What is a distributor?

*IF* you want to share your opinion on the GPL issue, this is the place for you.
Locked
gpeterso
Joomla! Intern
Joomla! Intern
Posts: 53
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 9:02 pm

What is a distributor?

Post by gpeterso » Wed Jul 04, 2007 2:50 pm

Hi,

I am a webdesigner and have been hired to build joomla websites.  If I buy and install the non-gpl third party extensions for a client but do not modify them am I a distributor and have some potenital liabilities or am I an user without any liabilities.

If I do have a potiential liablity, is it removed if I have the client buy the non-gpl third party extension with their visa and email address?

What is the definition of a distributor?

Thanks

User avatar
Jenny
Joomla! Champion
Joomla! Champion
Posts: 6238
Joined: Sun Aug 21, 2005 2:25 pm
Contact:

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by Jenny » Wed Jul 04, 2007 2:59 pm

As a web designer, I would think your work would be covered under work for hire.  It would be no different than building a computer for someone and installing all needed proprietary software.  Your client contracts you.  They own the work.  Just because you install an OS on a client's computer doesn't mean you are distributing the OS, it means your client owns the OS and you are installing it for them.


Edit:  That is my opinion on the matter.  Others may have differing opinions.
Co-author of the Official Joomla! Book http://officialjoomlabook.com
Marpo Multimedia http://marpomultimedia.com

User avatar
mcsmom
Joomla! Exemplar
Joomla! Exemplar
Posts: 7985
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2005 8:43 pm
Location: New York
Contact:

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by mcsmom » Wed Jul 04, 2007 3:10 pm

As long as you install joomla! and the extensions separately, you are fine according to my understanding. Just mho however. There is no problem  for the end user with buying the extensions, just a problem for the seller for not having a proper license. If the FSF went after that extension publisher and got compliance, they would have the publisher send you a new compliant version. That according to the FSF web page on compliance procedures.
So we must fix our vision not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but upon the positive affirmation of peace. MLK 1964.
http://officialjoomlabook.com Get it at http://www.joomla.org/joomla-press-official-books.html Buy a book, support Joomla!.

gpeterso
Joomla! Intern
Joomla! Intern
Posts: 53
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 9:02 pm

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by gpeterso » Wed Jul 04, 2007 3:25 pm

Thanks for your quick replies.

Yes... I am a doing the work as a "work for hire". 

So, if I understand you...I am not a distrubutor and it does not matter if I purchase the non-gpl 3rd party joomla! extensions directly or if I have the customer buy it because they own it regardless since I am a "work for hire".  Yes, I have not bundled joomla and the extensions together.  I install them seperately based on if the client needs the function or not.

This is good news.  THANKS

User avatar
Danayel
Joomla! Enthusiast
Joomla! Enthusiast
Posts: 236
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:59 am
Location: Nagoya, Japan
Contact:

RE: What is a distributor?

Post by Danayel » Wed Jul 25, 2007 12:52 pm

So if I read you right, then a person who is 'selling' non-gpl components just has to include free installation to get around being a distributor and then become a 'work for hire'  ???

Or to be even more careful, they could not offer the component at all but only sell a $50 installation fee.

Otherwise they are doing the exact thing as a webdeveloper who buys it and includes the price into his charges.
NinjaForge - More than 60 Professional, Open Source, Web 2.0 Extensions
http://ninjaforge.com - Get on the cutting edge.

User avatar
mcsmom
Joomla! Exemplar
Joomla! Exemplar
Posts: 7985
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2005 8:43 pm
Location: New York
Contact:

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by mcsmom » Wed Jul 25, 2007 3:58 pm

Danayel,

I know you like to make fun of me for saying this, but I am not a lawyer. You seem to have gone off on a tangent with your post.

In my opinion, it is the person/company who is selling the proprietary software that is the distributor. That person/company is the one who may have violated the gpl. If you buy from them you must follow the license it was sold under.  If that license allows you to install it, you can install it.  That is, you assume on good faith that the way the extension was written is such that it does not violate the gpl.

In the event that a copyright holder wanted to take action against that company, you and your client as the purchaser would not be subject to that action. In fact, the only thing that would happen to you is that you would then be offered the source code, be given the ability to modify the source and be allowed to install additional copies (i.e. all the freedoms of the gpl). On the other hand, I suppose the company could choose to withdraw the product rather than comply with the gpl. At that point it is no different than if any other proprietary developer stops selling a product, that is you are more or less on your own.

The problem would come if you combined the Joomla! and a propriety extension into one application. Then you have a single new product that you are distributing.  In that case, you would have a problem because you have become a distributor of a product that mixes gnu gpl and non gnu compliant elements.

As always just my opinion. :)
So we must fix our vision not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but upon the positive affirmation of peace. MLK 1964.
http://officialjoomlabook.com Get it at http://www.joomla.org/joomla-press-official-books.html Buy a book, support Joomla!.

