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BadgeWare is a term (coined elsewhere) that refers to software licenses that purport to be similar to 'free software' (as in speech) that requires you to display attribution of its provenance to end users. In the case of the specific company to whom I wrote the letter below, they required your front page to display their banner. Yuck.

Here is a Google search for "BadgeWare": http://www.google.com/search?q=%22BadgeWare%22

As of this writing, it returns the following:

Ghosts in the Machine: Badgeware and Open Source http://royrusso.blogspot.com/2007/01/badgeware-and-open-source.html

OSI approves 'badgeware' license | The Register http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/07/25/osi_socialtext_cpla/

SugarCRM? trades badgeware for GPL 3 | The Register http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/07/25/sugarcrm_gpl3/

Ross Mayfield's Weblog: Badgeware http://ross.typepad.com/blog/2006/11/badgeware.html

Are SugarCRM?, Socialtext, Zimbra, Scalix and others abusing the ... http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/index.php?p=3430

Badgeware licences, Take Two http://linuxgazette.net/136/misc/lg/badgeware_licences_take_two.html

Common Public Attribution License - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badgeware

Open-source badgeware [LWN.net] http://lwn.net/Articles/243841/

Perens: 'Badgeware' threat to open source's next decade | Reg ... http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/11/open_source_at_ten/

The text of a letter that I sent to a badgeware proponent is shown below. For those who are curious, no reply has been received as of this writing (2008-07-17).

To: legal@openbravo.com

[Via Email 2008-06-06]


I am a programmer and I agree strongly with your notion that code should contain attribution. As the author of a small bit of Open Source code that has found its way all over the world, I am chagrined to find that more than half the people using it have stripped my name from the code entirely, even though the license (MIT) requires attribution. In fact,when approached by someone who found they were out of compliance on their own, I said a single line would do the trick.

Despite the fact that my code is widely used without attribution, I have not approached any of the offenders to put the attribution in there. Enough large projects have left the attribution intact that it is safe enough. My original license terms were very liberal so that the code would find use in many places and it has. If you Google for base64 and Trantor you should be able to find it easily enough, if you are curious. Since the code is generic and small, many would take offense at being disturbed and simply write their own replacement from scratch. I would rather they used my code without attribution than not use it at all.

The one thing I was very careful with was NOT to burden derived software with visible attribution on the 'front-page (whatever that might mean). If you have been programming for a while, you would know that it is effectively impossible to give visible attribution to everyone in the working product itself. Imagine if Linux insisted on telling you about everyone involved (I would be in there) before it started up. It would never finish starting up.

re: "We have added a branding clause"

Your requirement of 'branding' the work (some of it likely derived) is onerous in the extreme. It makes the software unusable for my purposes. I use many different things on my sites and if they all required what you require, the entire screen would be occupied by congratulations for the people who brought you software that *would* be useful if only they did not destroy it by requiring you constantly attend to them and their message every time you use the software. Once upon a time, our sites included two very small buttons that pointed back to two of our companies that were involved in bringing the software to you. Even on our own sites this became clunky and onerous and rendered the sites unattractive.

Besides being an unbearable burden, your requirement that a brand you invented be stamped on everyone's work is fundamentally unfair. Whatever platforms you run on, tools and libraries you use to build with, transport mechanisms you use to get your code to people, etc all had authors. Whatever you are providing is dwarfed by the code ultimately required to make it work. Why should you be the sole entity to take credit for the hard work of a community of thousands?

If your license is OSI approved, I can not find evidence of it. It does not meet OSI guidelines and does not even fit the CPAL license, which IMO rather dilutes the already dubious OSI brand. Given the lax requirements of the OSI, I would say that if your license is not approved by them you can hardly in good conscience call it "Open Source", let alone 'free'. You certainly can't involve the OSI and I find it questionable that since your change to the MPL is a fundamental one that you have any reasonable right to invoke their name either.

All things being equal, I tend to leave attributions on the software anyway, if they are modest. However, there are plenty of reasons I would like to remove that type of clutter from a system. The attributions would always remain in code and always remain accessible, but I would not make people view a whole bunch of advertising when they are trying to get something done.

