Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

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Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Wed May 07, 2014 2:19 am

I've come across an extension listed on the JED which utilizes the GPL 'SaaS Loophole.'

The way it works is as follows:

You download a client, you get a 'secret key' to access a server (free for one month), but the client that you download won't work without server-side code (delivered only as SaaS). The server-side code is never distributed, and you then have to 'pay-to-play.'

The key here is that 'SaaS Loophole,' by only a delivering a 'SaaS dependent' client and by not technically distributing (i.e. "conveying") the server-side source code, subverts the four freedoms which the GPL, OSM and the JED sets out to protect.

Those four freedoms which are subverted are

The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).

The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1).

Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).

The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3).

By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
[emphasis added]

My question is what is the official policy of OSM and the JED with respect to listing extension developers on the JED who operate using the "SaaS Loophole" when it results in preventing the software consumer from having access to the source-code integral to making an extension work?

Does the JED provide 'exceptions' for extensions which use SaaS as part of their listed solution in order to keep integral parts of the extension's source-code proprietary?

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by Vimes » Wed May 07, 2014 12:27 pm

SAAS is allowed on the JED, see this category http://extensions.joomla.org/extensions ... ing-hosted for example, they're all booking plugins that access hosted solutions.

Whether or not you consider this a loophole I guess is for others to decide, but so long as the code that's installed on the user's site is fully compliant with the GPL, I'd say that they're not breaking the JED's rules.
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by drmmr763 » Wed May 07, 2014 2:14 pm

I think the process by which you're addressing this means that any extension which connects to a 3rd party service without distributed source code is up for question. That is a TON of extensions.

For example:
-Google search extensions
-Flikr extensions
-Facebook extensions
-Twitter extensions
-tons and tons and tons more

All these extensions connect to a 3rd party service with proprietary non distributed, closed source systems. There's tons of those extensions on the JED. Some of them are actually labeled as "SaaS" extensions, but most of them actually ARE SaaS extensions without being labeled that way. Based on your reasoning here all of them would be utilizing this loophole you're referencing.

So from my perspective, this isn't a loophole at all. It's simply a different model which is actually a lot bigger than one or two extensions.
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by Torettox84 » Wed May 07, 2014 2:25 pm

If the code you download is GPL licensed, and you can perform your freedoms ON THAT CODE, how are they violating the GPL and thus the OSM rules?

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by Vimes » Wed May 07, 2014 2:28 pm

drmmr763 wrote: So from my perspective, this isn't a loophole at all. It's simply a different model which is actually a lot bigger than one or two extensions.
Agreed.

If the JED were to decide that anything that wasn't hosted on the server were not allowed then pretty much any extension that were of use wouldn't be allowed because virtually everything connects to something else.

Even Jomres, and I put very high stock on independance from outside services, would be disallowed because it uses Gmaps, Yahoo for change rates and some other service who's name escapes me now for localisation.
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Wed May 07, 2014 2:52 pm

Thanks guys for your answers. There is a difference between what JED policy permits, and what the GPL permits. Each is autonomous of each other, the former designed in large part to protect the benefits engendered by the latter.

1) The terminology "SaaS Loophole" is not mine. It's an industry accepted term (and an apt one) for GPL (just Google it). Therefore, it is not whether I think it is a loophole - that's what it is commonly referred to as because it is what it is.

2) The net result is subversion of the 4 freedoms, in particular as per the quote above, "access to the source code is a precondition" of the 4 freedoms.

3) This is not based on "my reasoning," this is based on the 'facts of the matter.'

4) A distinction could be made for such software listed on the JED which would not exist without Joomla! (i.e PHP Storm, Facebook, Twitter etc. - none of these software solutions require Joomla! in order for those solutions to be viable - they'd exist either way, but Watchful.li, which is used an example (and appears to me to be a great product btw), would have no purpose itself if not for Joomla! - it is in every way an extension of Joomla! whereas the examples you provide are not - there is a world of difference!)

This then brings about another question entirely:

Is it desirable for the 'SaaS Loophole' to be permitted in such cases? This will always be a grey area, IMHO.

Consider the following:

In the example above, Watchful.li,

a) I love the solution (it seems to me to be very well-done and I'd love to see more extensions aimed at Joomla! Professionals);

b) I would be happy to pay for an initial download and support and updates to the source code (i.e. just like I do with Akeeba and a whack of other extensions);

c) I would like to role that particular solution into my tool suite with modifications.

But, for all intents and purposes, without access to the complete code it is a proprietary closed source solution and contravenes the intent of the GPL (unless of course you want argue that the GPL has any other fundamental purpose than to protect those 4 freedoms). In fact, it undermines the 4 Freedoms altogether.

------------

Nonetheless, I'm willing to accept that there are grey areas - so I'm not passing judgement. I wish Watchful.li (and other solutions like it) all the success in the world - I am not suggesting that it be de-listed and I respect the area of discretion which those tasked with making these decisions have.

I also see the GPL as overly burdensome at times.

And please, before anybody goes off on a 'holier than though' accusation - I see practices in my own business in which I would maintain some code as 'SaaS' - in particular for the benefits of the 'SaaS Loophole' (effectively keeping a portion proprietary) - so I am not passing judgement one way or another.

In fact, if a sitting Director of OSM can use the 'SaaS Loophole' for their extensions, we can take comfort in the fact that as software developers, we can too.

------------

Bottom line here is simply a recognition that such practices, (i.e. 'SaaS Loophole') hinder contributions to the code base because the code which is not provided cannot be studied or extended by the rest of the GPL minded folks who would ordinarily do so.

This is not say they do not add value - but I think the question as to whether or not this desirable as a project has some very important implications.
Last edited by NivF007 on Wed May 07, 2014 3:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by drmmr763 » Wed May 07, 2014 3:06 pm

Niv I think you make some really valid points, and I completely agree with your distinction of SaaS providers that are / are not reliant on Joomla's existence.

That said, I guess I rather prefer the "loophole" because I do believe it provides a value for the community in ways other than source code. The economical contribution to the profession to me is of value and I'm happy to see Joomla's ecosystem grow through these types of service offerings.

Regarding OSM, in fact the first hosting contract OSM ever had, with CloudAccess, is a SaaS "loophole" based service. So I would say at this point the community is well adopted / involved with the SaaS service model and it's turned out quite well.

I'm not sure what kind of conclusion this discussion should have, if anything, but I guess for now my thoughts are, let everything continue the way it is for now, don't break whats working.
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Wed May 07, 2014 3:20 pm

@ Chad - I'm not in disagreement.

Many of us, in fact, are to a large degree, not even aware of the implications of the GPL - and there is a huge contingent that 'just want great software.'

However, Joomla! was founded, and continues to be rooted in, the tenets of the GPL.

So if there is any conclusion of this discussion, it is hopefully a conscious awareness of what we as project are setting out to do and a good understanding of how our decisions affect those ends.

We also know, as a conclusion, that Joomla! Extensions which utilize the 'SaaS Loophole' (again with the effect of subverting the requirements to provide source-code) are officially considered acceptable.

In other words, (and this is just for example purposes only), if Akeeba were to be retooled to provide a 'per domain' subscription model (i.e. via a 'SaaS Loophole' API) - none of us could complain because the rules must apply fairly and equally to all.

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Wed May 07, 2014 5:08 pm

Torettox84 wrote:If the code you download is GPL licensed, and you can perform your freedoms ON THAT CODE, how are they violating the GPL and thus the OSM rules?
Hi Torettox84,

Here is the violation according to the Official JED Rules:

http://docs.joomla.org/JED_Entries_License_Checklist

See C2.3 - 10 Bridges to a non GPL product
The non GPL product works independently from Joomla
Clearly, the non GPL solution (i.e. the "SaaS Solution") does not work independently from Joomla! - in fact, without connecting to Joomla! - Watchful.li would have no purpose - in order to work, Watchful.li is, by definition, 'dependent' on Joomla!

So the JED rule is violated.

But it doesn't end there.

Bring in the 'SaaS Loophole' and you can still GPL license your 'SaaS code' with no requirement to provide source-code - so long as you never distribute your source code.

Some more background...

This is a well-known exploitable 'loophole' in the GPL, one that the authors of the license have tried to patch up, but stall on the definition of the word 'conveyance.'

In other words, it has not been possible to agree as what specifically constitutes the act of distribution, and therefore, it is argued that as long as the software is not physically transferred to the consumer's medium - the proprietor of the software has never distributed it ("non-conveyance") - therefore, the GPL is subverted.

Some people consider this to be 'dirty pool' - others will argue it's a necessity.

Personally, I'm agnostic to either interpretation, so long as the ground rules are clear and equally applied, I see opportunity in both approaches.

I think it's significant that, in the case of Watchful.li

1) Nothing prevents the vendor from making their server-side code available in 'good faith';

2) Nothing obligates the vendor to do so; and importantly

3) The company is owned by a sitting OSM Director (OSM ultimately controls the brand and licensing).

So we can take Watchful.li as hallmark example of what is permissible on the JED for the rest of the community.

Now this may sound as if I am being critical, but I assure you that I am not.

If the OSM and the JED were to decide that the 'SaaS Loophole' was not open for exploitation, then I would operate my business one way.

However, given that the 'SaaS Loophole' is considered 'fair game' - 'fair game' it is.

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by brian » Wed May 07, 2014 5:57 pm

Do you realise how stupid you sound?
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Wed May 07, 2014 6:37 pm

@Brian - Does the saying 'look in the mirror' mean anything to you?

