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Re: Mathworks-hosted GPL'd software

From: Judd Storrs
Subject: Re: Mathworks-hosted GPL'd software
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 2010 10:44:09 -0500

On Tue, Feb 16, 2010 at 5:37 AM, Jaroslav Hajek <address@hidden> wrote:
> It's a little long for my personal taste. Can something be dropped?

Please. I just started writing and sent what I came up with when I was
tired of editing. An intermediate version was much longer :) I wasn't
sure where to cut further so I thought to get some feedback.

> "paying Matlab customers" -> "MATLAB users" or "MathWorks customers"

>> For this
>> reason we are establishing a secondary repository for user-contributed
>> software and invite you to submit your files there also.
> "secondary" -> "alternative" ?

Yeah, secondary emphasizes derivative. I was trying to emphasize that
contributors could participate in both sites. Another word that come
to mind is "independent".

> Numerical systems/numerical environments. Maybe we can just speak of
> Octave?

Technically, the ban affects users of Octave, Scilab, Numpy, R, IDL,
GDL, Freemat, SAS, SPSS, PSPP, S+, C, C++, Fortran, FORTRAN, etc ad

> Also, I think it's not fair to say that MathWorks is trying to
> undermine the community of Matlab users. They are just trying to limit
> the service to Matlab users,  which even Matlab users may not be happy
> with.

It's not unfair. They are trying to limit our association with their
customers and balkanize the community. The losers are the customers
and us.

>> Briefly, we
>> believe that new restrictions mandated by the Mathworks on licensing
>> of files hosted in File Exchange may limit your ability to share and
>> derive benefit from your work
> As we previously agreed, the author's ability to share his work is of
> course not affected. We shouldn't say this.

I disagree. The inability to choose the GPL and use File Exchange
simultaneously is a limitation on the author's ability to share.

> I was sort of assuming that these conclusions (resulting from the BSD
> license enforcement) will be mostly obvious to developers. After all,
> they either chose BSD themselves or agreed to a change, so they
> probably know what's going on.

Never assume anything. I would assume a GPL hostile audience.

> Although Tim Davis' example is instructive (and worth following), it
> also makes the whole text longer. I would at least start a new
> paragraph with the words "For Example", so that the reader may skip it
> more easily.

Well, my opinion is that a new paragraph would help readers skip to it
not away from it. If they don't to read it they can continue to the
next paragraph.

Also, something is bothering me at the moment. I mentioned Dr. Davis
by name. Ultimately, we should ask his permission first before sending
a letter with his name. I was just experimenting with trying to make a
case for being distrusting of Mathworks while staying factual. I don't
think the audience is going to be as receptive to "GNU intrusion" as
you do. i.e. I doubt they will understand what we mean when we use
short-hands such as "free software" So be careful about this.

>> Secondly, the Mathworks has updated the MatlabCentral Terms of Service
>> to ban all use of the website not related specifically to using
>> Mathworks products. It is not clear what the intent this change
>> signals about the future of the File Exchange within the Matlab user
>> community. At the very minimum it appears that Mathworks intends to
>> isolate Matlab users and contributors from the knowledge, feedback,
>> and experience of users of Matlab competitors. But the Mathworks may
>> also intend to limit access to your contribution to customers--the new
>> Terms of Service may go so far as precluding users of other systems
>> from viewing, studying and adapting your software.
> Too much speculation, I say. Let us not make guesses what MathWorks
> may or may not do in the future.
> I think we should focus this on the simple primary concern: the new
> restriction in the ToS you have discovered. Whether or not it is
> actually legally effective, it was surely put there on purpose and
> therefore we are rightfully concerned about getting into trouble by
> violating it.
> I say, chances are some authors will not sympathize with us and alert
> MathWorks about the action; some authors are even MathWorks employees.

Newsflash, I bet some Mathworks employees subscribe to
address@hidden There is absolutely no secrecy. Did you think
Mathworks would not find out about a secondary archive?

> I think we should reduce all speculations and campaign-like statements
> to a minimum, if not zero, because they could be eventually used
> against us.

I though you called us to action for a coordinated campaign. My bad.

> I assume most (if not all) of the developers are
> intelligent enough and will easily understand what are we trying to do
> and why, based on the bare minimum of information we provide. The
> point is to alert them about the ToS restriction, because many of them
> are surely not aware of it. One thing I usually dislike about
> commercial software companies is that they tend to speak to users like
> they were idiots.

I'm very sorry, but I *am* an idiot. I'm not a genius operating at
your level. You're going to have to spell it out to me if you want me
to follow your reasoning.

> A purely technical matter is that I would like to stress that the
> authors may simply send their package by email in response. Many of
> them will surely not want to maintain their code at two places and
> will remain loyal to the MathWorks site, so we should minimize the
> actions required on their part.

Also as a purely technical matter, we don't actually need anything
from the authors at all. The BSD license allows us to just take and
host the code.


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