I am sorry

Not all code is created equal

It should be no surprise that I am a supporter of the GPL licence for software. Today I would like to apologise to developers of javascript and icon libraries that I have unknowingly ripped off and defrauded.

When I download an extension licensed as GPL I know that I am allowed to use that software how and where I want. However many extensions use libraries written by others and not all libraries are created equally. Unless I look at the raw files outside of Joomla it is often impossible for me to know what libraries are being used. Do you ever look? You should!

I am not talking about "is it permitted to include a non GPL licensed library or a library with a non-GPL compatible license with a Joomla extension". That is another question for another time.

I am talking about libraries that quite explicitly state that they are free of charge WHEN used on non-commercial web sites and that a fee is payable to use them on a commercial web site.

Take an example such as the fancybox javascript library. According to a quick search on the JED forty extensions state that they use it. I would assume that there are probably some more that don't list in their description but still use it. Some of these extensions are free of charge and some of them are paid. But none of them state that the extension cannot be used on a commercial web site without payment to the makers of fancybox.

Ignorance is no excuse.

The makers of fancybox have a clear licence.

fancyBox licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 license.
You are free to use fancyBox for your personal or non-profit website projects. You can get the author's permission to use fancyBox for commercial websites by paying a fee
View Licensing Options

They are not alone in having a licence like this. JW Player also states that you need to purchase a licence if "You are using JW Player on a commercial site, or for commercial purposes".

We must have trust

I must be able to trust that when I download some code that I am free to use it under the terms that the developer states. That means if it is stated as GPL then I must be able to use it under the four freedoms of the GPL.

  • The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1).
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3).

Who's fault is it?

Is it my fault for not checking every line of code in every extension that I use? Is it reasonable to expect someone who is told that they are free to use an extension because it is GPL to not trust the developer to be honest?

What now?

  1. If you find that an extension you are using includes libraries that have restrictions then tell the extension developer - they shouldn't be but perhaps they are ignorant of this.
  2. If you find that an extension you are using includes libraries that have restrictions then look for an alternative extension.
  3. If you really want to use that extension and there are no alternatives then make sure that you purchase a licence (and/or follow any other licence terms) for that library.
  4. If you find the extension listed on the Joomla Extension Directory then please report it.

The web was meant to be read, not squished.
This isn't the way to test a responsive design.