[rms at gnu.org: Some problems on gnucash.org]

Chris Shoemaker c.shoemaker at cox.net
Thu Aug 10 14:41:07 EDT 2006

On Thu, Aug 10, 2006 at 09:52:59AM -0700, Derek Neighbors wrote:
> On Aug 10, 2006, at 9:10 AM, Chris Shoemaker wrote:
> >On Thu, Aug 10, 2006 at 01:07:14AM -0700, Thomas Bushnell BSG wrote:
> >>Christian Stimming <stimming at tuhh.de> writes:
> >>
> >Maybe you were just joking around, (I do see a smiley), but if you're
> >seriously asserting that GnuCash was ever "released under the auspices
> >of the GNU Project"[1], which appears to be definitive of GNU
> >packages, then I would expect GnuCash's documentation to have declared
> >itself to be GNU software.  I've been unable to find any evidence that
> >this was ever true.  Do you have any?  If not, I believe you are
> >mistaken.
> At the time that GNUCash appeared to be friendly with the GNU Project  
> there wasn't much documentation about GNUCash in general.  I don't  
> think it or propagating relationships in what existed was a primary  
> focus.  In a nutshell, just because documentation doesn't state  
> anything doesn't prove a ton (in either direction).

I didn't really mean user-level documentation.  For as far back as I
can research, the GnuCash source code and associated files
(e.g. README) have always been rather verbose on the topics of
licensing, authorship and copyrights.  In that context, the absence of
any "This is GNU software" statement certainly casts doubt in my mind,
_especially_ since that would perhaps be the only objective mark of
the fact, given that copyright was not being assigned to FSF.

> >As for RMS's implication that "the GNU Project" wrote GnuCash [3],
> >GnuCash's authors are quite well noted in GnuCash's source and AUTHORS
> >file.  I don't know of the official membership of the GNU Project -
> >perhaps it's a circular definition, but of those contributors, you,
> >Thomas, are the only one I know of that's apparently associated with
> >the GNU Project.
> I think only the developers can say.  Here is where I think some of  
> the roots (or my understanding of them) are confused.  It is my  
> understanding that Linas took an X-accountant program which was no  
> longer maintained and gutted it to not be dependent on Motif.  My  
> interactions with Linas certainly made me believe he was very  
> connected to the Free Software Foundation AND the GNU Project because  
> I was introduced to him via RMS as needing to collaborate for the  
> betterment of the GNU Project.
> It is also my understanding that the GNU Project very much helped  
> Linux Global Partners put money behind the company Linas ran  
> (GNUMatic) which employed many of the people in the AUTHORS file.   
> During my interaction with GNUMatic it was very much communicated  
> that GNUCash was part of the GNU Project.

Could you clarify that last part, please?  Communicated by whom, to
whom, in what form and how explicitly?  Any references would be
especially helpful.

> Once GNUMatic shut its doors most of those developers stepped away  
> (including Linas) and Derek Atkins took primary leadership of the  
> project.  Since that happened there seems to no longer be any  
> connection to the GNU Project.
> >I'm just trying to objectively examine the few things that would
> >suggest ambiguity on the subject.  On the whole, I'm inclined to trust
> >the more numerous and less ambiguous data that clearly indicate the
> >GnuCash has never been a GNU package, e.g. a public statement by a
> >core GnuCash developer in 2001, "While GnuCash is licenced under GPL
> >software, we are not technically a GNU project." [4]
> I don't think a comment in a Slashdot posting is "hard evidence".   
> Note that Robert Merkel, if memory serves correct, was an employee at  
> GNUMatic.  Many of the GNUMatic employees started Linux Developers  
> Group (LDG) after GNUMatic closed.  There was a vested interest to  
> try to muddy copyright waters of code for LDG's gain.  Note: I am not  
> saying that to be negative or indicate any sort of wrong doing.  Not  
> even saying the source is wrong.  Just saying that the source loses  
> credibility because of potential conflict of interest.

There may or may not have been a conflict of interest.  However, his
statement certainly doesn't "muddy copyright waters".  "The copyright
is actually owned by the many individuals and the companies who have
contributed to the project."  This is a clarification, and true.
Whether or not GnuCash was a GNU package seems to be fairly objective,
so on that topic, I feel comfortable saying he either told the truth
or not, perhaps unintentionally, or perhaps deceptively.  Based on
what I've seen, I think what he wrote was true.

> The FSF asks projects to ASSIGN copyright, but doesn't MANDATE it (or  
> at least they used to not do so).  I think well run projects do, both  
> for legal issues and issues like this.
> >All that aside, I don't really have a strong opinion either way, if
> >other devs wanted to make GnuCash a GNU package.  They would have to
> >announce it, though.  As far as I can tell, they don't really care
> >much.  However, it's strange that RMS claims that GnuCash is a GNU
> >package, and definitely impolite to imply that GnuCash was written by
> >"the GNU Project." [3]
> I definitely agree here.  I think the current developers (those  
> putting in their time) need to assess whether they want to be a part  
> of the GNU Project.  If so, they should do the things that are  
> expected of GNU projects.  If not, they should let RMS and the FSF  
> that they are not interested in being part of the FSF GNU Project.
> In summary,  I am not so sure it matters if GNUCash was or wasn't  
> part of the GNU Project.  I think what is important is deciding if  
> they CURRENTLY want to be part of the GNU Project.

I think the current devs are satisfied with maintaining the status
quo, so in that sense, it _does_ matter if GnuCash was part of the GNU
Project.  If it was, and in the absence of any decision to withdraw
from the GNU Project, we should immediately and visibly announce that
GnuCash is indeed a GNU package, despite all the things that would
seem to indicate otherwise.  If it was not, but RMS wants to say that
it is, what does that hurt us?  It seems to be spreading a rather
harmless misconception that has little effect on GnuCash and may even
benefit RMS.  It's like Novell calling GnuCash a SUSE package.  Again,
I think the current devs just don't care much, (unless we're all
mistaken and GnuCash really is a GNU Package, in which case serious
clarification is appropriate.)


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