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Open Letters to the SMF Community

I believe people should know, what happens on I believe I owe everyone informations they must have, to make their decisions.

Allow me to make this thread, as a collection of facts, and my perspective over them.

SMF status

There are thousands of sites who depend on SMF on, from security updates, new releases, packages, everything served to users from it. The community has started to wonder about what happens with SMF, again. They're right. And people need to know.

The past few months, there is basically no active development in SMF.
There is no one left, with both experience, access and will to make a release.
There is only one developer able to make releases, and through his dedication it's still possible. He has to rely on one other person, to painfully synchronize somehow to push out even for the latest security patches.

There is no one really handling the sites, subsites installations, wiki, downloads. They're outdated, sometimes even for security and/or needs of people who work on the project. Persistent and worsening infrastructure problems. I said elsewhere that it's crumbling. Because it is.

When people try to help, they may or may not be able to. Because there are only very few - one/two - who control access to sites, servers, FTP accounts. And they refuse to hand over access people need... by criteria that have nothing to do with expertise, will, or anything... In time, a network of red tape has been built to excuse their choices... and I'm afraid they don't even see, how it's only hurting the project.

I'm sorry, but it's just how it is. And I am concerned, I admit. Thousands of people relying on SMF need to know and have the right to know, to make their own informed decisions.

The best moment for testing your PR is right after you merge it. Can't miss with that one.

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #1
2010-2012, summary notes

Since 2010,
Around seven out of nine developers and development contributors have left SMF, for different reasons than RL reasons. Only a couple for RL reasons.
Around seven out of nine. Both developers and any significant help closely on it or around it. Those only ones who have stepped up since 2010 and have worked hard on significant responsibilities. They are no longer there, and not exactly for RL reasons. Some pushed out, some from a cascade effect of the lack of perspective and impossibility to move forward, some combined reasons with disappointment with management and giving RL time.

Today, there is no active development in SMF. For the past few months.
Until November 2012, ~200+ commits / month.
Last few months,       < 40 commits / month.

Developers have left, and are rebuilding this project on fresh bases. That is another matter, though, not the point here.


I have taken responsibility for SMF in 2010. Myself, I had root access to almost all servers, admin to sites and all. It enabled me to make sure the project can still work normally, albeit sometimes at the edge. It enabled me to make sure to step in when people needed something, information or access, and almost no one else even knew what is happening and needed, such as for customization and all. Apart from software development and related.
I believe I didn't do my job too well. On the other hand, I admit I also believe... that I shouldn't have withdrawn... because it was, well, quite clear, that when I do, the few in SM management/infrastructure were not going to give by far any more access to others. (among other issues)
The route was going to be, towards locking development, site, any movement forward of significance. Incessant blocks, refusals, ...false "reasonings", ...personal feelings and choices, were going to be too much for anyone to handle. And ultimately suffocate this project.

I'm sorry. I have to admit, despite the tone (not entirely avoidable, it's simply true), that I'm not exactly blaming a certain person or another... If anyone is to blame in the big picture, that is myself, not them. It just.. wasn't possible for me to stay either, when I knew I wasn't able to fix this project.


In 2010, and after, I always told people that this project is badly wounded, and we can try to work to heal it... But there was a moment I was sure it wasn't true: it had cancer, and, ... you can't heal cancer.

Today, it's just doing it over again.
It was going to make a LLC in NPO dressing.
Have only a couple people with 'power' and controlling everything through access to resources.
Push out developers, at an accelerated pace even.
Have some manager who has to get his way... war after war, game after game, while the project was breaking in front of people's eyes. It never stops, in poor ole' SMF.

It isn't really about people. There are a few people I cannot work with, true, and part of the reason why I was going to withdraw. But that's not really it, in the big picture. It was a movement which became unstoppable after a moment (not sure which was the cornerstone, early 2012 in a way for me, but probably 2010 entrenchment itself, if not earlier, depends how you look at it).

