Summary: Open source, closed source, and the value of code

Mark Waddingham mark at livecode.com
Wed Mar 2 09:30:47 EST 2016


Hi all,

There has been a long thread discussing a number of different aspects 
relating to licensing and pricing. Thank you all for your input! In the 
interests of clarity, here is a summary of our position on the matters 
discussed.

PRICING
~~~~~~~

We are raising our prices - yes. We are not doing it suddenly, we have 
been and are doing it over a period of time. The reason we have staged 
price increases has been precisely because we know we have a great many 
long standing users who have supported us over the years and we wanted 
to insulate them from increases as a 'thank you' for that long support. 
We even recently ran an offer which allowed you to lock in the price of 
$299/year, and I’m pleased to see that many of you did so.

I'm minded of the following wee anecdote:

     A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God 
for help.

     Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on 
the roof, "Jump in, I can save you."

     The stranded fellow shouted back, "No, it's OK, I'm praying to God 
and he is going to save me."

     So the rowboat went on.

     Then a motorboat came by. "The fellow in the motorboat shouted, 
"Jump in, I can save you."

     To this the stranded man said, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and he 
is going to save me. I have faith."

     So the motorboat went on.

     Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, "Grab this 
rope and I will lift you to safety."

     To this the stranded man again replied, "No thanks, I'm praying to 
God and he is going to save me. I have faith."

     So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

     Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went 
to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation 
with God, at which point he exclaimed, "I had faith in you but you 
didn't save me, you let me drown. I don't understand why!"

     To this God replied, "I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a 
helicopter, what more did you expect?"

Of course we wouldn't have even considered raising prices if we didn't 
believe it was warranted. We have made huge investments in the LiveCode 
product over the last few years and continue to do so. The quality of 
every release is the best it has ever been, thanks in part to the 
construction of an automated build and test system, but also because of 
the new talent we have been able to employ, who have brought their own 
years of expertise to our engineering process. The timeliness with which 
we are able to address bugs has increased substantially, and we are 
close to releasing LiveCode 8 which we hope will be as transformative 
for the LiveCode ecosystem as the explosion in VBX/OCX controls were to 
the Visual Basic world.

At the end of the day, LiveCode is important to a lot of people - 
whether they be users, company employees, shareholders or investors. 
LiveCode is also hugely expensive to develop and maintain and it is not 
going to get any cheaper to do so. There are simply an order of 
magnitude more things to consider when writing software at the level 
LiveCode has to be written at today compared to 10 years ago, and people 
expect software (particularly development tools) to do an order of 
magnitude more (which is entirely fair enough - but the more something 
does, the more it costs to produce and maintain). Please note, this is 
not a complaint on my part - part of the reason I do what I do and enjoy 
doing it is that I like the challenge of battling with large complex 
systems, and trying to simplify them (at least from the point of view 
from an outside observer/user).

Pricing is never an easy area and is always a balancing act. We do not 
take such decisions lightly. This is the path for LiveCode and its 
ecosystem as a whole, and unfortunately it is simply never possible to 
please everyone.

If you do have specific questions about pricing or related matters 
(particularly pertaining to your own situations) then please do remember 
that support at livecode.com is always there, and is generally the best 
place to have such discussions. Heather and Neil are always happy to 
receive your emails :)


LICENSING
~~~~~~~~~

There is a very simple rule to apply to work out whether you need a 
commercial license or not. If you need to ask 'do I need a commercial 
license' then you probably do. In particular, if you are asking that 
question to try to avoid paying for a commercial license then you almost 
certainly do.

The fact of the matter is that it comes down to one of the following:

     1) If you are happy to buy into the ideal of the GPL and abide by 
its terms then use the community edition.

     2) If not, buy a commercial edition.

The most critical thing to remember is that it is the *intent* of the 
GPL that actually matters and not the current text of any particular 
version. The simple reason for that is if the GPL is ever tested in 
court and the outcome is not favourable or contradicts any 
interpretation the FSF have made of it then the FSF will produce a new 
version which closes any loopholes which have been exposed in the court 
case. I can say for certain that if that does happen then we will 
immediately change the license of the community version of LiveCode to 
that new iteration. As the computer world evolves so fast, it really 
doesn't matter what source code is out there in the wild under the 
current version as that source will become obsolete in a relatively 
short space of time. (Also remember that all such legal wrangling takes 
a very very long time and no-one can really take any action until they 
are completely finished - for example the SCO case only recently finally 
got settled, and we still await the absolute final outcome of Google vs 
Oracle).

The intent of the GPL is clear - it is fundamentally about building an 
ecosystem of software where everyone has the right to contribute to it. 
Nothing more, nothing less. It is not an economic force (and thus has 
nothing to do with money) it is a creative force. It is about ensuring 
that if I receive a piece of software then I also have the right to 
modify and adapt that software and distribute any such modifications. 
Absolutely every piece of software is derived from a set of files which 
can be considered the 'source code' - whether that be actual 
source-code, artwork, music, prose, or whatever - which is then 
processed using some set of tools to produce something that you can 
actually run and use - this is always 100% crystal clear.

Some might challenge us on whether a script-only-stack written in a text 
editor has to be conveyed under the GPL, or whether stackfiles have to 
be conveyed under the GPL but any who do are missing the point of the 
intent of the GPL and trying to work around it. The FSF have made it 
crystal clear the Joomla and Wordpress plugins (which are just text 
files which you edit in an editor) are subject to the GPL's copyleft 
provision and I believe that there is simply no abstract model you can 
take which could justify LiveCode being considered differently from 
them. The point here is very subtle but I do believe it is happily 
covered by the standard notions of 'derivative work' and there is a 
simple acid test: could you have written the content of your 
script-only-stack text file without using the ideas, notions and 
existence of LiveCode? If yes, then the GPL does not apply as it is not 
a derivative work; if no then it most certainly does apply as your 
creative endeavour has been derived (if only in a small part) from 
LiveCode's.

A very colloquial, albeit slightly abstract, way of putting what the GPL 
is about is simply this:

     If you have stood on someone's shoulders to produce something and 
you
     then distribute it, you must allow the receivers of it to stand on 
your
     shoulders.

Which in completely concrete terms boils down to this:

     If you have LiveCode Community and do not have an active commercial 
license
     of one type or another and you write a LiveCode program (whatever 
form it takes)
     then whenever you give that program to someone else you must do so 
under the
     terms of the GPL.

If you don't wish to pay for a commercial license of some sort, then 
your option is to enter the GPL ecosystem of LiveCode Community and 
abide by its rules. If you do decide to pay for a commercial license 
then you can walk in both. I, personally, think that is entirely fair 
and reasonable.

Obviously support at livecode.com is always there to help answer your 
questions about licensing... However, please do remember that you can 
universally answer the 'do I need a commercial license' question 
yourself. If you want to give LiveCode programs you have written to 
someone else under non-GPL terms then you have to have a commercial 
license.

Warmest Regards,

Mark.

-- 
Mark Waddingham ~ mark at livecode.com ~ http://www.livecode.com/
LiveCode: Everyone can create apps




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