Even if you switched to the odious CPAL, it would at least allow your attribution to be placed behind a 'credits page' or something. I don't like it as a 'requirement', but I don't mind it as a suggestion. Good programmers deserve recognition for their work.

Your license is not, in my opinion, consistent with 'free software' of the type that is under a GPL or even the MPL whose good name you are diluting by claiming to have a license 'derived' from it. You are, in essence, claiming that the phrase "This is NOT free software" is a derivative of the phrase "This IS free software". Although it is true in a sense that they are mechanically similar, they are opposite in their meaning. Similarly, your 'derivative' of the MPL perverts its fundamental meaning. It is improper (again, IMO) to claim your license is like the MPL. You change makes it quite different from the MPL.

I am quoting from the current text in your FAQ located here:


From your page: "What is the Openbravo Public License (OBPL)? The OBPL has been derived from the Mozilla Public License (MPL) by substituting references to the Openbravo Software for that of the Mozilla Foundation. The original Mozilla Public License 1.1 can be found at: http://www.mozilla.org/MPL/MPL-1.1.html. The OBPL also includes an attribution requirement when redistributing derivative works. What changes have been made to the MPL? We have added a branding clause, whereby anyone redistributing the code, in original or modified form, must maintain the Openbravo logo and link on start-up or login screens and on the User Interface. For more details, please read Exhibit B of the license. While this may seem an additional obligation on developers, we do not believe it places an undue burden on them, nor breaches the guidelines of the Open Source Definition."

Re: "we do not believe it places an undue burden on them, nor breaches the guidelines of the Open Source Definition."

First, I am a developer and I strongly disagree about the burden. Relative to any other code I use, it places an entirely distinct burden upon me. I don't know what "Open Source Definition" you have in mind, but it is definitely not the one accepted by the actual "Open Source" community.

I apologize for the unpleasant tone of this note. I truly do not mean it to be so. I am willing to accept that you intend nothing wrong by using your own license. However, it is not really an "Open Source" license and I think you injure the reputation of truly "Open Source" and free code (such as my own, under the MIT license), the GPL, MPL, etc. by pretending to be in those ranks. Your requirement to litter people's screens with your advertising takes you out of those ranks. My license and your license have little in common.

I have a couple of very simple prescriptive remedies for you to correct the disjoint I have pointed out. In the order in which I would prefer them, they are:

1) Change your license to a 'free' one:

 LGPL 3.
 GPL 3.

2) Change your license to an OSI approved one:

 MPL 1.1 (just the license, please, not a derivative)
 CPAL (Terrible, but you could at least say you are 'OSI' approved) and at least the onerous burden is well understood. I likely would not use it with such a license, but others might.

3) Dual license

 Liberal Commercial license (if they pay) or one of the above if they do not

4) Admit you are not true Open Source and remove that term from your materials.

It would be nice if your software was available for my use. However, even if you relaxed license restrictions for me personally or my company (I am offered that on occasion), it would not make the code usable for me. Unless I can pass the same rights on to others, I can't use it.

I strongly urge you to revisit your license. Bad guys will violate the thing anyway. Good guys, if your license would allow them to use it, would be inclined to attribute when and as they can. Somewhere on the Internet, I have written an article on my strong belief that one should be able to track down the author of code. If it is good, they deserve the credit and if it is bad they should take the blame. Furthermore, I feel that a true professional programmer worthy of the name would like to know if there are problems in their code and to be given an opportunity to fix them.

I get letters now and then from people thanking for me for my code, mentioning how they are using it, etc. It is a nice thing. I have lots more code that I don't feel is suitable for release just yet, but most of my code will be released as open source and except for large works, 'snippet stuff' and small utilities will likely continue to be issued under a liberal license such as the MIT license.

People such as myself drive the distribution of Open Source. There are other kinds, to be sure, but if you look at the 'hard guts' of Open Source -- Linux, GNU, Apache, PHP, Perl, MySQL?, SQLlite, things like mail and the Internet itself, you do not see any of them insisting that I place a 'brand' on my website to show they are being used. The fact is, to the extent that such things have existed, our community has simply coded around them. That is likely what will happen with your software if you do not change your license.


Bob Trower


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