Does anyone know anything about slidedeck's business model (see link below)? These guys are a javascript component that they sell online. As the tech savvy know - It's very difficult to sell javascript online, because it's pretty much like selling source code.

But check out: http://www.slidedeck.com/pricing-b/

These guys give away a "GPL Branded" branded version of their code and then sell two premium "unbranded" versions that allow licensing of servers. They have some impressive clients.

I'm just about done with a project of my own that is similar. I was just going to open source it and then use that source to create a demo to go and find financing for a bigger server side project (with a more clear cut monetization strategy), but seeing this made me take pause.

I'm thinking - could I monetize the client source in the short run and raise less money? This seems like an option - but it also raises lots of questions:

1) If slidedeck's code is "GPL Branded" - how do they enforce that it's branded? Couldn't I just remove the branding, release my update to the community? (That would be a crappy thing to do, but would it be illegal or against GPL?)

2) While it's quiet obviously - the right thing to do - Outside of premium support models what are the main drivers for companies to license this code outside of the honor system?

3) Given Slidedeck is GPL what protections do they have from flat out plaugerism and people coying their code and selling it for less? Are there legal measures that can be taken to prevent this? How could they enforce this? Copyright perhaps?

2 Answers 2

  1. Yes, the GPL is very much enforceable in court, and you can find several examples of this on Wikipedia: The GPL in court. In fact, under the Berne Convention, you automatically hold the copyright to all your works. Violating copyright is illegal in most countries, however the money and effort involved in going to court is usually justified only against larger companies. This is precisely why so many open source products are free for personal use but require you to purchase a license for commercial use. (I just realized the preceding line is misleading -- you can always use GPL-ed software for free, so the licenses are exclusively for support.)

  2. As you mentioned, support is one reason, but of course another important reason is that they don't have a choice -- a few hundred dollars may not be much for a big corporation, but they stand to lose much more if they decide to use unlicensed software.

Of course, in the end, it all comes down to the quality of the product itself -- if it's an excellent product, you can name your price (within reasonable limits) and you will always have buyers.

  • @casablanca - hey thanks for that answer, but in reference to point #1 what about the mandatory branding? I thought GPL allowed me to modify the code. How can something have mandatory branding but also still be GPL?
    – Dr.HappyPants
    Mar 1, 2011 at 18:48
  • @Dr.HappyPants: I just edited my answer a bit. It cannot have mandatory branding -- you are free to create derived works of the original, the only condition being that you retain the original copyright notices.
    – casablanca
    Mar 1, 2011 at 18:57
  • I think it is all a bit of a gray area (as with most thing involving laws), which is why many are a little worried about the GPL and its viral consequences.. Mar 1, 2011 at 19:31
  • From my understanding, they could license their code using GPL and still sell it for money. That's why they say free as in free speech, not as in free beer. Mar 1, 2011 at 19:33
  • @Joel Gauvreau: You can't sell the software itself -- licensing it under GPL requires the source code to be made available for free. What you can charge for is distribution media (such as CDs) or product support.
    – casablanca
    Mar 1, 2011 at 22:27

The GPL is a Copyleft, so you can release an update to the community as long as it is also under the GPL. So removing the GPL license would violate the GPL.

Most company will license just to be on the safe side of the law. They don't want any trouble and they have money anyway. A lot of company will refuse to use any GPL and even any open-source code in their product for fear of getting someday sued.

How can they enforce this? they can sue you. Having said that, I'm not a lawyer, so if it is a big point for you, you should consult your lawyer. It will probably cost more to ask a lawyer than to buy the script in question :)

While you may sell a few copy of your script if it is realy good, I doubt that would be sufficient to help you finance your project.

The fact that Slidedeck is giving it away under GPL says a lot. They probably offer a paid version just because some client asked for it.

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