[vbox-dev] VirtualBox and contributor license imbalance, and politics

Alexey Eromenko al4321 at gmail.com
Mon Nov 26 08:41:32 PST 2012

VirtualBox has underwater mines, that might torpedo the plan of merging

1. typical open source contributor contributes under the same license as
the original project (GPL in this case)

2. Oracle does not accept GPL patches. (only MIT/X11 or contributor

This is quite dangerous, from my point of view. It creates imbalance.

The idea of GPL projects, is that it allows forks, but also allows merges,
and benefits. Less dangerous would be (for Oracle) to relicense the work
under the LGPL, or even more permissive license to remove the disbalance.
The current politics would disallow the merge with the forks, once they pop

Examples of successful communities : Linux (everything GPL, balanced),
LibreOffice (everything LGPL, balanced) and OpenStack (everything Apache
licensed, balanced).
I don't know of single disbalanced project, that was able to benefit from
several companies' contributions.

Only exception of good imbalanced project would be : Qt, that is dual
licensed to make profit. (GPL+Proprietary)

VirtualBox, however, does not make profit directly. Only from extension
pack, and Oracle VDI. There is no upside from the imbalance. More
permissive license would reach this goal, and restore balance. (i. E.
Promise of merge down the road, with potential forks by the open source
community, leaving out proprietary forks). Due to Oracle's reluctance of
reviewing community patches, forks may happen. (one already exist, not
verified yet, and another may pop up from Debian)

Scenario : I allow my vbox unattended patch under MIT, but it goes into a
fork, because Oracle does not have time, then someone improves it, and
leaves project.  Because the original work is under the GPL, he/she will
also contribute under the GPL. Fork stuck with GPL license forever, without
ability to merge back, once Oracle finally finds time to evaluate my patch.

Recommendation to Oracle : Please restore balance, by going with a more
permissive license. LGPL v2 or Apache v2 are good candidates. It will allow
merging back forked community code later.

-Alexey " Technologov "
Sent from my Samsung Galaxy SIII
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