Final post on Movable Type licensing

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Kathy Kinsley wants future comments about Movable Type licensing e-mailed to the folks at Six Apart. I can't say that I blame her - none of it helps her situation at all and I bet she just wants to move on.

Mena Trott, co-founder and CEO of Six Apart, has posted some comments to Kathy's comment thread (scroll down towards the bottom of the page to see them). She would like e-mail comments about a possible "Developer and Service Provider Network". I disagreed with an assertion Mena made in one of her comments, she replied, then Kathy indicated that she wanted to end the comment thread.

Respecting Kathy's wishes, I will post my last comments here instead of on her blog. And since Mena seems most interested in developer / service provider / volume licensing, it doesn't seem to me that she would be that interested in my comments. Especially since I am not an MT user and have zero intention of purchasing a commercial license.

So here it goes.....

In the midst of a long post expressing Mena's views on this situation, Mena said the following:

It is not true that you can not offer for pay Movable Type support services. The payment of the $150 commercial license (by either the client or the contractor) entitles you to charge for support (installation, customization, design work).

Based on my reading of the license agreement, I thought that was just wrong. So I posted a short reply:

That is not what the MT license says, and what the license says is what counts. If MT's licenses do not reflect the desires and intentions of Six Apart, then the licenses need to be sent back to their lawyer for a rewrite (not that this is the only reason that the licenses need to be re-done).

Mena posted a lengthy reply to my post:

David, this clause is for those who want to offer support services:

"Web Developer Installed Website. If you are a web developer and want to install one copy of the Software on one web server as a publishing system for a single website that you are designing for a client. The client website must be either one of the two types of websites described above for which a Limited Use License is available, or a website license under Licensor's Personal, Non-Commercial Use License. A single License Fee shall be payable by either you or by the client, with the license issued to both you and the client."

Yes, we do need to refine that clause and state that installation services does include design, template customization etc.

If you look at the FAQ, we also have an answer under the "can I charge for installations" question that says "If, however, you represent a client and you or the client purchase a commercial license, you may charge for support services for that one client, as described in the Limited Commercial Use License."

We will certainly try to clarify this issue.

And yes, I've stated here that we will re-evaluate the license and seriously explore the idea of a Developer and Service Provider Network. We want to make changes to make this work (based on your suggestions and idea). We read this thread and are listening to our users.

I'm sure that we can go back and forth about the existing license and its restrictions. However, since we want to move forward and change the way it works, I think it's less helpful to point out technicalities on something that we said will change. As I posted above, please feel free to email us specifics about how a Network could work for you.

I agree that, according to the paragraph Mena cites, purchasing a commercial license authorizes a "web developer" to perform "support services". And yes, that paragraph could use some refining and definition of terms. But that is not the paragraph that contradicts the MT FAQ. The paragraph that applies here is "Restrictions on Use":

"Without limitation, uses which are prohibited under this Limited Commercial Use License include.....receiving compensation for any service that uses the Software, including support services."

This paragraph applies to all licensees, whether they are "web developers" or not, as there are no exceptions anywhere in the MT license. "Web Developers" who purchase a commercial license are thus authorized to perform "support services", but they cannot receive any compensation for it.

Regardless of what any officer of Six Apart says, and regardless of what is posted in MT's FAQ, what the license says is what counts: "This Agreement constitutes the entire understanding of the parties....." and "This Agreement shall take precedence over any other documents that may be in conflict herewith." (from the "General" section near the end of license).

If I am an MT "web developer" who charged for my services, I would sleep a little better at night but not easily, based on what Mena has said. Technically, I would be in violation of MT's license, but Six Apart would not enforce that portion of the license against me. I don't know of any person or business that would be happy in this situation, as it totally depends on the goodwill of Six Apart. Six Apart could, at any time, assert that I was in violation of their license and demand compliance (money) or revoke my license.

Why am I beating a dead horse after Mena says, "I think it's less helpful to point out technicalities on something that we said will change."?

I guess what irked me was when Mena and I disagreed on what the license says, Mena points to the MT FAQ, which carries zero legal weight. That's more than just a technicality to me. If Six Apart is not fully aware of of what their licenses say as well as the weaknesses and problems in those licenses, I don't see how they can avoid creating new licenses that don't have problems as well.

I think it is great that Six Apart participated in the discussion and explained their point of view on the licensing issues. I hope that Six Apart will be able come up with a solution that is a win for them as well as MT's users.

Mutated Monkeys comments
Kevin Whited comments

Update 24-Jun-2003:
MovableBLOG comments

Update 26-Jun-2003:
Tim Swanson has a [thread] on this from Apr 25, with one recent commenter.
BurningBird comments

1 Comment


Despite your assertions that I wouldn't be interested in what you have to say, I am interested enough to comment.

The line "receiving compensation for any service that uses the Software, including support services" *is* contradictory and we will certainly clarify this.

And, as you commented, we are soliciting feedback about the network.

The fact of the matter is that the money earned from the paid installations is really what has allowed us to reach the point we are currently at. Since we are evolving, it only makes sense the lessen the restrictions. We've grown and we're now evaluating how both Six Apart and the users/developers/service providers can thrive. I'm certain, with positive feedback we will soon have a resolution that should make everyone happy.