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Who Controls Vert.x: Red Hat, VMware, Neither? 118

Posted by Soulskill
from the reply-hazy-try-again dept.
snydeq writes "Simon Phipps sheds light on a fight for control over Vert.x, an open source project for scalable Web development that 'seems immunized to corporate control.' 'Vert.x is an asynchronous, event-driven open source framework running on the JVM. It supports the most popular Web programming languages, including Java, JavaScript, Groovy, Ruby, and Python. It's getting lots of attention, though not necessarily for the right reasons. A developer by the name of Tim Fox, who worked at VMware until recently, led the Vert.x project — before VMware's lawyers forced him to hand over the Vert.x domain, blog, and Google Group. Ironically, the publicity around this action has helped introduce a great technology with an important future to the world. The dustup also illustrates how corporate politics works in the age of open source: As corporate giants grasp for control, community foresight ensures the open development of innovative technology carries on.'"
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Who Controls Vert.x: Red Hat, VMware, Neither?

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  • Does not support PHP (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Funny how they support "the most popular languages", except for the one everyone actually uses. I think they meant "corporate", not popular.

    • It also doesn't support COBOL.
    • by Evardsson (959228) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @05:10PM (#42569825) Homepage
      That would probably be because the PHP-Java bridge [sourceforge.net] is a kludge and horribly inefficient. Having had occasion to use the bridge for a non-trivial project, I am actually ok with this Java-based server not supporting it.

      That said, if you really want the headache, I am sure you can figure out a way to use the PHP-Java bridge to tie to your current PHP apps and use them as Java in the Vert.x server. I do have to say, though, I do pity anyone who has to do this.
    • All the devs I know switched from php years ago. Ruby and Node are the languages of choice to write web apps.

  • by Shimbo (100005) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @04:03PM (#42569425)

    Moral: if you are working on a FOSS project, make sure you have disclaimers in writing from the company you work for. Double if you're the project lead.

    • by fredprado (2569351) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @04:08PM (#42569441)
      Either way, if VMWare press the issue they will simply fork and go away, and VMWare will end as the leader of a deceased project.
      • by unixisc (2429386)
        This is a great opportunity for a fork to give it a more meaningful name
      • by Shimbo (100005) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @06:08PM (#42570197)

        Either way, if VMWare press the issue they will simply fork and go away, and VMWare will end as the leader of a deceased project.

        It depends how hardball VMware want to play it. If they assert ownership of the code, and decline to release it under an open source licence then they can pretty much kill the fork as well. "Oh sorry, the code you thought was Apache licenced, sorry he had no right to do that - it's ours."

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rtfa-troll (1340807)

          If they assert ownership of the code, and decline to release it under an open source licence then they can pretty much kill the fork as well.

          a) Fortunately not because VMWare and Red Hat [google.com] have already made a posting otherwise.

          b) Fortunately not because this is a public project and has been explicitly and openly discussed by a number of people from VMWare over a long time. In general, companies are liable for the things their employees do as part of their work. Especially if they knew about it or should have known about it. The only comeback they have is disciplinary action against the employee. Judges sometimes come down really hard on comp

        • ... they can pretty much kill the fork as well. "Oh sorry, the code you thought was Apache licenced, sorry he had no right to do that - it's ours."

          Hah, I would like to see VMware try it. The code would be rewritten overnight and VMware would lose tons of karma, and probably some good employees as well. Not to mention the advice that would properly be given to prospective new hires: work for some less carnivorous company that might actually respect you and the community that allowed them to attain the lofty position they enjoy today.

          • by andyp (27347)

            There's no intent that I have heard of to do this - in fact quite the opposite, see VMware and Red Hat joint statements in the vert.x Google Group
            (disclosure: I work on Open Source projects at VMware)

      • if VMWare press the issue they will simply fork and go away, and VMWare will end as the leader of a deceased project.

        ...and end up with a big fat oozing purple bruise right in the middle of their hitherto respectable karma.

