Monday, September 14, 2009

Liblime forks Koha

Horowhenua Library Trust developed Koha, the world’s first open source library management system back in 2000. We gave it to the world in the spirit of community. We are very happy, delighted in fact, for any organisation or individual to take it, improve it and then give their improvements back.

Recipricocity is the keystone which gives strength to the Koha Community.

We do not begrudge vendors taking our gift and building a commercial enterprise out of it, as Liblime, Biblibre and any number of others have done, but the deal is that you give back. This has worked well for a decade and Liblime has been a strong, valued and much appreciated member of the Koha international community over that time.

So it is incredibly sad and disappointing that Liblime has decided to breach the spirit of the Koha project and offer a ‘Liblime clients only’ version of Koha. Let's call it what it is: vendor lockin and a fork.

Technically, because Liblime offers hosted Koha what it is doing does not breach the GNU GPL licence conditions of Koha. Liblime has said it will continue to push new developments – but its actions show it is not contributing code or participating in the community anymore. Other developers are sharing their public Git repositories but there is no sign of Liblime's yet. An important principle of FOSS is that you release early and often allowing the community to share in the development and benefit.

Long serving, reputable staff with a proven track record of commitment to open source have, I assume, chosen to not work in the new Liblime culture. They have moved to other vendors committed to the FOSS ethos - people like Nicole Engard who late last week accepted an employment offer from Bywater Solutions and Biblibre.

The other thing that us Kiwis don’t understand is how Liblime could have trademarked the word ‘Koha’. It’s a simple and common word in New Zealand; it would be like trademarking the word ‘thanks’ or ‘gift’ or ‘hello’ in America. Liblime has also registered a Koha Foundation which strikes at the very soul of the Koha community. Liblime has taken the name, the domain and the foundation away from us all. The company has said publicly that it is just holding them in safe keeping for the community and will hand them back to the Koha community.

The real loser in all this is the WALDO consortium who seem to be bearing much of the fallout for Liblime's divisive decision to fork the code. Much of the new development work that Liblime is going to be withholding from the community is being funded by WALDO - $USD600k worth:

* Acquisitions: Purchase Orders, Budget Hierarchies
* Serials: Serials Binding, Improved Prediction Patterns
* Cataloging: Holdings Structure (3-tiered), Authorities Control
* Circulation: Offline Circulation, Proxy Patrons
* System Administration: Granular Permissions, Enhanced Reporting

This could be a great contribution by WALDO to the Koha open source project, and a splendid reciprocal payment for being given Koha in the first place… except that Liblime is taking it, keeping it and robbing WALDO of the kudos and goodwill that they should be earning by sponsoring this development. Why WALDO are letting this happen is anyone’s guess but I sincerely hope that other Liblime clients don’t let this happen to them too.

13 comments:

atz said...

Joanne, I agree with a lot of what you are saying and the spirit behind it, even though I think you misstate some of the details.

> "Recipricocity is the keystone which gives strength to the Koha Community."

Very true. This is the basic spirit I agree with.

> "We do not begrudge vendors taking our gift and building a commercial enterprise out of it, as Liblime, Biblibre and any number of others have done, but the deal is that you give back."

No, the only "deal" over how the code is used is the LICENSE. Since you concede LL's actions are license-compliant, the only questions left are more about spirit or intent. If the terms of the license were not sufficient for your intent, then you should not have used it to release Koha 1.0.

Also, I don't want to minimize the critical role performed by you individually and HLT institutionally, but you misconceive the scenario if you think of it in terms of "We gave Koha, and they took Koha." This isn't a question about Koha 1.0.
The Koha you released long ago is a mere shadow of Koha today. The project stats at ohloh help illustrate this:
http://www.ohloh.net/p/koha/analyses/latest

This distinction actually supports your point. The only way it got from there to here is by the contribution of many individuals and institutions. The "gift" is there from ALL of them... or all of us, I should say.

> "An important principle of FOSS is that you release early and often"

Actually, FOSS has nothing to do with release schedule. Release schedule is an aspect of project management, and many projects release early and often, including non-FOSS freeware, shareware, proprietary commercial software, etc.

> "The other thing that us Kiwis don’t understand is how Liblime could have trademarked the word ‘Koha’."

Do you understand how Nike or Apache could be trademarked? It's the same idea.

> "Liblime has also registered a Koha Foundation which strikes at the very soul of the Koha community."

You'd need to back that rather reckless claim up with some evidence. As far as I know, no "Koha Foundation" anywhere has done *anything*, let alone strike at the heart of a given community.

> "The real loser in all this is the WALDO consortium who seem to be bearing much of the fallout for Liblime's divisive decision to fork the code."