Really Brian? That's your best response. A personal attack on me.

Forgive me if I don't take the bait - up until now, this topic has been responded to by intelligent, well-thought out responses - please let's keep it that way.

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by ot2sen » Wed May 07, 2014 6:51 pm

Niv, please listen a moment.

In 197 posts you´ve "written a book" having more words than JK Rowlings would have been able to!

People here can´t consume that amount of question and endless debate on non-topics.

It would be helpful if you had shorter, more plain, and more listening inputs. When no one are able to reply without getting a huge chapter of words in return, it is near impossible to result in a conclusion on any of the topics you raise.

Focus :)
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Wed May 07, 2014 7:08 pm

@ot2en

1) Specifically what information above do you find hard to follow or redundant?

2) Since when are the rules which protect the community's 4 Freedoms (which do not appear to be followed) of the JED a 'non-topic' in your opinion?

How about I use somebody else's words
What drove ----- off was, amongst many small things, was the use of a proprietary commercial platform (watchful.li) run by a member of the OSM Board (Vic Drover) for release testing when the capability to switch to a test channel was already built into the Joomla Updater. [feel free to add a series of exclamation points here -- to taste]

Some people cried conflict of interest, some people cried utter ignorance of our own product's capabilities. But the worst -- the absolute worst -- was that after this became known, PLT continued to support the watchful.li approach, which is IMO either stupid, bullheaded or a conflict of interest.
What concerns me is whether or not circumvention of the four freedoms via the 'SaaS loophole' is the accepted modus operandi of the Joomla! project as a whole.

And if it is, I want to know what the ground rules are and that those apply equally to everybody, and, importantly that the implications of those rules are well-thought out and understood.

So which piece of information above do you feel is not 'essential' to this issue?

HOWEVER

I can see that rather than hit the issue 'head-on' - this will likely devolve into 'name calling,' 'personal attacks,' and so forth - while the substantive issue is completely swept aside.

You have a right not to participate in any thread you don't feel is worthwhile, as do I - so given Brian and your comment - I'm excusing myself (unless a comment actually deals with the substantive issue) - I think this topic is answered, the key points are made, and the questions and concerns which were raised addressed.

N

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by mbabker » Wed May 07, 2014 7:49 pm

I'll bite.

Niv, you raise legitimate concerns about things at times, but quite frankly, your approach really doesn't settle well with most people (evidenced by how folks respond to you). And personally, I find it irritating that you find a way to tie everything back to OSM in some form.

My perceptions - In this single thread and the SE question, you question the project's principles, seemingly question whether code which isn't licensed as you would like has a place in this community, and I borderline draw a conclusion that you feel a member of the OSM board has an extension listed on the JED solely because of their position and that anyone else with the same offering would have never been allowed.

Regarding this bit:
4) A distinction could be made for such software listed on the JED which would not exist without Joomla! (i.e PHP Storm, Facebook, Twitter etc. - none of these software solutions require Joomla! in order for those solutions to be viable - they'd exist either way, but Watchful.li, which is used an example (and appears to me to be a great product btw), would have no purpose itself if not for Joomla! - it is in every way an extension of Joomla! whereas the examples you provide are not - there is a world of difference!)
The Watchful client, the extension which you've installed on your site is as best as I can tell based on reviewing its code compliant with the GPL and JED rules. The client does not require access to the SaaS in order to function (but without that connection it really has no use). The SaaS is dependent on Joomla, which is where I feel the grey area is. Now flipping the coin and using a Twitter extension as I develop one and have it JED listed. Said extension is absolutely dependent upon access to the Twitter API and the extension itself cannot function without it, yet the SaaS provider will go on without blinking an eye. By a very twisted interpretation of the JED rules and the 4 freedoms, the JED should unlist that extension; it is dependent on a non-GPL resource in that API and the JED's rules and project principles clearly favor the GPL ahead of all else. Yet it seems you're OK with the latter case?

Lastly, regarding your distribution comment, from my understanding the AGPL addresses that very matter in that it forces all code to be released regardless of distribution.

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Wed May 07, 2014 8:56 pm

I find it irritating that you find a way to tie everything back to OSM in some form.
Vic Drover, the proprietor of Watchful.li is a sitting OSM Board Member.

I'm not responsible for the circumstance, but I can only observe it.
Your approach really doesn't settle well with most people
I have seen every effort to muddle, thwart and discombobulate the 'sticky' points which others find unsettling. I understand your position. However, it feels that when accountability of of persons in leadership positions are ever questioned - those raising the questions are attacked - let's not do that.
You question the project's principles
I question whether or not we are adhering to the project's principles.
[You] seemingly question whether code which isn't licensed as you would like has a place in this community
No problem here with licensing and I'm not questioning whether or not it has a place. In fact, I have no issue with the 'SaaS Loophole' - but you cannot tell me that

a) the JED rules are being followed; or

b) that it's effect is not subversion of the four freedoms.

