What do you recommend?

Tzeng, Nigel H. Nigel.Tzeng at jhuapl.edu
Thu Mar 5 14:26:25 UTC 2009

As someone mentioned it depends on the license of that project.  If it is a permissive license you can certainly fork and build your own product....open or proprietary.

If it is GPL or any other strong copyleft you cannot unless you can secure the commercial rights for that software in Japan.  Many abandoned projects were written by one or two individuals.  It may be possible to purchase it from them but otherwise option a) doesn't really exist.  You must release source to your customer, and they can use anyone for support and even redistribute both source and binary to your competitors.

I would do the following without knowing the license:

Figure out the costs for modifications and translation.  Double it because you're likely wrong.  There may be no savings vs just buying the proprietary product.
Figure out the costs for just writing from scratch because modifying poorly documented and haphazardly written source will take as long, if not longer, to make usable and leave you with a bad foundation anyway.

Compare potential revenue stream of your new product (you may have to assume only cost savings vs buying the proprietary product times the total number of installs you make...outside sales may be zero...) against simply providing support for a proprietary system you install.  Do not neglect the usual analysis of opportunity costs of what else you could be doing with your coding resources instead of hacking someone else's buggy code into something useful for your customers.

Make sure this is purely a business decision and not something else.  It is, after all, YOUR job on the line and not some abstraction.  Small companies don't often have a lot of margin for big errors.

Is there middle ground/alternatives?  Maybe...it all depends on that initial license or whether you write it yourself.

From: Alberto Lepe [dev at alepe.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 05, 2009 4:14 AM
To: license-discuss at opensource.org
Subject: What do you recommend?

Hello everyone, (sorry for my English)

I work for a small company in Japan.

My boss asked me to buy a proprietary system and set up it for one of our customers.
I develop in Linux and I use open source software, so I recommend my boss to go for an open source alternative and save some money.

However I didn't find any OSS that fit our requirements. The closest I found requires many modifications and even translation to Japanese, other thing is that its lacking of community support and there is almost no activity in their forums.

I was thinking that we (our company) could take that project and perform all required modifications.

So, my questions are:

1. Can we sell that system as ours without having licensing problems? I personally would like to notify it to the OSS project owner and specify that our system was based in that OSS.

2. Because we are planning to perform many modifications (which may loose any compatibility with the original code), what it would be better:
           a) Create our own branch of the system and sell a license that will include support?
           b) Contribute to the OSS project and only sell support in Japan?

If we go with b), I'm aware that the product itself will improve and many more people will be more interested in it, which can help us to improve our popularity.
However, any other Japanese company (with more resources) could get in, at any time, and sell the support taking us out of that bussiness...

If we go with a) any other Japanese company would have to start from our starting point.

What do you recommend? Are there any other alternatives?

Thank you in advance for your advice...


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