      • by andyp (27347)

        VMware and Red Hat jointly stated that the organisations wanted to work together and prefer a solution with an independent foundation (disclosure: I work on Open Source projects at VMware)

  • ... his employer at the time that he wrote it has ownership.

    This sort of situation just highlights the need for people to get a paper trail. It'd be ideal if a person's word was their bond and you shouldn't need them to sign something to agree to it, but alas.... we live in a notably less than ideal world.

    • by fredprado (2569351) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @04:34PM (#42569579)
      His employer can't have the ownership of the project because he never had any ownership over it. The project is licensed under Apache. They could only forcibly take the governance, but then again the project can be forked at will, and VMWare will end with just a name if they force the issue. There is nothing VMWare can do about it other than concede or hostilize the community and force a Branch. Either way VMWare loses.
      • by mark-t (151149)
        That it is licensed under an Apache license has no bearing on who owns the copyright. Since he was working for VMWare at the time it was written, VMWare would hold the copyright on it unless there is something *IN WRRITING* from VMWare that says otherwise.
        • It is incredible how people like to talk about what they have absolutely no clue about. It is absurd to think that because my employee worked for someone else, I own this person's business of even part of it. Unless the person explicitly signed a contract giving me ownership in exchange of this work.

          VMWare has no legal hold over the project. The project was founded as open source. They can even sue their employee for the time he used in a project whilst under their employment depending on the nature of t
          • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

            by angel'o'sphere (80593)

            It is absurd to think that because my employee worked for someone else, I own this person's business of even part of it. Unless the person explicitly signed a contract giving me ownership in exchange of this work. This is exactly what in most work contracts is written. Why? Because it is defined by law so! By repeating it again in the contract the employee should be aware of this. Ofc, at least in germany, you can write the exact opposite into the contract. But if you don't mention it at all, ALL WORK you

            • You fail to understand the situation. The contracts you mention gives right to the employer over anything that would otherwise be property of the employee while under its service. It can't possibly give to the employer property over something that is not owned by the employer, period. The employee having contributed with his time to a project does not give in anyway ownership of the project either to him or to his employer.
              • Look at it this way: those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Suppose we suddenly all got interested in the question of whether ESX is really an original work, and not derived in any way from Linux source?

              • by mark-t (151149)

                The employee having contributed with his time to a project does not give in anyway ownership of the project either to him or to his employer.

                If the employer paid him for that project, it most certainly does, without written evidence to the contrary.

              • Fred,
                I am going to assume that you are not a lawyer (God help you if you are), and you haven't taken any serious jobs. First, it's law. Second, as angel said, even though it doesn't need to be specifically stated in an employment contract, it usually is anyway just so that an employee can't feign ignorance of the law.

                You may want to argue that this isn't how it should be, but that doesn't change the way it is. I'm not sure how it works in every field, but specifically, in the field of prog

                • by WNight (23683)

                  Sure, they own the work; and he freed the source on their behalf.

                  How many devs would start using a non FOSS framework these days? The freeing of the project is why it's a success.

                  They knew this and let it happen. They kept accepting patches (also under the APL), which they couldn't do without upholding the original offer. Otherwise the code their employee was taking wouldn't be usable by them.

                  • Sure, they own the work; and he freed the source on their behalf.

                    Copyright doesn't work like that. Only the owner has the right to do that. It isn't a chain like FOSS. Additionally, they have the right to revoke it at anytime even if they let it go for a while. Copyrights don't need to be protected unless you lose the right like for say a trademark.

                    How many devs would start using a non FOSS framework these days? The freeing of the project is why it's a success.

                    Two different issues here. The first, how many would? I'm going to assume you are in the FOSS bubble and haven't looked outside it. The vast majority are still under standard copyright, trademark, or patents -- not FOSS. Whil

                    • by WNight (23683)

                      Copyright doesn't work like that. Only the owner has the right to do that.

                      And he's the company's agent. They knew of and accepted his actions.

                      Additionally, they have the right to revoke it at anytime even if they let it go for a while.