SMF was in an unstoppable movement down... towards a 'corporation' which was going to kill development. And, it did.


The past few months, since most development stopped, the situation has worsened quite quickly.
(if I am wrong somewhere and you can correct my words, please do. The following are shocking, but true.)

The SM NPO 'corporation' was supposed to handle resources on behalf of the project.
Instead, the management was going to tell, in plain words, recently, to the SMF team, that they don't.
That SM is the "owner", the corporation who "owns" resources, servers, sites, and they "decide" what SMF needs.

That SMF team is not allowed to make a vote of non-confidence in 'the corporation', and let the project free or take it elsewhere, under an organization capable to handle it. The SM manager (and "father") told them the freedom of choice of SMF wasn't in his organizational diagrams. That SM owns the project... and only they can "decide".

That SM is more important, and (ok, this is difficult for me to write but I have to)
... that, to them, there are heavier consequences if SM dies, than if SMF dies...
The best moment for testing your PR is right after you merge it. Can't miss with that one.

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #2
I'll start with details for your knowledge, on the so-called 'copyright issue', since it's simple, essential and currently in an ... unbelievable stage.

The 'Copyright Issue' - summary
Copyright is a set of exclusive rights given by the law to the author of a work of authorship.
When you create a work - or add to a work - you automatically receive these rights, and you can grant any of them under any conditions, through a license, to anyone.
Copyright holders of SMF software are its developers and contributors.
The software belongs to those who do the work of authorship. And they share it to the world, giving equal rights to everyone, by only licensing it with an open license. It's that simple.

SM corporation is a licensee under BSD 3-clause license. Or MPL, for a few projects/pieces.
IBM corporation is a licensee under BSD 3-clause license. Or MPL, for a few projects/pieces.
Everyone receiving the work, the releases, the code, is a licensee under BSD 3-clause license. Or any other open license.

Developers - including community contributors alike - share the software under a license.
SM corporation has received the rights given by the BSD 3-clause license, and should respect its conditions:
never remove or alter the copyright notices from the code.


SM is telling SMF community today... that they sit and "make decisions" on licensing. That they're self-entitled "authority" on licensing. 5-6 managers, non-contributors, sit in their private board and claim to "make decisions" on the software licensing. On the work that SMF developers and community have made available to the world under the license. They claim to remove notices, alter them...

But they forget this essential detail: licensees should respect the licenses granted to them.
The best moment for testing your PR is right after you merge it. Can't miss with that one.

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #3
The 'Copyright Issue' - history

In May/June 2012, we have changed SM requirements for the projects under the umbrella, to require open licenses only, and replace CLAs with DCOs for software, simple agreement to the license for documentation, and a few others.

Immediately after, I have removed CLAs from the SMF development policy on licensing/copyright. For bigger projects, I have replaced them with DCOs, for others not even that.
I set the development policy on licensing/copyright to:
  • require open licenses alone,
  • under DCO sign-off where applicable.
Nothing else. You can find it documented in each of the repositories, there are topics, explanations.

Your work, your code, design, were created by you and licensed by you, to everyone - to the world - under the BSD 3-clause license.
To SM Corporation, to IBM Corporation, to people too, to your peers, to your users, equally.
No one has more rights than everyone else.

Meaning: After we changed to DCO/nothing else required, SM corporation has no more privileged position, no more rights than everyone else - as before they had extra-rights through CLAs. SM corporation has no "copyright". Just like IBM corporation doesn't.


Spuds and Emanuele have moved SMF forward, through their work, their dedication, their time. And they have kept it shared with the community. By their work in the open, on github repositories. By blogs too (a small start, meant to bring information too on their goals and status).

Months later, I have checked the repositories, made some fixes, made some code reviews. Developers had worked very hard, to fix and improve the codebase. People had started to contribute, community contributors, with no badges and no 'roles' and stuff, have added their work to make the software better.

