SugarCRM will probably offer the GNU General Public License when it releases version 5.0 of its commercial open source CRM application this summer but it is likely to be one of several licensing options available.
Although the company is enmeshed in the debate over the GNU Public License versus Mozilla-based attribution licenses, it is trying to steer a course that will maximise its business potential so its approach is to adopt what makes most sense, said CEO John Roberts.
Currently, SugarCRM favours attribution licenses which are based on a modified form of the OSI-approved Mozilla Public License, despite the debate over whether attribution licenses constitute an OSI-approved license.
Under an attribution license extension code inherits the core license, but it has to carry an attribution, typically the logo of the author, something that parts of the open source world object to. The GNU license is viral in its approach in that everything it touches, including extensions to the core code, become open.
Roberts maintains the attribution approach keeps extensions private. This is a stance that fits with its position as a commercial open source company where its code is open source, but available under commercial terms, as opposed to being proprietary and free, although SugarCRM does also make its baseline open source CRM software available for free. It also reflects the effort SugarCRM has put into its application development.
Many people think we harvested other people’s code, but we authored it, said Roberts, then made it available as open source code. That is what enables the company to operate as a commercial open source vendor he said, whereas vendors who take code cannot sell a commercial license.
Roberts maintains that resistance to attribution stems from the desire of elements within the open source community to avoid fair operation.
[They] resist attribution because they want to take software, remove all traces of the author and pretend they wrote what they did not, he said. The issue of software protection could be more of a problem in the developing open source application area than it was in the operating system area because there is more scope for developers to take code and turn it into something else.
Despite that, Roberts said he was open to different approaches, suggesting that the company could offer different licenses depending on what was most appropriate, hence the likelihood that SugarCRM will offer GPL 3.0. The company also offers Microsoft Shared Source licenses. He suggested version 3.0 could offer more protection. The GPL is more strict. I like version 3.0, he said.
As the final decision has not yet been made, it is not clear how extensively the GNU GPL would be used or whether the company will drop attribution licenses but it is likely to be one of several licensing options.