                      They can revoke an offer of a license at any time, yes. But if the code was released by them, and it was, they can't rescind the licenses of those who've received it. They merely don't lose rights for not acting quickly like with trademarks.

                      Lastly, about accepting patches... W

                    • Copyright doesn't work like that. Only the owner has the right to do that.

                      And he's the company's agent. They knew of and accepted his actions.

                      Yes, he's the company's agent. However, that doesn't mean he has the right or authority to do so. Claiming they knew of and accepted his actions isn't provable, and in many cases has been proven to not be effective in a court of law. There are so many things wrong with that in itself that in many cases, it isn't. Prove they knew it. Prove they accepted it. Prove they weren't consulting with legal for the past . Now prove that they knew of each and every contribution he made and they accepted each and

                    • Yay for slashdot eating things that look like html ;-(

                      That should have read "Prove they weren't consulting with legal for the past {timeframe}."

                    • by WNight (23683)

                      You only read the first half of a message? Sheesh.

                      Are you seriously claiming that the company *just* heard about the project? That nobody knew what was going on? If they knew of his dealings, as the company, and didn't act to correct them, and indeed went further to accepting patches predicated on these licensing terms, then they accepted it. If they didn't, what other arrangements have they made for the use of this third-party contributed code their project uses?

                      This wasn't a leak it was a marketing move.

            • I am quite doubtful about the spare time part. Or then this would not be spare time anymore. If I work part time and contribute the other time to some project, you cannot at the same time pay me less and enjoy the benefit of a full time coder. There is the thing you do during your work, stuff you are being paid for and that ( depending on local laws and contract, cause that's not the same for all "creations" ), could ( and most of the time would ) be done for the company, so "belong" to the company. Then th

              • It is about intellectual property/copyright not whose laptop you use.

                A employer expects you to put all your effort into the work he pays you for. So none of your brilliant ideas you have at work are your own (look at patent law e.g.)

                So he does not want you to use your ideas to work "at home" ...

                the various research institute have no problem paying someone for 3 years and letting him go do a patent and a company after based on the work he did
                Depends if that institute has HIRD him or if he is a student ther

          • by mark-t (151149)
            If he wrote it while working for VMWare, then unless there is written proof that VMWare agreed to allow him to retain ownership, the project is VMWare's, period. It doesn't give them license to own part of another company, because the employee wouldn't have the right to bring the project to another company in the first place. If VMWare wanted to change the license on the project, as the lawful copyright holder, they could even do that.
            • It is incredible how dense you can be. If you decide to build a house for me in my property, while employed in your current house building company the house is still mine in the end, unless I sign a contract with you or with your employer saying otherwise. He was never the owner of the project, never held the rights over the project, and so neither the company.
              • by samkass (174571)

                Unless they explicitly sign it over, everyone has copyright over any creative work they contribute (and coding is creative). However, most employers (in the US) require employees to sign a contract stipulating that the employer gets the copyright assigned to them automatically. If this developer ALSO signed over the copyright to the open source project, then he signed it away twice and it's up to the courts to decide which contract takes precedence.

                So VMWare probably has a reasonable legal claim to the co

                • It would be nice if anyone RTFA before posting. The project is explicitly registered as a public domain project under Apache license. The only thing that is registered in the name of VMWare is the trademark, the name Vert.x, and that is all this, and the domains associated to it are everything they were able to claim, which you would know had you read the article.

                  Actually they already decided to go and give the administrative control of the groups back to Tim Fox, but even after VMWare was forced to with
                  • by Anonymous Coward

                    The project is explicitly registered as a public domain project under Apache license.

                    The terms "public domain" and "license" are mutually exclusive. If something is truly in the public domain, no license is needed to do whatever one wants to with it. However, I actually did RTFA, and nowhere did I see anything that indicated the project is public domain in any way, shape, or form.

                  • It would be nice if people who posted had a clue about what they were talking about before posting drivel. You are wrong. It doesn't matter what the license was. The license was invalid, and the employee had absolutely no right to distribute stuff under it.