You misunderstand the relationship. LibLime is developing code according to WALDO's directives. This is what any client expects from a software developer. If WALDO wanted the code released, they would direct LibLime to do so.

> "This could be a great contribution by WALDO to the Koha open source project"

Indeed, it is a truly impressive set of features in both scope and granularity. Combined, they would be the single largest contribution to Koha since the original codebase (perhaps larger, by some measures).

> "except that Liblime is taking it, keeping it and robbing WALDO of the kudos and goodwill that they should be earning by sponsoring this development. Why WALDO are letting this happen is anyone’s guess..."

Don't be confused. WALDO is getting exactly what they specified.

I don't expect businesspersons to be persuaded to act against (their understanding of) their own interests by arguments that pay off in kudos and goodwill. In this case, I don't think it is necessary either, because there is a strong argument to be made that getting your developed code into public HEAD is the defensive thing to do. It protects your investment and ensures the features you developed are compatible with future upgrades and maintained as long as possible.

While painful, this type of fork has at least a partial self-correcting tendency, as soon as both branches have features that the other wants. In other words, it cuts both ways.

Joann Ransom said...

Hi Atz,

Thanks for such a well informed and thoughtful post.

Cheers Jo.

Paul Poulain said...

> Indeed, it is a truly impressive set of
> features in both scope and granularity.
> Combined, they would be the single
> largest contribution to Koha since the
> original codebase (perhaps larger, by
> some measures).

well... integrating a so large set of feature without having released anything before it's done sounds strange and hard to me. We know only a few about the features, there will, for sure, be a lot of conflicts, both technical and features. That's why the "Release Soon Release Often" is something good and powerful. A powerful community is one where all contributors have access to code at the very early stages (alpha, or even pre-alpha), to be able to see, test, improve, comment,...

I think the "topic branch" we use now on git.koha.org is really a great thing, and I hope everyone will use them.

Chris Nighswonger said...

>> "The other thing that us Kiwis don’t understand is how Liblime could have trademarked the word ‘Koha’."

>Do you understand how Nike or Apache could be trademarked? It's the same idea.

What is more fundamental and to the point regarding Liblime's registering 'Koha' as a trademark is the assertion in their application that their first use and first use in business was January 01, 1999. (http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4006:3hap11.3.2) This certainly presents a discrepancy with the date of Metavore Inc. as being incorporated on January 01, 2005. (http://www2.sos.state.oh.us/pls/portal/PORTAL_BS.BS_QRY_BUS_FILING_DET.SHOW?p_arg_names=charter_num&p_arg_values=1502669)

This also needs to be squared with the fact that at least one other business appears to have used the term 'Koha' in the US prior to January 01, 2005.

Daniel G said...

Perhaps LibLime gets to claim the 1999 date due to their acquisition of Katipo? Might that also explain their ownership of the trademark?

Ben Ide said...

"LibLime forks Koha"?

Categorically untrue:
http://article.gmane.org/gmane.comp.misc.koha/16033

ranginui said...

Ben, I encourage you to read the rest of the thread in reply to Joshua's email.
http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.comp.misc.koha/16033

Short answer is, make a public repo, then all uncertainty vanishes.

And Daniel G, Koha wasn't even thought of in January 1999, we didnt start work on it until August/September of 1999, and it wasn't called Koha then either, not until much later. Also Katipo never trademarked it.

ranginui said...

Daniel G

Oh and they didn't acquire Katipo either, Katipo is still alive and well and working on all sorts of neat stuff like www.kete.net.nz and of course Koha.

Richard said...

Danial G, I can assure you that Liblime has not acquired Katipo. In March 2007 Liblime bought Katipo's Koha division. See http://katipo.co.nz/about-us/news/nr1175402768.shtml. Following the expiry of the 2 year non-competition agreement, Katipo are back installing and supporting Koha.

Daniel G said...

ranginui, those question marks at the end of my sentences were there for a reason--many thanks for setting the record straight!

Paul Reynolds said...

Interesting debate.
I think this article from K Schneider, Free Range Librarian, is well worth everyone's attention, especially as it brings back into the focus the need for a thriving and well structured governance layer within the Koha Foundation.

Is there any news on that? does it have the structure/function/resources/competencies/ mana/ to take us forward?

As someone who has worked on both the vendor and the client side, I would be very happy to contribute?

See the article for context:
http://bit.ly/13edxr

paul reynolds
http://www.peoplepoints.co.nz

Chris said...

@Paul Reynolds
I think people are missing one vital thing.
How is a foundation supposed to govern? Would a foundation have been able to stop this fork? No.
I think setting up a foundation with the aim of it being able to govern the project is setting it up to fail.
Sure it can influence direction and act in a custodial role to hold community property like trademarks and the domain name.
But how is going to have the power to govern? How would it 'enforce' its decisions?

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