See further reading for more details (http://www.linux-mag.com/id/3017/)

The article points to the provisions of the GPL utilizing SaaS in the manner the extension in question does as
...a loophole into a tunnel you can drive a truck through.
On to
The SaaS is dependent on Joomla, which is where I feel the grey area is.
If a listed extension

a) requires a bridge to non GPL product;

b) the official JED rules prohibit such bridges when the non GPL product cannot work independently from Joomla!

Then according to the JED rules, there is no grey area.

It is plain and obvious that the extension, according to the published rules should not be listed.

The very intent of the JED Rule (see http://docs.joomla.org/JED_Entries_License_Checklist at C2.3 #10) is to prevent extension developers from circumventing the four freedoms of the GPL through the 'SaaS Loophole.'

It is drafted specifically for software "dependent on Joomla!"

The JED rules literally deem such scenarios as not 'Publishable.' There is no grey area in the JED Rules on this.

Now flipping the coin and using a Twitter extension as I develop one and have it JED listed. Said extension is absolutely dependent upon access to the Twitter API
Okay. Let's be clear. Twitter is not dependent on Joomla! to function.

Twitter will still function and has a purpose, even if Joomla! never existed.

Conversely, Watchful.li

a) Would never exist without Joomla! It is because of the existence of the Joomla! Project that Watchful.li even has the opportunity to exist; and even more importantly

b) Watchful.li cannot work independently of Joomla! - and that's the key point.

--------

Is this desirable for the project?

Perhaps. OSM and the JED can make whatever decisions they want provided they are legal and even-handed.

But let's consider it's implications as well.

I prepared to accept and embrace either scenario (really - honestly I am).

So if an OSM Director and the JED utilize the 'SaaS Loophole' - fine with me, but I'm not going to try say that we are not being subversive of the four freedoms.

Rather, we understand this to be the accepted modus operandi of the project.

--------

But if I read correctly, this is not the intent of the OSM and the JED (given the rules for Publishing as cited) - in fact, it appears from those rules that opposite intent is there - that is to ensure the 'SaaS Loophole' is not exploited for extensions which cannot work independently of Joomla!

So let's make sure we know what we are doing and the implications of it.

-------

The disparity here is between what the JED Rules appear to be drafted to protect against, and an extension (extensions?) which have slipped through cracks - for whatever reasons.

-------

What does it matter the person who is the proprietor of this particular extension sits on the OSM Board (irritating isn't it? but why?)

Well, if you read the Mission, Vision and Values of OSM (i.e. Joomla!) it includes
"Freedom" is one of our key values, but the use of the word "free" here deliberately exploits the ambiguity in the English language between "free as in freedom" and "free as in no charge". Translators of this vision statement will need to be aware that both meanings are intended.
Further, Joomla! is one of the most widely known and utilized GPL projects in the world, so how we approach GPL Freedoms and protect against loopholes, is in a sense, a light unto other GPL projects.

Yet we have an OSM Director who sits on the Board, with a listed extension on the Joomla!, designed in a way which is known to specifically undermine the very four freedoms of which it is the stated vision of the Joomla! Project to protect.

That is, unless of course we want to change our vision for the Joomla! Project to 'Free for 30 days.'

In other words, there is a serious disconnect here. It can be seen as a joke, or a farce or whatever you want to call it - but it's not protecting the 4 freedoms.

-----

So where do we go from here?

1) Folks on the PLT, JED and others will get defensive and try to rationalize this;

2) I will become the subject of ad hominem attacks; and

3) Influential people whose voices should normally be heard publicly will send me private messages, never daring to speak their minds on the forum, because 1) and 2) above is the net result - and rarely if ever can we have a frank and honest discussion that concludes with

a) This is dead wrong;

b) That person in a position of power should not be doing this; and

c) We are going to fix it.

----

This is the ongoing pattern of our project.

I can accept it's not perfect - and I'm still happy to be a part of it.

I do care very much about this project, it's principles and the people involved.

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by drmmr763 » Wed May 07, 2014 10:04 pm

Vic Drover, the proprietor of Watchful.li is a sitting OSM Board Member.

I'm not responsible for the circumstance, but I can only observe it.
Just to be fair, I do believe Watchful was on the JED long before Vic was ever considered for being on OSM leadership.

--

Regarding the operating of Watchful independently of Joomla. I previously agreed with your assessment of that. But in further thinking, actually, I have no way of knowing that to be true. It's possible that Watchful could exist without Joomla. It's possible they are working on a wordpress, drupal, or other client which would mean they are not dependent on Joomla at all. Were this the case, wouldn't they be just like twitter, facebook, or any other SaaS provider?

