Subject: Re: Hypothetical Business Plan
From:RaphaŽl Luta <raphael@apache.org>
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2005 13:44:35 +0200

Anderson, Kelly wrote:
> 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?
> 

If you're the copyright owner you're not bound to the GPL licence, since
*you* are licensing the software to other people. A lot of dual-licence
commercial entities do that.

> 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. :-)
> 

You can do what you want, but the most likely threat is that the fork will
be more successful that your own software and you're not going to get any
marketshare, little community and little profit.

[For an open-source wiki based business model, you can go and check
 http://www.xwiki.com/]

-- 
RaphaŽl Luta - raphael@apache.org
Apache Portals - Enterprise Portal in Java
http://portals.apache.org/