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Alfresco OSI/GPL compliance

Question asked by on Nov 21, 2008
Latest reply on Dec 18, 2008 by
Hi Alfresco,

in order to better understand Alfresco's open source engagement I'd like to ask some very specific legal questions. It would be nice if one of Alfresco's lawyers could respond here. I'd hope for a response from somebody empowered to speak in the name of Alfresco as a company.

I've heard recently that Alfresco SI partnership contracts are quite restrictive when it comes to doing projects based on the community edition:

1) It seems that Alfresco SI partners have to sign a contract that denies them the right to support or distribute the community edition. Does this mean that partners are obliged to revoke the rights they were previously granted under GPL, §4 (Conveying Verbatim Copies)?

"You may convey verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium. […] You may charge any price or no price for each copy that you convey, and you may offer support or warranty protection for a fee."

Just to make it clear: I am not asking about the Enterprise Edition (which might not be released under GPL). I am asking about partners' right to make use of the GPLed Community Edition.

2) I also heard that Alfresco SI partners are denied the right to distribute derived versions (forks) of the community edition. Is it correct that partners are forced to revoke rights they gained under GPL, §5 (Conveying Modified Source Versions)?

"You may convey a work based on the Program, or the modifications to produce it from the Program […if you release it under GPL as well]"

Second I have questions concerning Alfresco's overall OSI compliance. These questions are specifically directed towards the Alfresco Enterprise Edition.

Alfresco employees have claimed several times in this forum that Alfresco's EE version is "open source". Alfresco themselves say all over their site that they are selling "open source" software. As only EE is /sold/ I guess that's what Alfresco is talking about here. There have even been employees here in this forum who claim that EE is released under GPL.

OSI's open source definition says:

1) Free Redistribution

"The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale."

As far as I have heard this is not the case for the Alfresco EE product being sold by partners as they seem to be denied this exact right. Is it the case for other Alfresco products that may be sold by partners? If so: which?

2) Derived Works

"The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software."

Is this true for the EE version that may be sold by partners?

3) If you deviate from 1) or 2): How do you legitimate that Alfresco representatives are calling Alfresco EE "open source software" in this forum and on your website? Why not "shared software" or "proprietary version"? How do you make sure that customers or casual web site visitors are not mislead into believing that what they can buy from Alfresco is OSI compliant? Do you think that using the term "shared code" or "proprietary code" would reduce Alfresco's marketing appeal?

To summarize: Am I right in saying that…
1) Alfresco partners are forced to revoke rights that have been previously granted to them in the Community Edition GPL.
2) Only the Community Edition is OSI compliant - not the Enterprise Edition.
3) Your employees have been directed to use the term "open source" rather than "shared source" or "proprietary source" when referring to the Alfresco Enterprise Edition although you are aware that only the Community Edition is OSI compliant.