And I have acknowledged their work, and the community contributions, by changing the copyright notice to SMF main codebase, to:
"@copyright SMF contributors".

In the open, under the development policies for licensing/copyright in SMF I had left in place.

We have noted the change in a development blog, with a link to the change, on github, and we have invited the community to feedback. We have told the community that it might seem like a small change, but the thing is, it's their work that drives the project forward, their choice, their responsibility.

Developers have given the project to its community. They wanted it that way. And I definitely wanted it that way.


Sorry to say... but SM corporation wanted something else. They have removed my discussion with them, from SMF Friends and other groups view.
And a few people - current SM speakers - have started a war.., in very private environments (7-25 people boards):
That "The Corporation *must* own copyright!".
That "Developers *must* assign copyright to the corporation!". (seriously? "Must"?)
That "Developers code for the corporation, so they assign copyright to the corporation!!" (...huh?)

I don't know what they were thinking, but... it's hard to describe publicly, no matter how much I'd try.
I'll just say, incessantly pushed developers around, to force their hand, to accept, that the SM corporation "must" hold copyright over *their own work*. To give them copyright, some extra-right, than they gave by the license, for their *own* work...

Developers have left, and Spuds has forked the project.


Code for the corporation benefit. For the benefit of a closed privileged group. Whatever they were thinking, I know one thing... There it was: it's always dangerous to give copyright/licensing rights to those who do not deserve your trust.
The best moment for testing your PR is right after you merge it. Can't miss with that one.

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #4
The "Copyright Issue" - follow-up

They have jumped on the repositories, and removed my acknowledgement notice from the software. Not that I mind objections or changes - I'm not too happy with my own PR anyway, but that's not the point.
But the "authority" has bypassed the open development process, including SMF's process on copyright/licensing updates I had set in place.
And, within the next weeks, SM corporation has taken control of the project.

All rest aside, I'm afraid they still did forget. That they're a licensee.

And licensees should respect the license: never remove or alter the copyright notices for the software granted to them by developers/contributors.
Licensees are not an authority on copyright/licensing. That's meaningless.

As lead developer of SMF, I have made all licensing changes or adjustments (and in two cases I believe, oversaw others) to any piece of official software. I have an interest in copyright/licensing, it's true, but that's not only it: developers should pay attention to licensing, since it's simply fair. To respect licenses when they integrate code from other projects, to verify and to adjust licenses appropriately when the project receives code from pull requests, to make sure that code is properly licensed and any mistakes are fixed.
Of course, they may need help on that - the more, the better, and there is great help out there. But help means help. Sorry to say, but some corporate management, non-contributors, non-developers, removing license notices at their whim, then sitting in 7-people private environment to "make decisions" on licensing is not help. It's an attempt to control the SMF development community, and this one is quite screwed up at that: control over your own work conditions from a handful of non-contributors.

I'm looking on today, and I find it unbelievable... and unacceptable. They keep the entire SMF community blocked, over their so-called "decisions", for months.
It's not a joke. It's SMF development community under SM corporate control today.

If someone, some entity, had more rights (licensing/copyright), it's a dangerous power. And unacceptable for them to use them blindly, against your will.
But in this case, it's even worse. That's exactly what *SM NPO* are not supposed to do at all.

Licensees do not "make decisions" on licenses granted to them. They only respect them.
The best moment for testing your PR is right after you merge it. Can't miss with that one.

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #5
The "Copyright Issue" - status

I look at

On one side,
     They have forced SMF developers hand, to "give give give copyright to the SM corporation". Under DCO.
Developers told them there is only a license. Over the distribution, over the software, over any work. The authors' work.
They weren't satisfied. They pushed developers to a wall, to accept, that they 'give copyright' to the 'corporation', over their own work...

