More Sparks Fly in Open-Source Copyright Fight

 
 
By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-09-27 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Miro's CEO claims that the Open Source Software Institute was siding with Furthermore in their fight over copyrighted code in the Mambo open-source content management system.

Peter Lamont, CEO of Miro International Pty Ltd., has lobbed the latest volley in the ongoing cat fight over the copyrighted open-source Mambo content management system. Lamont is now claiming that the OSSI (Open Source Software Institute) sided with Furthermore Inc. and that, therefore, Miro executives will not talk with either organization.

The fight began when Furthermore claimed that some of the code used in Miros open-source Mambo content management system actually belongs to Furthermore. Mambo and Miro executives both deny this assertion. The OSSI had offered to act as a neutral mediator between the parties, but Miro refused to negotiate.

Now, according to Lamont, a former advertising executive, "John Weathersby of the OSSI contacted me to ask if he could be a mediator and open discussions between [Furthermore President John Connolly] and Miro. I told him I did not trust Connolly and that he must promise in writing to cease his activities for 90 days before we would discuss anything."

Weathersby said that he forwarded Miros statements to Connolly "verbatim" and that he then provided Connollys response directly back to Miro, "with no editorializing or input other than a request for clarification on a couple of points," he said.

Lamont, however, describes this response as coming "with an unsigned and undated document attached which demanded that Miro provide Furthermore Inc. a proprietary license for the complete Mambo core to use, sell and modify freely."

Connolly agreed that he did ask for this in his initial response to Miro but that this was simply one of the proposed negotiating points. "This was a worse-case demand," he said.

Regardless, Connolly said that OSSI was not supporting his position and was simply forwarding it to Miro.

Lamont, however, claims that Weathersby endorsed this position. According to Lamont, Weathersby seemed to find the position "quite reasonable, despite its obvious contradiction with the GPL, and suggests that his company is also given the copyright.

"Miro was not at all eager to have discussions with Connolly in the first place, as we believe he is incorrigible," said Lamont. "On the basis of the ridiculous demands of the e-mail and its attachments, we replied to Weathersby, We will not enter into any further communication with yourself or Connolly."

Weathersby disagreed with this assessment of the e-mail. "Our position was that of a mediator, not a negotiator, at least at this initial discussion phase," he said. Miros response was a rejection of Connollys initial proposal, Weathersby said.

"Again," Weathersby said, "OSSI did not contribute to or provide input to Connollys proposal or comments. That was not our concern. However, the tone and direction of the exchange was enough to convince me that this was not a situation that I wanted to be involved with. Therefore, we informed both parties that, instead of being drawn into the fray, we would step away and recuse ourselves."

Miro has no desire to talk to either party.

"Miro was not at all eager to have discussions with Connolly in the first place, as we believe he is incorrigible. On the basis of the ridiculous demands of the e-mail and its attachments, we replied to Weathersby that we will not enter into any further communication with yourself or Connolly," Lamont said.

Moving on, Lamont said, "Connolly appears to be attempting to get money from or coerce the developers client to join him in publishing a lie about Connollys involvement in a Web site development in the Chicago Tribune, presumably to demonstrate that some of the community is supporting him."

Specifically, Lamont says that Connolly had contacted the developers client and demanded that they either go to court, settle out of court for $10,000 or, for $1, agree to a joint article in the Chicago Tribune saying that the developer had collaborated/ co-operated with him on this site.

This, Lamont said, shows "Connollys motivations are more sinister that just wanting fairness. From his demands it seems that Connolly wants Mambo for himself to profit from and threatens legal action and/or incredible sums of money from people he thinks are using his code."

Connolly responded that "Im trying to protect myself from thieves. The Web site was about to be launched with Mambo using our stolen code. We told the Web site owners that if they did so, we would send them a cease-and-desist order."

"What we actually gave the publisher was the chance to settle the matter [with] three basic options: One, a public announcement that weve amicably resolved that matter—consideration $1; two, nonpublic settlement—consideration $10,000; three, lawsuit and public fight. … with option number one, everybody wins. It goes away immediately and painlessly," said Connolly.

The public announcement would have read, "Open Source Software Project Mambo, Furthermore today reached its first settlement agreement with an end user of the software. Following a Cease and Desist, Furthermore and the Blank Newspaper of Blank have entered into an agreement regarding use of the Lead Story Block functionality in Mambo. The amount of the monetary settlement was not disclosed."

This shows, Connolly asserts, that "Were not extorting anyone. Were simply looking to keep people from violating our copyright. A dollar consideration shows that were about the principle."

At this point, no talks are scheduled between the feuding companies.

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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