User avatar
aoirthoir
Joomla! Explorer
Joomla! Explorer
Posts: 267
Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 1:18 pm
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by aoirthoir » Wed Jul 25, 2007 6:50 pm

gpeterso,

Work for hire means you are performing a service. If you purchase something, (be it a service, or a product) from another business, {edited to add} and sell this to your client {/edit}you are not performing a work for hire in that instance. Though you could certainly do a work for hire using the thing purchased. Now, if your client purchases the component, and you merely install it, then that is a work for hire. You can even charge to perform this service. However, if you purchase the component, then you  charge your client for it, you are now a reseller, thus you are a distributer. With the distribution taking this path: Developer -> You -> Client.

Some other caveats to consider in the case of work for hire. If you are performing a work for hire, say software modifications, your client retains copyrights to those changes, not you. Unless you have written documentation otherwise. Even so be very careful with this, and make sure that the documentation is rock solid.

If you wish to relieve yourself of any responsibility to the GNU GPL in this matter, you are best to have your client purchase the component. Then the distribution path is this Developer -> Your client. You could certainly download the component, in which case, the act of downloading would performed be as an agent of the client in your work for hire capacity.

I realize some folks think this is splitting hairs. Consider these facts though. All rights are retained under copyright law by the copyright holder, until such time that they afford others allowances to certain of those rights. These might include rights to use the work such as view  a video, read a manuscript, run a software program. They might also include the right to distribute the work, create derivatives, charge a fee for access to the work and so on. Until the copyright holder offers someone any of these rights, they are not permitted to do these things. It is for this reason, that I may not run MS Windows, even if it is given to me freely, in violation of MS's distribution policies. So you see I hope that copyrights deal, not only with distribution, but also usage.

If so, then why is it that there is no violation of the GNU GPL terms for a user but there is for a distributer when dealing with the very same program? Because the GNU GPL explicitly grants the rights to run the program without restriction. It also grants certain distribution rights, but these, are limited. It makes this distinction because it was specifically crafted to insure that users had rights that they had heretofore not had.
Last edited by aoirthoir on Wed Jul 25, 2007 6:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Joseph James Frantz

gpeterso
Joomla! Intern
Joomla! Intern
Posts: 53
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 9:02 pm

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by gpeterso » Wed Jul 25, 2007 8:05 pm

Thanks for your reply.  It sounds like the safest way to run my business is to have the client purchase directly any joomla add-on they need.

Currently I only have installed joomla and joomla add-ons and configured them.  The only code I have modified in the joomla environment is templates, so am I right that "work for hire" is the better option for me because it reduces my potenital liabilities and because I am not the copyright owner of any of the software anyways?

Thank you

User avatar
lobos
Joomla! Explorer
Joomla! Explorer
Posts: 322
Joined: Wed Jul 19, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Sao Paulo, Brasil
Contact:

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by lobos » Wed Jul 25, 2007 9:46 pm


It sounds like the safest way to run my business is to have the client purchase directly any joomla add-on they need.
And also notify them that the software they are purchasing is actually illegal and in breech of a software license?  IDK sounds a little shady to me... if I was your client I would want to know if I was purchasing something illegal to use on my site.

-Lobos
Fish n' Chips

User avatar
aoirthoir
Joomla! Explorer
Joomla! Explorer
Posts: 267
Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 1:18 pm
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by aoirthoir » Wed Jul 25, 2007 10:48 pm

gpeterso,

Yes that is the path I would recommend. Naturally, a lawyer's advice might be good. The thing to remember is that the user is not in violation by running software, rather the distributer is.
Joseph James Frantz

User avatar
Danayel
Joomla! Enthusiast
Joomla! Enthusiast
Posts: 236
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:59 am
Location: Nagoya, Japan
Contact:

re: What is a distributor?

Post by Danayel » Wed Jul 25, 2007 10:51 pm

I know you like to make fun of me for saying this, but I am not a lawyer. You seem to have gone off on a tangent with your post.
Suprisingly enough I wasn't actually making fun of you.  :D

Nor was I off on a tangent. The topic is what is a distributor so I was looking for a potential distributor loophole.  ;)

I figured it would be what aoirthoir said though. For exactly the reasons I asked in my post, if you were exempted from being a distributor when you were reselling a component as part of a work for hire, then you would just need to append 'work for hire' onto your purchase plan to be free from the GPL.

But it is as I thought. This is something that you might want to make more publically known. A lot of web developers deploy sites using Joomla and it would be nice of them to know that they are exposing themselves to potential legal action by reselling components.

Keeping this from them could be considered negligence.  ;)

@Lobos

As Arth said, they are not doing anythign illegal, nor are they liable, by purchasing it, it's the seller doing the bad.

EDIT: typos and added the comment to Lobos
Last edited by Danayel on Wed Jul 25, 2007 10:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
NinjaForge - More than 60 Professional, Open Source, Web 2.0 Extensions
http://ninjaforge.com - Get on the cutting edge.

