Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Northrop Grumman Killing Kowari?

Resignation from Kowari due to Northrop Grumman Letter "It is with sincere regret that I resigned as an administrator and developer of the Kowari Metastore."

"Northrop Grumman's position seems to be that they "purchased all rights associated with the Kowari software", a position not reconcilable with their continued release of the software under the Mozilla Public License, version 1.1."

So it would seem that Northrop, for whatever reason, dislikes Kowari's existence.

To get David and then Tucana (whose IP was eventually sold to Northrop) to start and continue with an open source version of TKS (the closed source version of the RDF database) was my little hobby horse (I fought fairly long and hard you could say). The idea was to get the Semantic Web bootstrapped and to create a value network around Semantic Web technology (I got this originally from "A critical look at object-orientation"). It is deeply disappointing for me to see it (the value network and Kowari) threatened in this way.

Like any OS project it is the ecosystem that is built around Kowari that makes it work. With so many contributions, just how much of the total code does Northrop actually own the copyright to? By accepting changes it isn't following the dual licencing model used by the owners of Berkley DB. To me Kowari was always using open source as a development and distribution model. Already, we have some contributors threatening to pull out their code (more at, "Disturbing News From Kowari").

Having administrators leave due to Northrop's actions is a good way to kill the project. Hopefully, Northrop's bullying will get a lot of interest - it's good to see, for instance, that this has been picked by aggregators like Topix's Aerospace and Defense.

The other posting David W linked to: Is Northrup Grumman Smushing Kowari?, "But I’d like to know what the status of Kowari is going to be, open source or not, because there are clients for whom Kowari might be the right choice, and we won’t bet on a dog that Northrup Grumman seems determined to publicly beat to death.

Relying on Kowari is now not prudent, given our obligation to do our best for our clients; but it’s also bad for Semantic Web uptake in the US federal government, and that’s something Northrup Grumman should think very carefully about."

Update: Paul and Andrae have also added their thoughts.

Update 2: David has published the letter from Northrop's lawyers. Danny posts, "...clearly if the current Kowari is MPL’d they can’t stop other developers working on the system."
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