About licenses and code distribution
This Wix thing appears to have only shown how little we all know about the GPL.
— Joe Hoyle (@joe_hoyle) October 29, 2016
I include myself in this affirmation, we know a few things about licenses and more specifically about the licenses that WordPress uses, GPL v2.
The root cause
October 28, Matt Mullenweg (WordPress founder) writes an article where he accuses to Wix of have used the code from WordPress for iOS app illegitimately. Matt asks to solve this issue publishing the whole app with GPL v2 license in the Wix GitHub account.
Just a few hours later, Avishai Abrahami, Wix’ founder, answers. He defends himself saying that the code used and/or modified have been liberated with the same license. Likewise one of the Wix Team Leaders, Tal Kol, defends himself of the accusation of code theft with the same argument of have liberated all the code used.
So then, who is right? How we do we have to proceed when we borrow GPL code?
The GPL v2 license
Without going beyond about what is GPL v2 license, we are going to thresh some main questions that can arise from this debate.
Does the GPL require that source code of modified versions be posted to the public? Official answer.
No, the license doesn’t require it. But if you are going to publish (or distribute) the modified version, then yes. This is the Wix example. If Wix was created an App with the code from WordPress app for internal use, namely, that the app was not published on App Store as it has been, then they are not forced to liberate the code.
But, if I just used a few lines of code in my application, do I have to liberate the whole application with GPL v2 license? Official answer.
Yes, and that is what Matt defends about the Wix App. In his post update you can see how he asks repeatedly that they liberate the whole application.
So, do I have to liberate all the code that I creates under WordPress?
No, GPL v2 license was created in 1991, so it does not cover every possibility that can happen. But, for that reason it was created Affero version of GPL v3 license. In this version it talks about the hosted code or Software as a Service (SaaS).
The GPL v2 license, talking about distribution, says that if the code is being distributed, including the binaries, it should be liberated. So, the publication of binaries in a marketplace (such as iOS App) requires the code liberation. But for the hosted code, it can be licensed by AGPL, that is compatible with GPL v2, and does not requires liberation.
Along this post it has been leaved links that can contribute more, here are the links listed:
- Matt post about Wix case.
- WordPress license.
- Avishai Abrahami answers, Wix CEO.
- Tal Kol answers, Wix Development Team Leader.
- Frequently Answers Questions about GPL. Specially:
Others related links:
This post is also available in: Spanish