under the GPL), Sakic had no right to.

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Copyright is not the real issue...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 30, 2004 08:52 PM

Copyright isn't even the issue here.



If you hire me to write some code for you and I sign a contract that assigns my copyright to you, and then I go and re-write (from scratch) the same concept with new code, I am not guilty of copyright infringement. You see, copyright covers content, not ideas or methods. Patents cover ideas and methods. Look at Amazon and the "one-click checkout". That's a patent, not a copyright that they used to prevent other web-sites from using the technology.


If Mr. Connally can prove that he was the first to conceive of the idea for the colspan="2" when used with headlines, and he is able to obtain a patent for that concept, then he will be allowed to take all the other websites down or make them pay royalties to him should they wish to use his creation.



Somehow, I doubt that this will happen. In the meantime, he can try to be the SCO of Content Management Systems.

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Vanity Fair. Dear Mr. Connolly,

Posted by: PanAmAirlines on September 30, 2004 10:16 PM
All of this Connolly business is nothing but a hilarious vanity fair. I remember Connolly first hitting the Mambo Community on one of its community online forums. He wrote an article there introducing Furthermore.com. Basically, he was just one of many who had built a Mambo based web site, was proud of it and wanted to show off with it and ask for comments. I guess this is perfectly okay to do. Every one of us who set up a nice Mambo site has put it up there for discussion. However, the reaction from the community was not that huge. I mean, it is a nice web site, okay, but it is and never was anything specular from a designer's nor from a coder's point of view. Well done template work. Okay. Some components put together. His "lead story" thing actually never really caught so much attention anyway, as this was a feature familiar to the developing Mambo community anyway and besides, with a couple of modifications from older versions of Mambo really so simple to achieve that it did certainly not knock anybody over by its code beauty of fantastic funtionality. If Connolly believes this feature is so great, well, sorry mate, over here in Europe the BBC of London has had it on its web site for YEARS before Parliament recently told the BBC to stop internet extravaganzas all together and concentrate on being a broadcaster. (The BBC is publically founded, and up until a recent scandal involving some very heated words both on the media side and the British Government, funky fentures into new territorries of online activity - BBC is host of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Online (www.h2g2.com), a very very early on Wiki experiment before the word "Wiki" was ever born.)

So, Connolly, what's your problem? Lack of attention in your primal youth? Must be. You were furious because your nice little Mambo site which noone's gonna read because of the FUD you spread was not that hilariously welcomed by the Mambo community. So this is your revenge, huh? Poor lad. If ya need to cry, go cry. But don't expect people are gonna take you very much serious after this escapade anyway.

And yes, NewsForge (or any other media) is not a Court House. Certainly. And if your lawyer talked you into this, well, honey, he is after your bucks, go figure. Or did you really think that with these half hearty claims you'd ever have a chance to win an apple? Who do you think you are? Darl McBride? See yourself where he is now: deep in the red with his stupid SCO company which noone wants to buy from by now anyway.

And: you have it on your furthermore.com preview site. What is that? "You want to be a media mogul?" Sweetheart, I am a journalist by profession. I earn my living writing. You know how you appear to me: as a stupid little sod who was always turned down by the local newspaper asking for an internship to enter the glittering world of the media. Well, Hon, you will never enter it at all, because being media has to do with being fair with one another. And the more you beat on the bush, the more shit will hit the fan on the media side.

It is sad that this poor guy obviously has no idea about the real world. Let alone the real media world. You can't just buy yourself a web space and expect to become NewsForge, the BBC, Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch over night. All of them had worked VERY hart to get where they are and only just keep it up because of more hard work. And oh yeah: see my mail address? PanAmAirlines@gmail.com. Sweetypies, I used to fly on the Clipper back and forth in a Cold War Europe as a child 'caus my mum send me to school in England - and England is not where I was born, nor where my family was at that time, so I flew the Clipper ALOT. But, just having a cute named email address or even a brilliantly named URL does not make me a world class airline, don't you agree? Sure, "furthermore.com"'s a nice URL! Has some potential. But safe your bucks and most of all safe your energy and put it right into your project and WORK WORK WORK. So you invested in some code that now is public? Others were able to do the same thing without this code turning public at all. Sit down and LEARN! Learn HTML, learn PHP, learn communication, learn languages ( I am fluent in 6), learn to play a musical instrument, and learn WRITING! You'll discover a brand new world and most of all: if you do your homework right you will discover that writing can be a much more effective way of getting things your way than any walk down to the lawyer's office. This guy costs money, so invest in it when in REAL need, not when you think you might eventually be in need, and again: LEARN before you ask for a lawyer's help. This will safe not only your money but also your strength for the moment when you will REALLY need the fellow. And if you start a company, especially a media business: wait, you will definitively NEED lawyers at some stage. But not to chase some poor sods who won't harm you anyway but to defend from bigger ones taking bites!

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Re:Vanity Fair. Dear Mr. Connolly,

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 01, 2004 01:32 PM
Um...as a journalist you really should know the difference between "safe" and "save"<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

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Re:Vanity Fair. Dear Mr. Connolly,

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 01, 2004 02:09 PM
[quote]Um...as a journalist you really should know the difference between "safe" and "save"<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)[/quote]

don't be so stupid - allow for typos. this is the internet after all. safe = safe<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:: typo.

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Baseless Legal Threats common, so why the hoola?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 03, 2004 09:26 PM
This baseless legal threat thing is not new. Here's just a few our business came across:

a. "In refusing to advertise prostitution, you are illegally descriminating against prostitutes". Actually prosititution was illegal, and is legal to refuse to assist in criminal activity

b. "If you do not forward this letter to [a woman], you will be interfering with the mail service" As the letter was addressed to us the mail service was already complete. Just because the lady in question did not give him her address does not mean that we have to forward mail for him.

Any business will be swamped with such strange threats. We always forwarded such threats on to our lawyer because it is always possible the law is strange, but it is not like we shook in our boots every time. One time it payed off, as the purpose of the legal threat was not to win the lawsuit but to manuver us into a position where they could demand all our staff residential addresses. There are some people who you really don't want to have your home address<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;).

So, some random guy called Connelly claimed that the copyright to any lead story block written even after the termination of the contract would be transfered to him because the lead story block is a trade secret despite triviality and the contract they claim Sakic agreed to not including a NDA (pause for breath). This particular threat seems to be designed just to give Connelly free advertising. If it wasn't for the SCO fad, everyone involved would just cc such stuff to their lawyer and forget about it.

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