                    I can't walk into my office after hours, take all the furniture out of it, place it on the front lawn and have a garage sale. When the police stop by they aren't going to let people walk away with the stuff, they are going to grab it back and give it

            • Yes, there is a good chance that you are correct. However, if VMWare changed the license, that could only apply to the parts that were written by Tim Fox (or another VMWare employee) AND would not effect the license on copies that are already released. That is, they would be unable to revoke the Apache license on the project as it exists currently. Which means that someone (Tim Fox, now that he no longer works for VMWare) could fork the project.
              • by mark-t (151149)

                Hmm.... yes. Good point. How much of it *was* written by Fox or other VMWare employees?

                Unfortunately, this experience will probably convince VMWare never to allow an employee to use open source license on a future project ever again.

          • According to the law, VMWare owns the code he worked on in the office or on the clock. THe contract is for extra work off the clock.

            THe question is was it produced at work and especially if VMWare paid him to write it. If the answer is yes then any sane judge would side with VMWare. I believe since VMWare was part of the project that he was paid to write it. Contract or not it is their property.

            If I am wrong feel free to reply back. If he did this at home for example then yes, they can kiss his lawyers ass.

            • by Fjandr (66656)

              Whether WMWare owns copyright or not is irrelevant. VMWare was aware of, and consented to, the licensing terms the code was publicly released under. They can stop contributing new code, but they cannot remove the code already released. Their ownership interest going forward is 100% irrelevant.

          • by deKernel (65640)

            Actually VMWare does possibly have a legal hold on the code base. The best instance of this if he worked on the code while getting paid by VMWare during normal business hours which more than likely stated in his work contract that anything did while working for them is owned by them.
            The one grey area would be is if he worked on it off-hours AND not using ANY VMWare equipment which was not covered in the article so at this point, everyone who thinks they know the answer is/could be wrong since all the pertin

        • by quetwo (1203948)

          It all depends... If he was working on the project as a directive of his job at VMWare, then the project was done as a work-for-hire contract, and the copyright could belong to VMWare. If he was doing it in his free time, and VMWare simply used it, then it becomes muddier.

          If he had it in his contract that any IP generated by him while employed at VMWare, that could shift the copyright to VMWare. If his contract says they get an automatic license to any IP generated then he owns the copyright. If it is no

        • by HJED (1304957)
          Only if he was working on it in his employers time or on his employers equipment, what he does in his personal time is his own private property. E.g. if I write a book whilst being employed by employer dosen't own the book.
    • by unixisc (2429386)
      Or better yet, don't use any corporate resources in developing this. Do it on your own time, on your own computer which stays w/ ya once you quit the job, and the company has no claims whatsoever over what you did.
      • Unfortunately in the US at least, that's on a state by state basis, with the minority actually letting you separate work projects from out of work projects.

        List of states and relevant laws: http://answers.onstartups.com/a/20126 [onstartups.com]

      • by Tough Love (215404) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @09:15PM (#42571383)

        Or better yet, don't use any corporate resources in developing this. Do it on your own time, on your own computer which stays w/ ya once you quit the job, and the company has no claims whatsoever over what you did.

        Or carry on all your work in a highly public way (as in this case). If you do open source work on company time, as many do with the full knowledge of their manager and/or employer, then a thing called estoppel [wikipedia.org] kicks in. That means, if you are doing public work and your employer knows about it but does not tell you to stop, or on the contrary, expresses approval, it means you have tacit agreement to carry on in the way that both you and your employer are presenting themselves to the world. Or in other words, if it walks like an open source project and quacks like an open source project, it's an open source project, and in absence of any specific agreement to the contrary, that cannot be undone at the whim of an employer.

        • by mark-t (151149)
          It can be an open source project, but the copyright still belongs to the company. Without written permission to show the contrary, the employee does not have any ownership of the projects he or she worked on while under their employ, nor authority to transfer ownership to anyone else.
          • It can be an open source project, but the copyright still belongs to the company. Without written permission to show the contrary, the employee does not have any ownership of the projects he or she worked on while under their employ, nor authority to transfer ownership to anyone else.

