Today I got in my delicious “for” bookmarks a link with a note that a site has appeared called Photodropper (purposely not linked to here) had appeared on the scene and is pushing a WordPress plugin that aside from a few changed variable names appears is the exact code ripped off from a plugin called Flickr Manager which my colleague and programmer at the place I work wrote and released back in November 2007.
The Flickr Manager was released prior under a GNU General Public License. The Photodropper plugi has been released as Copyrighted. Even to my basic level of understandig this appears to contravene the GPL.
“The GPL is the most popular and well-known example of the type of strong copyleft license that requires derived works to be available under the same copyleft. Under this philosophy, the GPL is said to grant the recipients of a computer program the rights of the free software definition and uses copyleft to ensure the freedoms are preserved, even when the work is changed or added to.” (emphasis mine)
But as wrong as that might seem, this get’s me angry for reasons that transcend pure legality. Let me try to elaborate why.
My colleague Trent is a talented programmer, he’s also a fast learner and a mate. When I hired him last year to work for the place I work and be a part of the small IT team he was just finishing Uni. He’s now starting his Honours. He hadn’t heard of WordPress much less participated in any wide open source endeavors or dipped his foot into the Web 2.0, read/write online world. His first task was when we had to rework a project that had been put together hurriedly prior to his starting that documents the History of Disability in SA. I had conceived and built that site using as many Web 2.0 and collaborative techniques I had absorbed in the prior year and the time and our budget could afford and done so with the emerging nature of online interaction in mind. I rapidly threw everything I had learnt about the emerging Web 2.0 technologies and the culture of cooperation, sharing, collaboration and openness I’d been immersed in. And Trent picked it up quick, very quick, soaking it in like a sponge then mixing in his own thoughts and ideas. Right there he embraced the re-mix culture of ideas.
In no time we quickly were exploring all kinds of ideas and rapidly developing tools and techniques focused around building a kick-ass back-end infrastructure on WordPress that we could implement for our redevelopment of the History project and ensuring the things we built were suited to our longer term vision of redeveloping the centre’s information systems framework, which we had decided was, and is, to be based on wpmu.
One of the key tools Trent made was a plugin for WordPress that could better handle the images we used on the History project site. You see, the project uses images on Flickr that we put there. It was planned that way – use tools already existing that do the job we need and build a site using data that is actually distributed. So we used Flickr as the centre’s and projects photo manager. To better allow staff to easily control the integration between the images and the other associated text (stored locally) Trent developed what became Flickr Manager plugin for WordPress.
Encouraged by me he released it into the WordPress community under a GPL license. And started a blog. Our desire to be part of the culture that we exist in – the Web 2.0 space online – and to support the WordPress community was blossoming. The Flickr Manager plugin, released onto the WordPress Extend plugin site got fast take up and rapidly Trent developed more features and made heaps of bug fixes. A lot of time went into getting it just right, aided by a lot of messages from users of the plugin and helping them when they had problems with it. The community was working. It turns oput that his Flickr Manager was the first WordPress plugin to actually allow uploading to Flickr from the WordPress dashboard, not just retrieval of images from Flickr..
I managed to convince the Director that getting Trent and myself to WordCamp in Melbourne was a good investment in the future – no mean feat in the climate of funding cutbacks and total upheaval we were in, are still in, trying to regroup the way we operate and fight for survival.
All this effort and passion that goes on behind what the end user, the world sees, is where the real heart of Web 2.0 anmd the collaborative, participative, sharing and caring nature of open source culture exists. It’s openness of people at their most human, fundamental level. People connecting with other people.
So to have some un-appreciative, un-creative leach come and claim something they ‘badge engineered’ as theirs is like introducing a vacuum back into culture. And it makes me sick. And if you love anything thats good about humans, culture and this online place we share – it should make you sick too.
It’s anathema to everything we are trying to achieve as a connected people.