On another side,
     I *think* (I can't know for sure), SM BoD are asking SFLC, about the little notices.
They're giving them an image, in the name of developers, on our intentions when I set up the DCO-based policy. You see, they withdrew the former 'corporate editors' claim. Now I *think* they're giving an image, about developers intentions with the DCO-based policy, and they're still asking for advice about the notices.

On yet another side,
     They're innocently telling former developers or wedge developers, that... they're 'only protecting copyright'. And it's a 'legal legal matter'. That 'legally legally' they hold standing in court for copyright infringement. With a simple licensee status.

On yet another side,
     They're keeping the community at bay, to sit and wait until they "make decisions" on licensing. Telling an entire community, that the "legal legal entity" makes "legal legal decisions". Over community contributions... That they're privileged, you see... everyone else must respect each other's license (=the license of the pool of software in the repository), but they claim... they have the authority to disrespect licenses.

It's unbelievable... but true. They're playing a game, sorry to say, with everyone. With... everyone.

A game of power and control over what was supposed to be a community driven project.
The best moment for testing your PR is right after you merge it. Can't miss with that one.

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #6 yet another perfect example to kick (former) developers bootylicous.. more than 90% of the SMF codebase is from former DEVs  ;)
Thorsten "TE" Eurich

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #7
I had already submitted the correction to the PR creator:

SM "Corporation" has removed developers copyrights from the code, claiming shamelessly that they had an "understanding" over their own work.
Now they're on to remove credits. There's a continuous mentality that badges are the "reason" and "enough" for crediting the work. (and Arantor was still wondering elsewhere how come those who don't do the work think they're privileged by default...).

Please do note, I cannot and do not blame the people. And I would surely *not* "blame" new team members over there, where there are no developers to guide them.
It's just that, as "SM/SMF" (under this name) is spiraling down, how many of these will still happen.
The best moment for testing your PR is right after you merge it. Can't miss with that one.

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #8
Waste of time :(

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #9
Translation of the announcement "Copyright changes", of SM corporation.
Fair warning: this won't be a nice 'n cozy post. Take it or don't read it.

Dear valued community,
(our Marketing department came up with this.)

As you may be aware, there has been debate recently about the copyright line that is used in the SMF code.
As in, the last SMF developers refused to give us copyright over their work (and thereby community contributors too), so we warped at it for months, over and over, until we land-grabbed it somehow.

Although it has taken quite some time, we wanted to be sure that there is no one left, who might've tried to do the right thing for a change.
The changes will be positive for contributors,
as long as they work for the corporation, as in, they're work-for-hire-for-free.
And wouldn't break the understanding that they had with our Corporation over their code contributions.
Of course, we had no "understanding" other than granting us an open license under DCO-or-nothing policy, but who cares. We told our lawyers we had an "understanding" with them, and screw them if they said no.

After extensive debate (between 3-7 managers, non-code contributors, of which 3 inactive), and reviewing with experienced lawyers (whom we messed around as much as we could, to think we almost failed! but we changed our tune in time), we will be making the following changes starting with the 2.1 release.
Of course, we kicked developers out in the meantime, and there will not be a 2.1 release, but we wouldn't lie to you, would we?

The copyright lines in the top of the files will change from:
@copyright YEAR Simple Machines Forum contributors
Wait, no, lets cover up the acknowledgement of righful copyright holders, lets go back to... where was it, the older and inaccurate one...
so, there we go, from:
@copyright YEAR Simple Machines
@copyright YEAR Simple Machines and individual contributors

Code contributors will be listed in a special plain text file to make it easy to see. The credits page inside the software will still remain.
We'll only remove from it almost all developers of SMF as you know it. Really.
After all, they're only some SMF Friends, so no one needs to know their names. Even, some refuse to hold any badge on Which means meh, we can disrespect their work as much as we can. And once we did that, of course we're doing the same for people who have supported this project for years, and so on.

The copyright line at the bottom of forums will remain unchanged.
Well, this is an useless statement, since the license allows to change it anyway, but we live and breath in a proprietary/corporate culture, and therefore feel the need to say it.

