Cyberborean Chronicles

Disturbing news from Kowari

[Updated at Jan,11]

David Wood, one of the key persons behind Kowari Metastore open source project had resigned himself as project administrator and developer because of haughty and proprietaristic policy of the Northrop Grumman corp, a major Kowari sponsor.

From David’s post to the Kowari mailing list:

This action follows receipt of a letter from Northrop Grumman advising me that any attempt to release Kowari version 1.1 could cause “irreparable harm” to their company. I received the letter on Friday, 6 January 2006 and took no action on the project after that time.

Northrop Grumman’s position seems to be that they “purchased all rights associated with the Kowari software”, a position not reconcilable with their continued release of the software under the Mozilla Public License, version 1.1.

A little of history: Kowari had been started by Tucana Technologies as an open-source base for their commercial solution, Tucana Knowledge Server (TKS). After collapsing Tucana in June 2005, Northrop Grumman bought its legacy, including TKS.

Now NGC claimed that they also have “all rights” to Kowari, despite the fact that they stated:

Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC) purchased the rights to proprietary software developed by Tucana Technologies …

But Kowari was not a proprietary software, it is a free software under MPL and a volunteer project at Sourceforge. I’m sure NGC has no rights, neither moral nor legal to oppress the Kowari community. I think, it is a suspicious precedent for all open source world.

Kowari was the first project who had recognized my SOFA software and developed integration of SOFA API with their product. I acknowledged Kowari as a brother project and had my own contribution to it. So, I’m worried of all these things.

I will follow the events anyway.

Added later:

I feel my responsibility to claim the position of the SOFA project in this conflict so I wrote the mailing list post in support of Kowari team. An excerpt:

If any of Northrop Grumman’s representatives will read this, we let you know that if one day NGC would change Kowari’s license and try to turn it to a proprietary software, we will break Kowari/JRDF support in SOFA API and will insist for removing any SOFA-related code from Kowari.

The full text of the letter is here.

Added [Jan,10 14:28]:

Few bloggers have responded to the situation around resigning the Kowari admin:

The opinions are rather different: from comparing Kowari with “a dog that Northrup Grumman seems determined to publicly beat to death” to “Since NGC are not aware of how an Open Source project works, it is conceivable that they would try to interfere with users’ ability to continue to use and extend Kowari”. The last one sounds like an attempt of NGC advocacy but it is a bit strange: David received the legal letter from a corporate lawyer and if he (I mean the lawyer) was not aware of (that is, has never read) the text of their software license – then what does he do in a software company? He should be immediately fired out by his employer!

I don’t believe in that “incompetency”. IMHO, they (NGC) are fully aware of what they are doing.

AFAIK, three of four blog authors above are the project members. But we Kowari users would like also to hear the NGC official position.

Added [Jan,11 11:31]
David has posted a Northrop Grumman’s Position on Kowari article where he has published the NGC officer’s letter which caused a conflict and his response to it. So, everyone can make her own conclusions.

Added [Jan,11 12:50]
Andrae Muys, another Kowari administrator, has send a letter to the Northrop Grumman’s director of the Tucana project where he notifying about revoking admin privileges of a NGC representative and about releasing Kowari 1.1 on the evening of the 18th of January AEST. Quote:

What ever you purchased from Tucana you did not purchase us.

Bravo, Andrae!

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