Recently in Software Licensing Category

Two days after posting about weblogs.us violating Movable Type's license, weblogs.us announced they will be migrating their users to WordPress:

A year ago in my girlfriend's basement weblogs.us was born. Now a year later and 800 noncommercial blogs later, I'm happy to announce some changes.

We are:
#1 upgrading to WordPress.
#2 adding FTP support
#3 increasing storage space from 100MB to 1GB.
#4 adding full statistics reporting
#5 plus a few other treats...

[I]f there's anything missing, that you would like added, please let me know! This upgrade will be for all of our current users. Once everyone is upgraded and happily blogigng [sic] blogging, we will start on the hundreds of people that signed up in our queue, and finally we will reopen signups to the world (possibly using an invitation system much like Gmail uses.)

I wonder how many of those 800 users will like having to switch from Movable Type to WordPress?

The P.S. at the end bothered me a little:

PS I would also like to thank Robert Scoble and Dave Winer for linking to us early on and sending many great bloggers our way :-)

This appears to be true - Robert linked to weblogs.us with this post at the end of February, 2004, and Dave linked to them back in November of 2003. I find it somewhat disappointing that two leaders in the blogging community promoted and linked to an illegal MT hosting service. (They probably didn't know weblogs.us was an illegal MT hosting service, but they should have.)

While searching for Robert's and Dave's posts, I found the following comments to the first post (06 Nov 2003) in the weblogs.us archive (at the very bottom of the page):

How sweet. I do wonder if this is breaking any policy with SixApart though
-Rave, Ramblings, Rants, Randomized

[Does anyone know if what I'm doing here is okay with SixApart? if this is a violation of any thing, please let me know. Thank you, -J.D.]

Too bad someone didn't speak up sooner. But really, rather than expecting someone else to inform you that you're violating Movable Type's license, you could have read the license yourself, posted a question in the MT Forums, or sent an e-mail to Six Apart.

I hope the migration to WordPress goes well for weblogs.us and their users.

weblogs.us Users - Beware!

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Another warning, this time to users of weblogs.us. These guys are running a service much like mBlog was, and is just as illegitimate.

It is not obvious from their web site, but weblogs.us is using a single copy of Movable Type to host all weblogs in violation of MT's license. In their support forum, the hosting setup is made clear in a discussion about MT plugins:

"Since everyone is installed under one main MT installation plugins must be installed by JD on the server and they will effect everyone.

I don't know if it is accurate or up to date, but their list of members' weblogs currently lists 187 weblogs, and their blog setup queue shows another 640 weblogs awaiting setup (all of which would presumably run under the "one main MT installation").

The admins of weblog.us seem to be about as ignorant about MT's license as the people running mBlog.com. They are aware that the old MT 2.661 license allows for unlimited authors and weblogs, but appear to have missed this point:

"Prohibited uses include, without limitation,... hosting, or offering to host, the Software, on any basis;..." (From the MT 2.661 Personal, Non-Commercial Use License, which was in force if MT was downloaded prior to May, 2004.)

Their "service" is definitely lacking some frills:

P.S. We don't accept payment for installation or hosting, we don't have PHP, we don't allow FTP. We are working on an easy way for folks to manage their files. For most people the "Upload" feature of MT is getting them by for now.

The warning I offered to mBlog users applies equally to weblogs.us users:

I strongly recommend that bloggers stay away from weblogs.us. If you have a blog there, export your data (if you're able to) and go somewhere else while you still can. A short letter from Six Apart's attorneys to weblogs.us' hosting provider may be all it takes to turn out the lights on weblogs.us, potentially leaving weblogs.us' users stranded with no way to get a copy of their weblog data.

Now that I know what weblogs.us is, the only "support" I will be providing to its users is to tell them the weblogs.us service is a gross violation of MT's licenses. As far as I'm concerned, weblogs.us' users should not expect nor have any right to any support in the MT Forums.

Update: weblogs.us announces migration to WordPress.

mBlog bites the dust

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I've previously written about mBlog and their illegal Movable Type hosting service. In a stroke of good news, mBlog has apparently closed their doors, with the following text now on their home page:

Notice:
mBlog has attempted to provide an exceptional service for the blogging community at no cost. Unfortunately due to member abuse, inability to reach agreement with Moveable Type and hosting cost overhead we have incurred an extremely high deficit. We stand to incur further costs which we hope that our members' gratitude will help us offset. Unfortunately we can no longer offer support or continue this service at penalty to us.

To those who had weblogs on mBlog, I offered this advice:

I strongly recommend that bloggers stay away from mBlog. If you have a blog there, export your data (if you're able to) and go somewhere else while you still can. A short letter from Six Apart's attorneys to mBlog's hosting provider may be all it takes to turn out the lights on mBlog, potentially leaving mBlog's users stranded with no way to get a copy of their weblog data.

As a result of mBlog's shutdown, mBlog's users do not appear to be completely stranded without access to their weblog data - it's just being held for ransom:

A number of requests from our members have prompted us to offer a restoration service at a nominal fee. To obtain an archive of your files for import into an alternate blogging system please enter your mBlog name below.

I can't say that I'm exactly broken up over mBlog's demise. (Hat tip: Shelley)

Update: Mena Trott comments, and offers some advice to former mBlog users in "Stranded Bloggers".

After listening carefully to Movable Type's users, Six Apart has updated and improved MT3's license terms yet again. Six Apart CEO Mena Trott announced the new license terms on Six Apart's weblog. The pages describing the various levels of Movable Type licenses and pricing have also been improved: they are organized and presented better, making them much easier to understand.