The changes we are making will give more credit where it's due.
We do that by removing from credits Compuart, Grudge, Thantos, Bloc, Aaron, some small and irrelevant contributors to this project like that.

And also clearly states that individual code contributors hold copyright to their submitted work, while still allowing Simple Machines to use it as part of the Simple Machines Forum software.
Well, Norv has explained to us over and over, that the BSD 3-clause license allows us to use it freely, share and reshare at our will, just like anyone else, as long as we respect the license they have granted to us and everyone else. But! We are not content to be like everyone, we must have moar, we must land-grab ourselves the right to disrespect their license.

Simple Machines holds copyright over the collective work that is the Simple Machines Forum (SMF) software.
Well, no, it does not, but psst: that's what we told our lawyers we had a mysterious "understanding" about, with developers and community contributors. Y'know, a so-called "understanding" you're too stupid you know you had, over your own work.
Lemme tell you what that means: it means Simple Machines corporate members don't need to lift a finger, and poof:
 - they have the same rights as those who have actually made this software,
 - and more rights than SMF Friends, translators, beta testers, some stupid "individuals", anyone else in the community.
You only have to be a corporate/team member, to hold the "position of power" we wanted so badly. (psst: it allows us to be *entitled* to CheezWhiz anyone everytime when someone who doesn't do the work has an "opinion" about how those who do must do their way. Finally, damn it, finally we stamp off our entitlement. Norv was certain it'd kill any chance in hell of the project, no matter how unlikely or narrow, so removed it from us, but we're land-grabbing it back. Hah, take that.)

If you're just a user of our software, none of these changes will have any effect on your use of SMF. Except for some small and insignificant details, like your forum security and maintenance, 'cause we made sure in the meantime no developers can possibly even make a patch when they consider it necessary. Let alone move this project forward. But don't you worry, the future is bright, under the NPO we turned into our corporate playground.
If you're a developer or contributor, nothing fundamental changes. Only, we have your understanding that you work for the benefit of our corporation, for our egos, as long as we like you. Then we push you out. Disrespect your license, remove your credits, block your access, fun like that. how you can use the code as long as you make the above changes to any SMF 2.1 code you are using. Well, the 2.1-only code was written in majority by those who told us 'No' and let Norv tell us 'No'. But we nailed those bastards, we threatened Norv with legal action for "copyright infringement of SM Corporation copyright" - wise move, innit?-. We made sure they understand, that if you contribute to "our" project, then you'd better expect legal threats and legal actions over your own work. And made them shut the heck up and just leave, while our BoD makes sure to lie to the community in their name.

We would like to thank the SFLC for their help and guidance in this matter.
Yep, well, we still forgot to tell SFLC a few things. For example, that developers kept telling us "No", and we kept yelling at them about lawyers and "legal legal matters" and "legal legal actions" over their own work of authorship.
And we missed to tell SFLC we had no freaking "understanding" of the kind. Instead, guess what: we simply told them that we did! Hah, smart move, don't you think?

Also, we want to thank everyone else who contributed advice and worked with us on this change.
Well, not that it'd be any. We didn't even listen to those whose work was in question, why bother, doh.

Thank you to the community for your patience in this matter. Also, thank you to all the contributors. We thank you by land-grabbing your work, and claim we made it: we, the handful of SM Board of Directors, who have never touched the code. We remove your copyright notices, we remove your credits.
Thank you to all our users. We thank you by leaving your sites with no developers to attend to this software. And with this said, we hurry inside, to make many more "rules and regulations" to correct any chance anyone would have, to maintain it properly, or even remotely the SMF as you knew it.

