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I’m curious.

How open (/open source) is Chumby?

I've heard mention that it's not as open as it is advertised to be. Ian Bogost is thinking this way on his blog. What does everyone else think? What is open enough to be open source?
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  • I’m less curious and more confused at this point.
    1
    In the comments to his original post Ian brings up a really good point "what's the point of ownership [of you licensee application] if you've also granted perpetual rights to another party?". If Apple did this then they would own non-exclusive rights to all of the third party applications out there like Podworks, Transmit, and so forth. What is Chumby thinking?
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  • I’m sad they can't talk here and help clear up the confusion.
    So it turns out that Chumby can't talk in the open, this isn't looking like a very open minded company...

    Here is a reply to my customer service inquiry

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: Chumby Support
    Date: Oct 29, 2007 1:52 PM
    Subject: RE: How open is Chumby? (LTK9205668235X)
    To: Leslie

    Reference number: LTK9205668235X Please use this ticket number in any correspondence with us.
    Subject: How open is Chumby?

    Dear Customer,

    I can not respond on the post but I can send you the direct link to our agreement.

    http://www.chumby.com/corporate/terms...
    4. Proprietary Rights

    Chumby does not claim ownership in any Content that you post on the Website, that you provide or make otherwise available to us, but in order to provide you and the other Registered Users with the Services, we need certain rights to such Content, as set forth below in Subsection 4.1. In return, we also grant you certain use rights to the Content that Chumby (or its licensors) owns and uses to provide the Services to you, as set forth below in Subsection 4.3.

    4.1 Your Content. By posting any Content through the Services (either directly or by providing a link to such Content) or by providing or making available such Content to Chumby in any way, you hereby grant to Chumby, an unrestricted non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, license (with the right to sublicense through unlimited levels of sublicensees) to use, copy, perform, display, and distribute such Content throughout the world. For each Widget you post, this license will terminate when you remove your Widget using the process described in Section 4.2 and it is no longer available via the Chumby Network; otherwise this license is perpetual and irrevocable. No compensation will be paid with respect to the Content that you submit, upload, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services. You should only upload, provide or make available Content to the Services that you are comfortable sharing with others under the terms and conditions set forth herein. You acknowledge and agree that Chumby may create Content that is similar to the Content that you have created, or based on your Content.

    4.2 Removal of Your Widgets. You may remove Widgets you post through the Services at any time. To remove your Widgets, visit the "Uploaded Widgets" page of the Website at http://www.chumby.com/widgets/uploaded and select the Widget you are removing; then select the "delete this widget" option and confirm the deletion. Within a reasonable time after you make that election, the Widget will no longer be available to other Registered Users via the Chumby Network.

    4.3 Chumby Service Content. The Services contain Content of Chumby and its licensors ("Chumby Service Content"). Chumby and its licensors (including, without limitation, Registered Users) retain ownership of all of their proprietary rights in the Chumby Service Content and the Services. Provided that you are a Registered User, and subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, Chumby hereby grants you a limited, revocable, nonsublicensable license under intellectual property rights licensable by Chumby to (i) download Widgets from the Chumby Network to your Chumby Device (ii) reproduce, execute, display, and perform Widgets on your Chumby Device; (iii) execute, display, and perform Widgets on your Virtual Chumby; (iv) distribute Widgets to other Registered Users solely via the Chumby Network; and (v) download, view, copy and print other Chumby Service Content (excluding Widgets) from the Services in each case solely your personal use in connection with viewing the Website and using the Services. If you are a Visitor, Chumby hereby authorizes you to download, view, copy and print documents and graphics on the Website solely for personal, informational, non-commercial purposes.

    4.4 Ownership and Restrictions. You acknowledge that all the intellectual property rights in the Content (other than the Content you provide) and Services are owned by Chumby or the Registered User who posted such Content or other Chumby licensors. Except as expressly permitted under this Agreement, you agree not to (i) modify, distribute, or create derivative works based on the Content and Services; and (ii) rent, lease, loan, or sell access to the Services; (iii) decompile, reverse engineer, or copy any Content (other than the Content you provide) or the Services for which the source code is not provided to you.

    Sincerely,
    Johnnie

    Chumby Support

    ---------------Original Message---------------
    From: Leslie < >

    Subject:
    How open is Chumby?

    I was hoping to have this conversation in a public forum. Please come and answer the question here: http://getsatisfaction.com/chumby/top...

    In particular Ian makes it sound like Chumby Inc. owns the creations of it's users. Is this true?
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  • The text they provided is for the section of their website where users can upload flash "widgets." These appear to have a different rights arrangement from the SDK/HDK. You'll notice this is still a royalty-free license to distribute, but I understand this, becuase this part of the agreement gives Chumby the ability to distribute stuff on their website if the user chooses to upload. It's like YouTube in this sense, basically.

    But the SDK/HDK has a totally different license.

    So, basically, they didn't answer your question at all, I'm afraid, but rather a different one :/
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  • I’m giving benefit of the doubt
    3
    My understanding of the intent (and this is reflected in the widget license text) is that it's essentially the same deal that users have with YouTube, Flickr, or any other community site where content gets uploaded. Once you upload your content to the Chumby network, they want plenty of CYA that they have the rights to distribute it in whatever way they want to, without ever owing you royalties.