            That's just FUD. What matters is what the distribution license says, not who owns the copyright. Anyway, I don't think VMware will be stupid enough to argue about who owns the copyrights. In that direction lies a much worse bruising than they already got. Remember, VMware needs the community a lot more than the community needs VMware.

            • by mark-t (151149)

              First of all, who owns the copyright *ALWAYS* matters. The distribution license only states who has permission to copy the work. It does not override copyright.

              Secondly, VMWare already *ARE* stupid enough to argue about who owns copyrights. The vert.x project *DOES* belong to them. The author can, if he chooses, create a fork of the project and call it something else, although he should probably best do so quickly, before VMWare changes the license (although such a change would not be retroactive,

              • by Genda (560240)

                And if you look at the "Public Stupid Beating" that Oracle has received... they may own the copyright to a PUBLIC software which can (and will) BY LICENSE forked and begun ANEW... at a different place with a different name and the herd of public resources migrates there leaving, the copyright holder with a virtually empty bag of unfed ego. This is the magic that is open source. Once started its like gravitational collapse... it runs on its own steam and its damn hard to stop. It is in fact one of the best c

              • Your blather continues to be FUD. VMware can change licenses all it wants (if it even can, some of the copyrights on the code may not belong to it) and the original, open sourced code will still be licensed the same way. Basic understanding of copyright and licensing seem to be absent on your part.

                • by mark-t (151149)

                  Yes, the author can fork any previous release if he wants to... (or the current one, as long as VMWare doesn't change the license). That doesn't mean he can just take the Vert.x project itself and move it to another company, however, which was all I was ever originally saying.

                  And obviously, VMWare can't change the licensing on any code that wasn't written by its employees. Again, that doesn't invalidate any of what I was saying.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    See also Paul Wouters' battle over openswan which ended up in a new fork libreswan.

    Resignation from Openswan [nohats.ca]

    Paul Wouters now also seems to work for Red Hat

  • by gtirloni (1531285) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @04:20PM (#42569515)
    Sorry.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Zero__Kelvin (151819)
      I just uninstalled Japanese!
    • by knarf (34928)

      Why? While it is certainly a good idea to get rid of the JVM plugin to whatever browser you happen to be using I don't see the need to remove the JVM itself. Yes, there are bugs there, I know. That is why I don't run just anything I find on the 'net. Just like I don't run just anything I find on the 'net on my Linux machines or Android phones/tablets.

  • The Outer Limits?

  • by nickmalthus (972450) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @05:03PM (#42569781)
    There is precedence for this, it happened before with the Sun OpenDS [wikipedia.org] and the Sun/Oracle Hudson [wikipedia.org] Open Source projects. When the contest of ownership comes down to project developers and corporate lawyers the lawyers usually win the legal battle but the developers win the community battle due to forking.
  • Suddenly the GPL license doesn't seem that bad after all.

    • It does not matter which license you choose.
      In the end it comes down to the question: did the developer (employee) had any right at all to publish it 8under what license whatsoever).

  • What the fuck is Vert.x and why should I care about it?

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      From a quick look, it seems to be some FastCGI-like API with bindings for various programming languages.
      You couldn't deduce that at all from the summary.

    • It's just an event driven application architecture that uses asynchronous I/O to provide efficiency. It incorporates technologies like Netty and Hazelcast to provide extremely simple, highly-concurrent applications that can handle lots of connections - so its good for building services, i.e http services.

      Anyone who tells you it's not worth much doesn't know their head from a hole in ground. It's a JVM based take on an idea whose time has come. You should check out the background on Node.js to see what all t

  • du wuht? (Score:2, Funny)

    by sgt scrub (869860)

    A web framework based on Java? Isn't that kind of like a network appliance based on Windows?

  • there's your answer right there.
    so who controls the repo considered official?

    so if vmware controls the website they control it. doesn't mean they can keep anyone else from releasing a version and publishing on a less hipstery domain than .io..

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