So the only crime they've committed in this case is that they only support Joomla?

Correct me if I'm wrong but if Watchful supported another project they would be completely above board by the logic you're using, correct? That's absurd to me - that we seemingly want to 'ding' them for being dedicated to this community.

That type of treatment does nothing to encourage the ecosystem here and will only drive business minded developers towards other software platforms, resulting in a stagnant development culture for Joomla. That would be so, so tragic.
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Wed May 07, 2014 10:38 pm

Okay - Chad - I will bite - this is a well reasoned argument.

But.

1) Please cite what the intent is of the rules in the JED (as cited above) in prohibiting such extensions from being listed and specifically what 'mischief' it was intended to prevent.

Let me preface the next question by providing a quote from a Judge who ruled in my favour with respect to the other parties arguments
Interpreted literally and with some creativity, but without regard to context,, the words used in the by-law could be construed to include matters having only a tangential connection with the club that could not reasonably have been intended to be included.
In other words, the Judge slammed the other guy for getting 'creative' with his interpretation of the rules.

2) With respect to point 1) above, are we not now getting into overly 'literal and creative' interpretations so that so that we are, in the end, subverting the protection those rules were designed to grant us?

In much simpler terms - look at this way

1) What specifically was the rule designed to prevent?

2) Is your interpretation based on 'convenience' or proper enforcement?

We are ultimately talking about using the JED to subvert the four freedoms of which it is the project's vision to protect.

N

PS

I'm giving a ton of leeway here - the site says - "watchful.li remote updates, backups and security monitoring for Joomla!" [emphasis added]

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by drmmr763 » Wed May 07, 2014 11:32 pm

But.

1) Please cite what the intent is of the rules in the JED (as cited above) in prohibiting such extensions from being listed and specifically what 'mischief' it was intended to prevent.
I think the intent was really focused on people writing stand alone, distributed applications that "bridged" into Joomla, but licensing them as proprietary. At the time these rules were written during the "big GPL removal" I think some extension developers tried to take their extensions, "decouple" them from Joomla so they could retain a proprietary license, and then sell a GPLed bridge product which would go into the JED.

I believe that this rule was devised to prevent that from happening. I could be wrong, but with the historical context, that's what I think. So how is that different from watchful?

Their license and distribution model is completely different. The idea of a SaaSs service is completely opposite to the distributed proprietary software, and accompanying GPLed bridge that the rule was intended to 'block'.
2) With respect to point 1) above, are we not now getting into overly 'literal and creative' interpretations so that so that we are, in the end, subverting the protection those rules were designed to grant us?
I think the basic point you're making here is "letter of the law vs spirit of the law". In which case yeah I'll agree we're being pretty precise to skirt around the 'rule'. But I think thats because honestly the rule was not written to address SaaS services.

So if anything I think probably at some point there should be a rule with direct reference to SaaS-like services. I believe that should address all API driven products like google, twitter, facebook, etc etc..

I think making an example of Watchful just because Joomla was it's chosen platform is a little unfair, and borders on being too stringent with the rules in the opposite direction, leaving large numbers of extension that aren't all that different but picking on Watchful because it's "just for joomla" is an excessive take on the rule just as much as the SaaS loophole is.

--
In much simpler terms - look at this way

1) What specifically was the rule designed to prevent?
I'm going to go with really the case I mentioned above. I think in reality, SaaS just wasn't that popular and no one was really doing it in Joomla a few years ago as plainly as it's done today. In context I believe the rule was designed to prevent Forum XYZ from decoupling, licensing proprietary, building a GPL Bridge component and staying in the JED. I don't really think anyone was thinking SaaS.
2) Is your interpretation based on 'convenience' or proper enforcement?
I think its based on historical context with regards to the big GPL debate of olde, and a belief that saying SaaS extensions aren't welcome in the JED should extend to not just products designed for Joomla but also SaaS offerings like google, twitter, facebook, etc..etc.. Being Joomla specific should be encouraged, not a liability.
We are ultimately talking about using the JED to subvert the four freedoms of which it is the project's vision to protect.
I agree the JED has a responsibility to enforce the GPL, but I do think we might possibly disagree on how effectively it can do that without completely destroying the value that it provides in the first place. If the JED had to remove all extensions which connected with an outside service that was run via proprietary code, I think the number of extensions in the JED would be majorly reduced, rendering it's value to the community to be quite little.
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by mattbaylor » Thu May 08, 2014 12:26 am

The checklists, well all of the JED info, located on doc.joomla.org were created quite some time ago and haven't been updated much since. Most were created by people where English was their second language which has been a contributing factor to some confusion. Getting them revised and organized is a project we currently have in work.

