After the first 24 hours I became aware of the unauthorized changes of WordPress licensing, the day started with some positive movement.
But still there seem to be misconceptions about licensing. As this change in the codebase is only for development versions, software containing the unauthorized changes are still on the wordpress.org server. Affected Versions are 3.0 and 3.0.1. My suggestion to bump the version to 3.0.2 so to ensure that users with unauthorized copies can make their home feel good again, is not an option for
core developer Mark Jaquith:
No. I applied it to 3.0 and trunk. It’ll go out with the next release from each of those branches. The package files are historical, and I don’t feel the need to whitewash them.
Just to ensure obligations are met is considered whitewashing? Interesting concept to deal with infringements for a fan of Free and Open Source Software . But that’s probably a very personal opinion of and not a statement by a wordpress lead developer, so looking for better ways to communicate.
Anyway, Mark made some other insightful comment I’d like to share. That has been made with the revert, and he talks about the licensing dilemma:
Later, some code was introduced that was licensed under the GPL version 2 (i.e. “only”). Some code was introduced that was licensed under the GPL version 2 or any later version. So while WordPress as a whole cannot currently be redistributed under the GPL versions 1 or 3, that does not change the fact that the code that does not have a version-specific GPL applied to it can be presumed to be released under the GPL, generally (any version).
That’s a pretty “interesting” statement. Up to the revert we have learned what the license of wordpress is: a non-version-restricted GPL. That’s why the revert has been made to the wordpress license text. And immediately after that Mark tries to explain why the license should not be valid for the whole work? If I read stuff like that I do not wonder much why licensing issues are not entirely taken care of properly in the project.
But that statement bears another interesting point, the admittance that parts of the code aren’t properly cross-checked for eligibility and license compability. I mean, you can’t release a GPL v2 code with wordpress even wordpress developers themselves have learned now. That just does not work. But Mark argues it can. So I started to look into the codebase for some of those places where a potential License mismatch might appear.
To give license
I was pretty surprised to see code in one file that was not only not licensed under GPL but under BSD. That IXR – The Inutio XML-RPC Library got my attention and I started to learn more about it and it’s license. The name “Artistic License” run over my screen. And then the BSD. According to some Wikipedia link I followed a table showed that BSD was incompatible to GPL. I might have been a bit too fast for the moment to immediatly open a ticket about that issue then (#14703), because the BSD license named in wordpress code is a modified version which is compatible with the GPL. That gladly would solve any GPL incompatibility match license wise. That’s good, because otherwise there would have been a licensing issue with wordpress for the last six years.
So after the different license were checked for compatibility, I took a closer look on the BSD license. It grants the right to redistribute when certain conditions are met. If those conditions are not met, the right to redistribute, to use and to modify the code is not granted (“Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met”, excerpt from the modified / 3-clause / “new” BSD license). You might think it already: Those conditions are not met. So there is a problem since six years with licensing code in this project.
I have no clue what this means, if this has implications for those who gave code in that time, and for the users.
Anyway, as this was in trac, there was again a lot of disco disco disco dance (Bonus: Spank Rock Remix feat. Amanda Blank). And it’s getting more harsh. Somehow. Core devs behave extremely cautious in contraire to other users that are starting to throw the same arguments to each other all over again. But that might just have been the time of day. I have full understanding for this, because as the day showed even I have sometimes problems to fiddle with the details and yeah, well, internet discussion.
I hope tomorrow will bring better answers and a brighter outlook for stuff like that. And maybe real changes for users. It’s obvious that trac is not always the right place to quickly find solutions. And I promise that next time when I open a ticket I have triple checked stuff. Even my mistake turned into good today, the ticket serves as the required license and disclaimer texts are still missing. From six month to six years is some change. The clarification on the GPL was infact something great today and it’s something to built on.