Ally
Joomla! Apprentice
Joomla! Apprentice
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2005 11:52 am

Re: What is a distibutor?

Post by Ally » Thu Jul 26, 2007 10:06 pm

In response to: http://forum.joomla.org/index.php/topic,187419.0.html

Sorry to drag this out, but I'd like some clarification.

I'm a long term user of mambo/joomla for my personal and small buiness sites and plan to expand by offering a 'hosting' service to my peers. This is a very specific market who are generally very creative but non-technical. They have static 'shop-front' style sites at present. My service would help them harness the web to add value to their core offering through integrating video, audio, forums, photo-galleries etc.

Originally I anticipated offering a series of standard website options.
Eg,
a) Joomla site, preset menus/sections/categories and photo gallery
b) offer a), plus podcast plug-in, video plugin and forum
c) offer b), plus moodle (virtual learning environment)
etc...

My question is this... 
  • If I have preset options - am I a distributor?
  • If I offer a menu of component options that they select from, is this software as a service?
I plan to use customised commercial templates and use 'mostly' gnu/gpl components (providing they stay close to joomla!)

Thanks in advance
Ally

edited to clarify my questions
Last edited by Ally on Thu Jul 26, 2007 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
mcsmom
Joomla! Exemplar
Joomla! Exemplar
Posts: 7985
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2005 8:43 pm
Location: New York
Contact:

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by mcsmom » Thu Jul 26, 2007 11:25 pm

Yes, you would be a distributor.
As long as you stick to all gpl you are fine. The templates are fine so long as your purchase of the non-gpl'd portions of the template does not limit you to one site.

If you are thinking of something for schools you might want to look at what edugeek offers as a possible model. 
So we must fix our vision not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but upon the positive affirmation of peace. MLK 1964.
http://officialjoomlabook.com Get it at http://www.joomla.org/joomla-press-official-books.html Buy a book, support Joomla!.

User avatar
aoirthoir
Joomla! Explorer
Joomla! Explorer
Posts: 267
Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 1:18 pm
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by aoirthoir » Fri Jul 27, 2007 1:01 am

The only possibility that I see otherwise, is if you merely offer content access. For instance, I can log onto the Joomla! site without Joomla! having been distributed to me. But if they are developers and are going to want access to their programs, even though the files are hosted on your service, you are distributing.
Joseph James Frantz

Ally
Joomla! Apprentice
Joomla! Apprentice
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2005 11:52 am

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by Ally » Fri Jul 27, 2007 9:51 am

Thank you for your clarification...  I'm clearer on the way forward for me.

I hadn't fully appreciated the obvious difference between me creating a website on 'their' host and the extra step of me hosting it for them.

My original intention was to support my peers by converting their 'static' websites to dynamic (joomla) websites. As I researched further, the natural (and prefered option for many of them) is to host the sites for them and provide a turn-key solution. In my excitement, I'd overlooked my change in status from 'software as a service' to being a distributor.

Thanks again - I'll get back to refining my beta-site now :)

gpeterso
Joomla! Intern
Joomla! Intern
Posts: 53
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 9:02 pm

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by gpeterso » Fri Jul 27, 2007 2:10 pm

I have been thinking more about this issue.

I also just provide a work for hire service on the client's webhost.  From your feedbacks, from a GPL license standpoint, I MIGHT be considered a distributor if I buy the non-gpl joomla addon....It sounds like people have differing opinions on that.  But if my client buys it then I am OK. 

But I do not think that is workable for my clients to buy the non-gpl joomla addon, because the non-gpl joomla addon support for upgrades and bugs would be through my clients email.  I would not be able to help them.  My clients do not want to get involved in the technical details of building a supporting a website.

So am I right that, I then really have no choice but to avoid the non-gpl commerical joomla addons if I want to make certain I am not considered an illegal distributor and violating the Joomla! GPL license?  :(

I know people recommend contacting a lawyer, but it seems that right now no one knows how this is going to be worked out.  The uncertianity makes it difficult for me to know how to proceed.

Thanks again for your feedback

User avatar
aoirthoir
Joomla! Explorer
Joomla! Explorer
Posts: 267
Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 1:18 pm
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: What is a distributor?

Post by aoirthoir » Fri Jul 27, 2007 2:19 pm

Gepterso,

Since work for hire is a matter of law you should consider it that way. For instance, in some states that require items to be taxed if you bought the item and then charged your client for it, the state would still want its sales tax and would not accept the work for hire  claim. If the state doesn't accept it, then it's a distribution method, not a work for hire.

However, this still does not prevent them from purchasing it, and you being notified of the updates. Simply have them purchase it in their name, yet you supply your information as contact or secondary contact to the developer. In all cases, make sure the developer knows that you are not the one purchasing, that you are merely acting as an agent of such and such.

So yes you can still help your clients in this way, if they desire proprietary extensions. Be sure to explain their rights to them in regards to these and the gpl components.
Joseph James Frantz


Locked

Return to “GPL Discussion”