Friday, March 14, 2008

Yet another creative use of open source...

So this vendor, MPower systems ( has "the only full-feature, open source constituent relationship management (CRM) software specifically designed for nonprofits." First of all, they must not know how to use Google to make that statement with a straight face, but hey, whatever.

Marketing tip: "the easiest full-feature, open source constituent relationship management (CRM) software specifically designed for nonprofits" would at least be defensible.

So its open source, eh? They must use an existing license, right? Nope.

Their license has these gems:

1.03 Unless explicitly stated otherwise, any new features that augment or enhance the current Software, including the release of new properties, shall be subject to terms of this EULA
This suggests that if I contribute, my contributions become the property of the vendor. Mmmmm...
2.01 This License allows you to install and use the Software. You may make one copy of the Software in machine-readable form for backup purposes only, provided that the backup copy must include all copyright or other proprietary notices contained on the original.
So if I want to do any development on their "open source" software, I need to do it on my production instance. Mmmmm...
2.02 Except as expressly permitted in this EULA, you agree not to reverse engineer, de-compile, disassemble, alter, duplicate, modify, rent, lease, loan, sublicense, make copies, create derivative works from, distribute or provide others with the Software, in whole or part, or electronically transfer the Software from one computer to another or over a network.
Sure seems like I can't create derrivative works, but I'm looking for the part of the EULA that allows this.
2.03 You may not sell, transfer or communicate the Software to any third party without our prior express written consent.
So not only can I only modify my production instance, but I have to get permission to share any modifications from the vendor. Definitely an open source best practice ;)

And from a quick scan of the license agreement, there are not open source provisions that would allow me to "...have access to MPower’s source code so they can develop features and functionality to meet their organizations’ individual requirements, as needs arise."

This just makes me angry. Do they think their customers are stupid? Do they feel like it is OK to just lie? Did they "forget" to change their license agreement? Are they so cynical to think it doesn't matter?

Looking forward to the next vendor fantasy land definition of open source...

NOTE: They just announced yesterday, so they might have led with the marketing without worrying about anything else. Still seems pretty cynical.


ldangelo said...


My name is Leo D'Angelo, CTO of MPower. We inadvertently included our old proprietary license in the download. Our new 'open source' license is available for viewing at I assure you we are not trying to mislead anyone. We intend to deliver a truly open source software product. If the existing license fails to meet those needs in anyway we will modify it as needed.


Leo A. D'Angelo

Donald Lobo said...

if its truly open source why not use a license approved by OSI. Why create your own specific license? In essence, any user needs to chat with a lawyer to figure out how mpower's license differs from an open source license

David Geilhufe said...

I am a big proponent of using an existing license as well. I still haven't had time to go line by line through MPower's license, so not sure how extensive their modifications are.

We choose AGPL for CiviCRM specifically because mission was more important that profit in the CiviCRM ecology.

As a company converting over to be more open source like, but still a profit-making venture, they want to be as open as possible without giving away too many competitive advantages. It certainly creates incentives to build a unique license.

ldangelo said...

We are actually considering all of the OSI approved licenses. As of right now it looks as if the LGPL is the 'closest'. We are trying to achieve a license that is truly open with the provision that our technology can not be used in a commercially licensed product.

I agree with both of you that the use of an existing license would be best (if possible).