Open Source Projects Not Really Open?

(After reading this post, please scroll down to the comments section where there is a response to these issues from the founder of Moodle.)

Over the last few weeks a debate has been running over at the Joomla forum about how to license the Joomla name and logo for websites supporting the Joomla project. The discussion wound up with the following point from Johan Janssens, the lead developer:

If you wish to use the logo on any commercial product then your usage of the logo must be approved. In general permission will be given providing that your usage of the logo is not done in such a way as to imply any form of approval of the product by Joomla!

We’ve had an interesting insight into the licensing of Open Source names and logos.

During 2006 we had a lot of fun creating and running and, and more recently, for OS Commerce developers. We believe that all three sites are positive for their different open source communities and we had no problem at all using the names and logos of the three projects in our branding and design work.

After successfully completing three launches, we moved on to Moodle. was greated with a series of stern warnings. Despite being branded as an Open Source project, it is in fact illegal for an company to offer Moodle services unless they have been approved by a man named Martin Dougiamas in Perth, Australia. He alone controls trademarks over both the Moodle name and logo. The official position is that:

“The word Moodle is a legally registered trade mark, and can not be used to promote Moodle services without permission.

If you are not offering Moodle services (such as hosting, consulting, installation etc) then, yes, you can use the logo (we encourage it!).

However if you are promoting commercial Moodle services then you need to seek permission from us, via this Moodle Helpdesk, as the Moodle logo contains the Moodle trademark.”

Basically, you cannot run a Moodle business without Martin’s on-going approval.

Within a few days of opening, we started to receive emails from developers interested in learning more about Joomla and its LMS systems, because they had been shut out of the commercial Moodle world.

Reluctantly, we shut down that site and started to consider alternatives. The next on our list was OpenCms. It turns out that:

The OpenCms logo is a registered trademark of Alkacon Software GmbH in Germany, the USA and many other countries.

Like Moodle, they also have an officially approved list of developers and if you want to use the logo:

Permission is granted to use the OpenCms logo in unmodified form on your website for promoting the official OpenCms software available form the website only.

We emailed Alkacon, but they never responded.

To be on the safe side, I decided not to include any of their logos in this article. Come to that, maybe I should replace OpenCMS and Moodle with XXXXXXX and XXXXXX.

Basically these projects are suffering from the same, serious problem that caused Joomla to break away from Mambo. An Open Source project can meet the technical definitions of “Open Source” while remaining, in reality, the fiefdom of one small company or even one person. Joomla and Drupal are not perfect, but we’re certainly not moving to Moodle or OpenCms anytime soon.

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