Notable changes:

  • Weblog restrictions removed from all paid licenses.
  • Personal Edition ($69.95): Up to 5 authors and an unlimited number of weblogs for personal use.
  • Unlimited Personal Edition ($99.95): Allows for an unlimited number of authors and weblogs for personal use.
  • Commercial licenses: Price solely based on number of users.
    Licenses can be purchased for 5, 10, 20, 35 and 50 seats. (More than 50, contact Six Apart.)
  • Educational and Non-profit license pricing information now available.

The only thing missing is the actual legal text of the licenses. As far as I know, the only place you can actually see it is during the process of purchasing and downloading MT. I've asked for links to pages with the actual legal text of the licenses - hopefully my request will be answered soon.

Update: Shelley (from Six Apart) provided a link to all of the new MT3D Licenses in the comments and on the MT Forums (within 6 hours, I might add). Now all the MT site needs is a prominent link to the Licenses page itself. Thanks, Shelley!

mBlog Users - Beware!

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I've heard of mBlog mentioned every now and then in the MT Forums without knowing exactly what it was. Until now, I thought it it had something to do with "mobile blogging", which it does:

mBlog combines the latest in Internet and wireless technology so that you can post Text and Multimedia to your live journal.

But it is way more than that.

I got my first hint in a comment by Phil Ringnalda:

But there's no question in the license: you may not "Use the Software to provide hosting services to others." Given how fuzzy the line is between your reasonable sort of hosting and the complete fricken' nightmare that's mblog.com, with their "unlimited free signups, virtually no support, no way to actually control the software, but a prominent link to the support forum" approach, I can see why 6A would want to absolutely prohibit any hosting (other than hosting they approve of, since the pricing page does imply that there are or will be hosts that offer MT preinstalled).

Today in the MT Forums, Phil fully explains what mBlog is:

mBlog is a hacked up version of Movable Type, which violates the MT license agreement, and the stream of people it sends over here asking questions without realizing that the answers won't work for them because they are using a hacked up and feature-limited version is very probably one of the reasons that the new MT license is so much more strict than the previous versions.

I wondered if this could really be true. Would someone actually be dumb enough to so blatantly violate MT's license?.

Over at Mutated Monkeys, Beth posted a list of some of the web sites she reads, noting whether the site migrated away from or stayed with Movable Type since Six Apart announced the new MT licensing terms two weeks ago.

Anil Dash of Six Apart left some comments on my first post about MT3D's new licenses:

MT3D license and price updates

As I noted in "MT 3.0 Licensing Guide": "Prices stated are not guaranteed and subject to change at any time." They have. Based on feedback from MT's users, Six Apart has made some significant changes to MT3D's to its pricing schedule and its licenses, just two days after MT3D's release.

With the release of MT 3.0 today, new license agreements (Personal, Commercial) were also unveiled at the same time. The objectionable terms in MT's prior license agreements relating to support services and compensation appear to have been eliminated.

But in the new FAQ is this apparent holdover:

Q: I want to charge for installations. Is this allowed?
A: You may charge for installation of Movable Type for any user who has purchased
a license for Movable Type Personal Edition or any Commercial Use license. Charging
for installation of the free, unsupported version of Movable Type is not permitted.

Sorry, but Six Apart cannot prohibit that. I'm puzzled as to why that would even be included. Surely it wouldn't be something as petty as "Well, Six Apart didn't make any money from that user, so no one else can either", would it? Fortunately, the FAQ is not legally binding or enforceable.

Here's some new license terms that caught my eye -

From the Personal License:

A Little Credit. You must maintain, on every page generated by the Software, an operable link to http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/ , with the link text "Powered by Movable Type", as specified by Six Apart, unless otherwise stated in the terms included with your copy of the Software.

I'm curious how exactly a user is supposed to do this with a stylesheet page. The old Personal License only required such a link (or logo) to be displayed on the main page.

This next one is in both license agreements:

Age Restrictions. The Software is not intended for use by persons under the age of 13 and may not be used anyone under such age.

Okay, what's up with that? Is the new MT3 hazardous to small children?

From the Commercial License:

Term and Termination. The term of this Agreement shall be for the period corresponding to the fee you pay and set forth in your copy of the Software, unless terminated earlier as provided herein.

This sounds to me like a 'software as a service' clause, where licenses are sold for a specific period of time (such as 1 year, 2 years, etc.). I wonder if commercial users will wake up one day to find their MT licenses now have expiration dates, and if they want to keep using MT, they have to keep paying the license fees over and over.

This last one is also from the Commercial License:

Educational institutions are not qualified to use this Standard Commercial Use License and must enter into an Educational License with Six Apart.

I don't know if this is good or bad for educational institutions. I did not see an 'Educational License' on Six Apart's web site, and there is no pricing information published to indicate whether an educational institution would pay more or less for an Educational License than it would for a Commercial one. My guess: It pays more under an Educational License; why else prohibit them from purchasing a Commercial License?

For the most part, these agreements looks okay (as far as software license agreements go). This doesn't really matter now though, as the real fuss is over MT3's new pricing.

MT 3.0 Licensing Guide

MT 3.0 was released today with a whole bunch of new licenses - 4 personal licenses, 2 commercial licenses, plus unspecified licenses for educational institutions, ISPs / hosting services, and registered 501c3 non-profit organizations. Here's a cheat sheet to the personal and commercial licenses: