When “Do No Evil” Is Not Enough

I’m in the lucky position that I get to work on open-source software for a living. Not only that, but I work with a group of people who really believe in open-source software as more than just an alternate business strategy — it’s a philosophy that benefits everyone involved.

OpenNMS is completely open-source. There’s no whacky $50-per-node “enterprise” version with extra features — we put it all out there, and we stake our reputations on being the people you contact when you need something more than community support on the mailing list. The code is open, and anyone can become an OpenNMS consultant if they want. To survive as a services company, we have to be good at what we do, and not just keep the code hostage and force customers to go through us to get things done. We have to work our butts off to remain the go-to experts on OpenNMS.

That’s what makes it frustrating when we see our code, and the code of lots of other contributors appear to be misused. The whole point of the GPL is that everyone benefits from improvements made to the codebase; taking that code and integrating it into a proprietary product goes against the letter as well as the intent of the project.

So on that note, it’s official, we’ve retained Moglen Ravicher, LLC (an arm of the Software Freedom Law Center) to represent us regarding potential GPL violations in Cittio’s Watchtower.

Obviously, since lawyers are now involved, there’s a whole lot we can’t say; it’s their job to talk to Cittio and, if it comes to it, the courts, to prove our case. What I can say is, while I’m sad that it’s come to this, I’m glad that we’ve decided to take the plunge and not just “Do No Evil” as Google says, but “Do the Right Thing” and defend our code and the community’s code.

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