At the time they were written, SaaS wasn't considered. As stated earlier in this thread the big push to GPL created some of those types of rules to prevent developers from trying to work the system and avoid re-licensing their code as GPL. It was aimed at preventing developers from creating extension that bridged out to an extension, not extensions that bridged out to a service.

We allow bridges to non-GPL services/products. We haven't rejected any submissions because they bridge to a non-GPL service. There's quite a few extensions that fall into this situation; Social media, ecommerce, backup, chat, seo and the list goes on.

We allow the usage of libraries that are not GPL as long as the they are licensed with a GPL compatible license.

Right now I'm more focused on getting the new system finished and docs have taken a back seat however it is a project in progress.
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by Vimes » Thu May 08, 2014 6:29 am

Just remember to not throw the baby out with the bathwater when you do :D
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Thu May 08, 2014 2:47 pm

@ Chad - very good arguments.

@ Matt - thank you for the historical context, this is very insightful.

The answer to the question, is therefore

"Yes, OSM and the JED officially permit the 'SaaS Loophole.'"

We can therefore use the model of Watchful.li as a test-case of what is a permissible as a 'closed-source loophole' for all extensions listed on the JED, and what is acceptable.

Watchful.li works very well as a test-case for the following reasons

1) The closed-source SaaS service is completely dependent on Joomla! It would not exist, and has no value (i.e. effectively cannot operate) without Joomla!;

2) As opposed to other examples (i.e. Twitter, Facebook), the closed-source SaaS software is under the control of the extension developer. That extension developer faces no restrictions to making their 'SaaS' software source-code available, yet has chosen not do so;

3) The extension developer happens to be an OSM Director;

4) Members of the JED have reviewed the rules as they relate to this particular extension, responded to the concerns and questions raised, and have concluded that this model is acceptable and does not contravene the JED rules for listing; and

5) Watchful.li comes with it what is now a verified and accepted injection of "per domain licensing" and a proprietary closed-sourced business model.

----

I think this was therefore very useful for all Joomla! extension developers who may wish to leverage the 'SaaS Loophole' to keep a portion of their code proprietary, while still benefiting from a listing in the JED.

The net effect of all this, I cannot tell. Many extension developers struggle to make a viable business under the GPL and perhaps this is the loophole they need to be successful - I am not sure - but it does seem to me to be inconsistent with the stated vision of the Joomla! Project - that is to protect 'free software.'

Perhaps a matter which will need to be revisited at some point in time.

Thank you all very much for your assistance in helping to gain an understanding, evaluate, providing solid arguments and clarification.

It's great to have a forum in which we can have intelligent discussions on these matters as they pertain to the Joomla! Project's vision and principles and hash these issues out.

Niv

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by Vimes » Thu May 08, 2014 6:52 pm

You do realise you're talking a complete pile of cobblers, don't you Niv?

You can argue what you consider to be legal semantics until the cows come home, but at the end of the day anything that's not distributed, whether or not it's connected somehow to Joomla's GPL licensed code, doesn't have to be licensed as GPL.

If it doesn't use any of Joomla's classes, reuse any of Joomla's code at all, then there's no moral or ethical reason for it to be licensed under the GPL at all.
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Thu May 08, 2014 7:52 pm

Vimes,

The question pertains as to what is permitted to be listed on the JED in accordance with JED rules.

We are not arguing 'legal semantics,' but acceptable business models as they pertain to extension developers listed on the JED, part of project whose stated mission is to protect 'free' software.

mattbalyor's response with respect to the prohibition of JED extensions bridging to non GPL extensions demonstrate that the JED rules give consideration to protecting those freedoms.

But now let's move all of this to a much more practical end, the 'business end' of things.

You will find in "Learning Joomla! 3 Extension Development 3rd Ed." a chapter on "What business model should I adopt?"

There are 4 models highlighted

1. 100 percent free model;
2. Freemium model;
3. Once-off purchase model; and
4. Subscription model.

Although the author references other business models could be considered, the "SaaS Loophole," is not discussed.

I have mentioned that I am considering this as a business model for myself - but it raises an 'ethical dilemma.'

For example, if as a project these practiced were frowned upon, then out of respect for the principles of the the Joomla! project, I'd likely not consider it.

It should be noted that this 'ethical dilemma' has been the subject of much debate (and turmoil) with respect to GPL licensing itself - since at least 2007.

In the article that I've referenced in this thread, the author states the decision to allow the 'SaaS Loophole' as both "throwing ethics out the window," and "the right decision" (!) - how could it be both?

So here we are in a practical business matter. What business model should I adopt?

In fact,

1) Dr. Drover has done us great favor by providing a very useful extension which utilizes the "SaaS Loophole" and provides an exceptional test case;

2) The fact that Dr. Drover is also an OSM Board Member (charged with protecting the mission and vision of the project) only adds to credibility of the test case; and

3) All of the 'ethical dilemmas,' concerns and nuances have been brought to the attention of the JED managers, who have evaluated, provided clarification and have effectively rubber-stamped the business model.

