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In my post yesterday on the Open Web I referenced an article by Matt Assay of CNet entitled Facebook adopts the CPAL poison pill. This morning Dare Obasanjo (glad he's back to blogging!) shared his thoughts on this CNet article articulating how Matt's premise around the advertising clause is "pretty ridiculous".

To me it isn't about the "advertising clause" but rather around how the CPAL defines "External Distribution" in section 15. Using fbOpen as an example, what the CPAL states is that just running fbOpen on a public network is a form of Distribution which invokes the "Application of License" and "Availability of Source Code" clauses in sections 3.1 and 3.2 respectively. This means that if you run fbOpen and make any modifications, such as to change it to interact with your infrastructure instead of Facebook's, you'd have to redistribute those changes. I'm all for Open Source, but why should I have to expose how my infrastructure is configured if I want to use fbOpen in production?

Obviously there are ways around this such as spending time to abstract the code away from Facebook's data model, but then if you want it to be included in future fbOpen releases you have to assign ownership of your contribution(s) to Facebook (http://developers.facebook.com/fbopen/contribute.pdf). While this certainly isn't abnormal, MySQL has a similar clause though the Apache Software Foundation does not require assignment of copyright anymore, Facebook takes it a bit further than most:

In consideration for the potential inclusion of the Contribution in a Facebook product and receipt of Facebook branded apparel in the event of such inclusion, and for the receipt of the license back to Contributor set forth in Section 4 below, Contributor hereby irrevocably and exclusively grants, assigns and transfers to Facebook, its successors, assigns and nominees, all right, title and interest worldwide in and to the Contribution and all works of authorship and inventions embodied therein, including without limitation all intellectual property rights, including, but not limited to, copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets and moral rights in the Contribution. Contributor agrees that this assignment may be submitted by Facebook to obtain patents, mask work registrations, copyright registrations and otherwise to protect Facebook’s ownership in the Contribution and any and all related inventions and works of authorship in any country.

Is it not a bit ironic to have Facebook choose a license which requires you make available your modifications just by running the code publicly yet want you to irrevocably and exclusively grant, assign, and transfer just about all of your rights to Facebook? How is that Open Source at all?

While I might disagree with the reason Matt Asay chose as the "poison pill", I am unfortunately having a hard time believing fbOpen was released in such a way as to encourage third party usage in production environments. That said, I do hope that they'll reach out to the community for help in the future to get "open" right; it isn't an easy thing to do as DeWitt Clinton reminded me of via Twitter.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 6th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
I agree
Facebook doesn't really want to encourage people to run the platform on their own servers. Which is why I mentioned Microsoft's Shared Source Reference licence in my post:


I'll be eager to see who, if anyone, ends up using the fbOpen platform on their own servers. Evar.
Mar. 12th, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
its a pity, it could be a gread breakthrough

- daren
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )