The idiotic change in fancybox license emphesizes why developers should leave licensing to lawyers

fancybox is a jquery based lightbox alternative. Its version 1.0 was distributed under a very permissive MIT license, but for version 2.0 the developers apparently decided to try to monetize their success and changed the license to Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0, which basically doesn’t allow usage for commercial purposes.

I am all for people getting payed for their work especially when it is so successful, but was the license change the smart thing to do? I think no

  • while the wordpress world shows that you can make tons of money from offering GPL software, with several themes and plugin developers doing nice amount of money from their work, it is strange to see someone trying to go against the tide.
  • Noncommercial¬† – is meaningless term, as almost no one put the effort to make a nice site without expecting to monetize it in some way. It might be direct as a shop site or running ads, or less direct as a site to build reputation. This is basically a problem with most CC licenses as they are not intended to be used for code, this is something in which a lawyer’s advice might have prevented.
  • How are they going to discover that anyone had broken the license terms, and if they do, they are unlikely to have the money to sue people all over the world.
  • What incentive is there to not pirate the code? Pirating is very easy and they don’t offer any additional service like support, therefor only people that would have been willing to “donate” in the first place will be willing to pay for the license. It might even be that they might have been willing to donate more then the request price.
  • It is easy to circumvent the license by placing the JS file on a different domain which is truly non commercial and use it in the main domain.

We can’t know how many users this change had cost to the developers, but by the look of the site I assume the monetization scheme didn’t work too well for them. Maybe it is time to change the license to something less restrictive.

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