So this is what I mean when I say that we can take comfort in the fact a sitting OSM Director is utilizing this business model, and that this discussion has taken place.

Importantly, I have not seen a single person voice opposition to the 'SaaS Loophole' as leveraged by Dr. Drover and Watchful.li, in-spite of the ethical issues to that model that I raised.

In other words, the 'SaaS Loophole' for JED listed extensions is an accepted modus operandi of the Joomla! project.

That's good enough for me.

I have done my due diligence.

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by JacquesR » Thu May 08, 2014 8:24 pm

lol @ "due diligence"

Niv, you are good at:
1) inventing dramas,
2) fanning them,
3) numbering them,
4) repeating the same arguments/words/phrases ad nauseam,
5) and inventing replies to your dramas.

That is your modus operandi, and it's frankly nothing other than trolling and wasting of people's time here, and on the mailing list and now even on the JSE.

You could have asked a simple question, but instead purposefully tried to add drama, and to a name-and-shame (without foundation) by repeatedly claiming that a "SaaS Loophole" is being used by "a sitting OSM Director" to "subvert the four freedoms" of the GPL.

Mr. Froehlich, please stop chasing windmills.

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Thu May 08, 2014 10:45 pm

@Jacques

Talking about being repetitive:
NivF007 wrote: So where do we go from here?

1) Folks on the PLT, JED and others will get defensive and try to rationalize this;

2) I will become the subject of ad hominem attacks; and

3) Influential people whose voices should normally be heard publicly will send me private messages, never daring to speak their minds on the forum, because 1) and 2) above is the net result - and rarely if ever can we have a frank and honest discussion that concludes with

a) This is dead wrong;

b) That person in a position of power should not be doing this; and

c) We are going to fix it.

----

This is the ongoing pattern of our project.

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by denisdulici » Fri May 09, 2014 11:28 am

Niv, even your thesis is correct, Victor is not the starter of this application. Here you have an example (since 2009) for an eCommerce component which embeds content from a non-GPL source:

http://extensions.joomla.org/extensions ... ions/10720

In fact, what Vic does is nothing in comparing with Ecwid!

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Fri May 09, 2014 7:00 pm

@ DenisDulici

Thank you very much for providing another example.

http://www.ecwid.com/

Ecwid can operate 'independently' of Joomla! - it's viable software with or without Joomla!

Now that said:

The 'independence' rule for extensions bridging to non GPL extensions has been clarified by a JED Manager as intended only to apply to GPL extensions which bridge non-GPL extensions so as to prevent, as I understand it, a 'bait and switch' scenario in which a JED software consumer purchases a GPL extension, only to be later switched to a 'non-GPL' extension.

Of course, all of these policies mean nothing if what was not to protect the '4 freedoms' - access to source-code being a pre-requisite.

I have used the word 'Mischief' specifically as it is a well-known paradigm at law for interpreting rules.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mischief_rule wrote:The main aim of the rule is to determine the "mischief and defect" that the statute in question has set out to remedy, and what ruling would effectively implement this remedy.
So in other words, we look at the rules, and instead of a 'strict literal' interpretation, we interpret those rules in a way which enforces what those rules were intended to prevent against (i.e. protecting JED Software Consumers from being 'bait and switched' to non-GPL solutions).

So we have these policies in place that say

1) Your extension, if listed on the JED must be GPL (i.e. the software-consumer has access to source code and the freedom to do what they will (study, improve, resell etc.));

2) If your extension bridges to a non-GPL extension, it has to be one that can operate 'independently' of Joomla!

In looking at Ecwid, I see that it is passes these tests. Ecwid would still be Ecwid and be viable without Joomla! - it is 'independent' of Joomla!

Conversely, in looking at Watchful.li, what is this application without Joomla!?

It has no purpose or function. It does not meet these tests.

Therefore, we have in Watchful.li an extension which is 'wholly' dependent on Joomla! - but not all the source-code required to make it operate is available to the software consumer.

For these reasons, it is effectively a 'closed-source' proprietary application listed on the JED.

It is an interesting comparison - but because of Mr. Baylor's clarification of the history of the rule, we know that the preventing the 'mischief' of 'SaaS loophole' solutions were never considered when drafting the rules.

However, we still essentially have the 'mischief' occurring (i.e. no access to source code) when the JED is used as gateway for a proprietary SaaS solution.

With the respect to the closed-source proprietary portion of the extension, the software consumer cannot

- study the software;
- improve the software;
- share the software; nor
- be free for unlimited use of their software.

As a result, the software consumer becomes bound to the vendor, per domain licensing fees and cannot modify the software.

The freedoms which the Joomla! project seeks to protected are effectively subverted.

