Specifically, Aslett believes the dual licensing strategy enables the company to protect the code from forking and generate revenue from adopters, "but dual licensing strategies have traditionally not been very successful at generating a developer community."
Aslett said that "releasing the software under a more permissive license or contributing it to an established open source foundation would have been more likely to drive developer adoption."
Bruce Perens, a leading open source advocate and a strategic consultant to LexisNexis, developed the licensing approach, called The Covenant, for the HPCC Services platform. He agrees that dual-licensing strategies have had a mixed history, but says the HPCC licensing approach is designed to address that problem.
Perens said the present version of the code will always remain open and there's no way to withdraw an open source license. "One assigns code to HPCC only if one wishes HPCC to maintain it from then on - which, of course, is very desirable," he said.
Every time a developer adds code and then assigns the copyright to the company, there's a three-year guarantee to each contributor that the HPCC code will remain open source, under the Covenant.
The three-year provision "is a guarantee to help developers be confident about the destiny of their contribution, not a way of holding the project at ransom," said Perens, in an email response to questions.
"HPCC always has the option to go to a less restrictive license if dual-licensing doesn't work for them, but this is not expected," said Perens. Everybody loves to get a gift, "but it's not always fair to the party that writes the code" to give it as no-strings-attached gift to competitors.
Perens argues that dual-licensing puts some economic sense in Open Source, and "the covenant repairs the community side of dual licensing," he said.
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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