You help make this community thrive.
Or should we say, we helped make this project and its community die.
You see, we treat our community as any corporation treats users: by putting our own interests, our stakeholders egos, before your forums, your sites future, your security even, and hide the truth from you at that. Sure you understand, we're a Corporation, a privileged group, after all.
Developers would never allow it, but we fixed that part. We got rid of them: simple and effective.
The best moment for testing your PR is right after you merge it. Can't miss with that one.

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #10
It's truth, the truth hurts.

Sad part is that I don't really know any more what's really best to honour the licences and contributors and whatnot. It's clear that they don't know what the right thing is and wouldn't if it bit them on the plumbers crack. Thing is, that announcement affects us too...

Code: [Select]
 * @name      ElkArte Forum
 * @copyright ElkArte Forum contributors
 * @license   BSD
 * This software is a derived product, based on:
 * Simple Machines Forum (SMF)
 * copyright: 2011 Simple Machines (
 * license: BSD, See included LICENSE.TXT for terms and conditions.

You're based on 2.1 code, yes? That would imply you needing to update to indicate so :/

As much as I don't entirely feel it's right, we dropped the dual header aspect, so each file (including ones that have absolutely no originating-from-SMF code in it) has:
Code: [Select]
 * @package wedge
 * @copyright 2010-2013 Wedgeward,
 * @license

block in it, the license is a placeholder page until we figure out what actual licence we want (likely MPL2.0 unless we go paid, it's something we've talked a lot about doing), and there's a contributors file which lists all the things we've included and under what licence terms, in which we have:

Simple Machines Forum 2.0.x
   -- © Simple Machines and its contributors 2011,
   -- used under the 3-clause BSD license.

And our credits page really goes to town on it:
Uses portions from SMF 2.0, copyright © Simple Machines 2011, all rights reserved. SMF is covered by the BSD license, and developed by [Unknown], Aaron, Antechinus, Bloc, Compuart, Grudge, JayBachatero, Nao 尚, Norv, Orstio, regularexpression, [SiNaN], TE, Thantos and winrules.

That's all the people who were in the dev team credits in 2.0 which AFAIK covers everything up to 2.0. We explicitly do not list the 2.0 credit in every page, because I don't want to mislead people into thinking the licence is not what it is, if that makes sense.

I don't know that it's technically correct but at least we're trying. I'm sharing in the hopes that it encourages SMF to do the right thing. Foolish, I know, but it's illustrating the different ways to try and do the right thing.

FWIW, I can see their logic - warped as it is - in the credits: people who were in the credits for 1.1.x but not present in 2.1 development... should they be in the 2.1 credits? To them it seems perfectly logical that they should not be because they're not actively on the dev team at present. It's wrong but it does make some warped kind of sense.

 Arantor still finds it amusing that he has code in 2.0.x but is merely on the Customizers list because that's the highest position he attained in the team in his time on it.

(Also: bug: this is in the quick reply, if I preview, I go to the full post screen with my preview but nothing in the post box!)

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #11
I've been making a(nother) copyright/licensing re-review. Elk hasn't done that yet actually (except with some files).
I am still far too fuming, though. I have to choose coming back on it instead of a quick answer, sorry. But, if you wish, please see the WIP:

License file:
Example file:
Open to suggestions/objections - obviously. Others to be added.
The best moment for testing your PR is right after you merge it. Can't miss with that one.

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #12

until we figure out what actual licence we want (likely MPL2.0 unless we go paid, it's something we've talked a lot about doing),

If I may--
MPL 1.1, or MPL 2 with Exhibit B, which is essentially the same thing.
Until question #14 at the MPL FAQ ( implies that MPL2, exhibit B or not, can't be suddenly turned entirely into a GPL product through a fork, I'd rather not take any chances.

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #13 was finally merged.. That's it, have to say "bye bye" to SMF. Requested account deletion over there...
Thorsten "TE" Eurich

Re: Open Letters to the SMF Community

Reply #14
Requested account deletion over there...
It's now seven days ago and my account is still alive, they even seem to ignore my request for deletion..
Thorsten "TE" Eurich