Now this isn't just about high-level ideology - the impact to the Joomla! Project is very real, and we can point to a 'real-life' scenario which has recently taken place.

If you look at the following thread, I'd respectfully draw your attention to Mr. Dionysopoulos' (founder of Akeeba) post, which I encourage folks to read.

http://forum.joomla.org/viewtopic.php?f=728&t=829729

Here we have one of Joomla!'s brightest and best contributing to the core - as I understand from Mr. Dionysopoulos' documentation, business models and comments, he is a true-blood, through-and-through GPL solution provider. Everything you get from Akeeba honours the 4 Freedoms - you get access to the source code - exactly inline with the Joomla! projects' vision.

Nicholas' software can be improved upon by others, re-incorporated into other solutions, studied and redistributed, etc. - and we see this in action to the benefit of the project in numerous ways.

Even the extension in question, Watchful.li relies on Akeeba as part of it's solution.

And further, only the services which the extension developer could not reasonably be expected to provide (e.g. the software that runs the Amazon S3 servers is not under the control of Akeeba it runs independently of Joomla!) - is a 'reasonable exception' as it would not be reasonable to expect Akeeba to do the impossible - that is to provide source code over which the extension developer could not possibly have any control.

In this context, IMHO, those extension developers who use the 'SaaS loophole' can be given a 'pass' without to much debate simply on the basis that they have no alternative, and by barring their solutions we, as a project, have nothing to gain.

However, with Watchful.li, we have a wonderful extension (very useful and a great idea) and the case is very different.

The proprietor could provide the 'source-code' to the project or any of his software consumers, but never offers to in thread listed above, opting instead to set up their own servers and strip any reference to their 'free trials' etc.

This might sound generous. The project gets 'software for free,' but this is not the same as 'free software' as the software consumer never gets access to the source code - a prerequisite for the 4 freedoms.

In the specific instance referenced, we see a real-life scenario in which as a project, we are barred from using a derivative work of Joomla! that would otherwise be available to be re-incorporated back into the project, modified and improved upon - and continue to improve the code base for everybody's benefit.

The gain in this case a 'personal gain' of the extension provider - a competitive advantage. It can be argued that project benefits because of more available solutions - but the 'true gain' to the project - the one in which the code-base is expanded - is subverted in the process.

This is what the author of 'The GPL Has No (Networked) Future' (see http://www.linux-mag.com/id/3017/) means by
Bryan Richard wrote:...if you’re looking to leverage Free Software without completely fulfilling the requirements of the license, a better method would be to exploit the software as a service (SaaS) loophole, which the latest draft of the GPL3 just legalized.
The fact that this is the accepted modus operandi for a Director of OSM is significant.

What it means is that the people charged with protecting the 4 Freedoms (this is part of the stated vision of the Joomla! Project (i.e. this is the duty of OSM Directors)) see the use of the 'SaaS Loophole' as 'acceptable.'

They are free to do so - and there are very good arguments as to why the 'SaaS Loophole' can and should be permitted.

I would further note that nobody on this thread has objected to Watchful.li from being listed on the JED, or has requested that the 'SaaS Loophole' be closed, so let's wish Watchful.li and Dr. Drover the best of luck.

While many of us would much prefer that the software freedoms be honoured (I am on of those), as long as we agree that these rules apply equally to everybody and the project accepts the 'SaaS Loophole' as fair-game - I am willing to as well, if for no other reasons than

a) I have numerous proprietary extensions through a business associate that can be leveraged for profit under this model;

b) After many hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal investment, my business associate does not wish to make their source code available; and

c) If this is the 'accepted modus operandi' of the Joomla! Project, then I would be foolish not to take advantage of it as others are.

I think that I've done my best, however, to have a frank discussion about these issues - so that if there are any objections, those have had opportunity to come to light.

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by masterchief » Mon May 19, 2014 10:41 pm

NivF007 wrote:c) If this is the 'accepted modus operandi' of the Joomla! Project, then I would be foolish not to take advantage of it as others are.
Correct, you'd be foolish not to take advantage of the accepted modus operand this project has operated under for a good part of a decade. Less words and more action on your part would probably be appreciated by all.
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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by NivF007 » Mon May 19, 2014 11:19 pm

You had me at 'I'd be foolish.'

What exactly do you know about 'action on my part,' unless of course that last statement is made out of complete ignorance?

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Re: Does OSM and JED officially permit "SaaS Loophole"?

Post by masterchief » Mon May 19, 2014 11:51 pm

NivF007 wrote:What exactly do you know about 'action on my part,' unless of course that last statement is made out of complete ignorance?
It's so cryptic that I can't even work it out now. The point is you needed to ask the question "For commercial work I am planning, can I backend GPL extensions with SaaS and still be listed on the JED?". The answer would have been yes and you would have been able to move on to doing work that puts food on your table.
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