Subject: Hypothetical Business Plan
From: "Anderson, Kelly" <KAnderson@dentrix.com>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 23:05:48 -0600

 Thu, 21 Jul 2005 23:05:48 -0600

Suppose that I want to host Wikis. I write open source software (or
perhaps semi-open source software) to create the Wiki. As long as the
content is freely accessible to all, then using the Wiki is free
(perhaps within certain limits of space and bandwidth) and I sell
advertising to pay for that part of the hosting business just like
Google and Geocities.

Now suppose that some people want to use the Wiki to communicate within
a group. Their Wiki is password protected. For this priviledge, I want
to charge a monthly fee. Another way to make things easy for people and
maybe make a buck or two.

So far, so good, but the question is how to discourage other people from
doing the same, and reducing the potential profitability of my hosting
business?

I could put a proprietary version of the software on my server that
added the security features. I'm not sure that's allowed under a lot of
open source licenses, but it is for my "personal" use, even if it's
hosted on a web server that everyone can access. Does that work under
the GPL conditions of changing code for your own internal personal use
as long as it isn't distributed or sold?

I know I couldn't keep anyone from changing the code themselves to add
password protection on their own servers, at least under any OSI
approved license. Anyone who wants to go to that extent is more than
welcome to do so. But could I protect that feature by saying, "If you
want to add that feature, you're going to have to fork the project and
give it a new name. I'm not adding it to Project X."?

Is this viable? In keeping with the spirit of open source? I welcome
your suggestions as to whether this is workable under the GPL, and any
alternative mechanism to keep the feature out of the main GPL code.

I appreciate the vibrant discussion on this list, and await the slapping
of fish anxiously. :-)

-Kelly






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