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  1. #1

    "Abandoned" Program

    Hoping someone can help me with the following query or at least point me in the right direction.

    We use a program which was released under GNU/GPL License. Unfortunately support and development has been non existent for the past 3+ years and it's getting to the stage where it's beyond our capabilities to tweak it to keep it up to date and working in the manner we require.

    We have tried to contact the original owner/developer but with no luck....websites have gone/expired, e.mails are bouncing etc etc.

    The thing is, we are willing to spend a bit of money getting the program brought up to date and looking after it's ongoing development...but we are reluctant to do so if we can't claim ownership of it in some way.

    Would I be right in thinking that the program could be considered "Abandonware" and/or we could develop it and re-release it as a variant based on the original program by "XYZ", even though they no longer seem to exist.

    Any pointers/help/advice would be much appreciated.

  2. #2
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    I don't know much about laws in this area, but couldn't you just make your own open source project as a "fork" of this one?
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  3. #3
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    I think this is key:
    released under GNU/GPL License
    look into the limitations and options of GNU/GPL.
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  4. #4
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    The GPL allows for forks as far as I know, as long as you release them under the same license. The only problem I see is how you will claim ownership of it. Of course you can be the commercial sponsor for the project, but you'll never be able to close it off to the public.
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  5. #5
    Our intention is not to remove the project/program from the public domain, although it's currently available format would be of little use to anyone without the need for some work (which we have managed to bodge ourselves and have happily shared).

    Not looking to do anything underhand/sneaky or turn it into a commercial project/program, just want to make sure we can claim due credit for any investment in the program and that we don't do anything illegal due to our inexperience in this area.

  6. #6
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    Open source sponsorship is becoming very popular these days, it gets the sponsoring company publicity while still keeping the software free and open source.
    Don't take my word for this, like I said I'm not an expert on this type of stuff, but from what I understand you can create a new project based on this one as long as you release it under a compatible license and give credit to the old project and its creators.
    If you post on any Linux forum (Ubuntu Forums is pretty active) you can probably get a much clearer answer within minutes from somebody who knows about this type of stuff.
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  7. #7
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    It's also possible that if you pack the software and release as closed-source, you'll violate the copyright, however only the original creator of the software can sue you for that. If he is gone, you may have a better luck with getting away with it.

    Also, I believe if you modify it sufficiently to a point where it's almost a new software, you can claim rights. But don't take my word on this.
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  8. #8
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    I doubt it could be modified enough to be called a new software, because no matter what they could still claim it to be a "derivative" of the original program. But the OP doesn't seem too interested in closing it off anyway so that shouldn't be a problem.
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  9. #9
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    According to everything I've ever heard about GPL, you're free to do whatever you want with the code as long as you do two things:

    1) make the source code publicly available (if you release the binaries)
    2) keep the GPL license and its current attributions as part of the program

    In other words, as long as you give credit to whomever maintained the program up to now, you're free to claim credit for whatever work you add onto the project.

    In copyright terms, "abandonware" really means only that the copyright holder isn't bothering to enforce their rights -- not that they can't enforce those rights should they so choose.

    That's what's nice about GPL -- you're allowed to make any changes/additions that you like, and claim copyright for those changes, as long as you do so under the GPL (or something more lax).

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  10. #10
    Thanks all, more comfortable in terms of what we can do and how to go about it....sometimes you just need to throw things out there and get a little feedback and confirmation in your thoughts from others.

    We're actually managing to get interest from others who use the program and hopefully we can put together a group who are willing to share the burden of getting this project up to date and back on track and also have some of the additional features we want added as well.

  11. #11
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    Essentially, a program released under the GPL can be modified for internal use with no limitations or requirements. However, if you distribute the modified program to anyone, you are legally required to make the source available to them as well, and it must be licensed under the GPL of the same or later version as it was originally licensed under. (You actually cannot release it under a non-compatible license even if it is "more lax", as you do not have the necessary ownership rights.)

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by netmar View Post
    That's what's nice about GPL -- you're allowed to make any changes/additions that you like, and claim copyright for those changes, as long as you do so under the GPL (or something more lax).
    I don't think you could release it under anything more lax. The BSD license for example is more lax, it allows inclusion in closed source commercial products, which is going directly against the GPL.
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