    I haven't read the SDK license so can't speak to that, unfortunately. But here are my notes from the alpha and beta discussions at FOO Camp:

    http://www.christine.net/2006/08/anno...
    http://www.christine.net/2007/06/chum...

    The beta notes have more insight into the business model and network licensing.

    Side comment: the Chumby founders are solid folk, and open intent is definitely there.
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  • I’m hopeful
    Thanks for the really great information Christine! I had no idea the Chumby team was up to 27 as of that 2007/06 blog post.

    It seems that Ian is questioning what happens to user's rights off of the Chumby network (Chumby's business model plans to do light advertising on a Chumby Network site where users will come to share and find content and widgets for their Chumby). It's likely that fans will create their own websites or networks to share content when Chumby becomes wildly popular. ;)

    It's unclear where the business model accounts for activity off the Chumby network. That plan would affect the details of the SDK licensing terms.

    Ian, I'm curious what scenario you imagine for your own Chumby creations. I'm hoping Chumby Inc. would like to hear your thinking, we might be able to help illuminate the outskirts of their budding community.
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  • 8
    This is bunnie from Chumby Industries.

    First, let's be clear on our intention: you do own and retain rights to your inventions.

    Ian's post does highlight that the current Chumby SDK/HDK license is confusing. The language of section 3.3, in practice, does not apply to any of the software provided with the chumby device; it's broadly drawn and directed primarily at the hardware, where the definition of a derivative work is subtly different. Section 3.2, "Separately Licensed Code", effectively overrides any of our terms and conditions when it comes to code that is, say, GPL or BSD licensed. Since almost all the code in the chumby device, save the Flash player, is Open licensed, you retain all the traditional, well-understood rights that apply. In particular, 3.3 concludes with an explicit exemption for code that you make available under GPL2. Also, 3.3 opens with the statement "You retain your ownership rights in your innovations." Essentially, a standing open license on code wins. We also believe that we have put proper GPL2, BSD, etc. headers in all the applicable source files; if they are missing, then we'd appreciate a note so that we can fix that.

    From the hardware side, the intention of the license is to enable innovators (big and small) to hack, modify, and accessorize their chumbys, and for these innovators to profit from the fruits of their labors. Nothing in the license prevents one from say, creating a rechargable battery accessory for the chumby device, and selling this accessory for profit. However, if we decide later on to make a battery accessory for the chumby device ourselves, sections 3.1 (give) and 3.3 (take) work together to effectively create an automatic cross-license that enables us to do this. To see why the cross-licensing is important, consider the case that someone were able to hypothetically patent the idea of a chumby with a battery. Without the automatic cross-license, we might be unable to create our own version of a battery pack. Remember, users of our HDK are given an automatic license to Chumby's IP, so the relationship is reciprocal. The license effectively bypasses potential patent disputes within the Chumby hardware ecosystem, while allowing patents to exist as a defense from another company attempting to assert their portfolio on the Chumby hardware ecosystem (as is currently happening to the Linux ecosystem). On the other hand, Chumby does retain rights to its branding, so if you did make an accessory for the chumby device, you can't put our logo and name on it without a separate agreement with us.

    If I were to beef on anything in the license, it would be on the point that we don't give you the automatic right to manufacture a cloned chumby. However, we are favorable to the idea of cloning--building a hardware supply chain is difficult and risky, so the diversity that cloners bring are an important part of a healthy ecosystem. Therefore, cloners are encouraged to come talk to us and work out a separate license. We do this so we can better support the installed base of chumby hardware as the hardware design evolves. Without this, some users who own cloned hardware could end up "stranded" as we add and deprecate features from our version of the system, and we want to avoid the scenario where owners of a cloned chumby wake up in the morning to find their device bricked due to a change in the overall system software.

    Thanks for the insightful discussion, and I do hope that people feel comfortable emailing me directly at chumby (I'm bunnie) with any further clarifications or suggestions for improvements. Leslie, I'm sorry that customer service sent you such a generic response. They do a great job at helping customers with technical issues and in general they try very hard not to bother the engineers. I'll let them know that they should feel free to bounce such queries over to me and Duane. Also, hi Christine! :-)
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  • I’m pleased
    1
    Very compelling response, Bunnie! I love your philosophy, and know how difficult it can be to go from spirit of intent to letter of intent once you get the lawyers involved :)

    I encourage you to keep talking about this stuff publicly (here, when appropriate). It would be a shame to lock the rest of us interested folk out of such a rich discussion.
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  • I’m into i's.
    Thanks bunnie, that's very clarifying. Open discussion seems to be the real key to an open product, so thank you for the information.

    I'm basically gleaning off this conversation that open products live in a very complicated world!

    Legal documentation can help clarify some boundaries, but there is a lot of unknown territory. So it's hard to schematize openness into something rigid like law, but from this interaction it seems like Chumby still embodies openness in practice and that they respected the inquisitive intent of my inquires. I'd love to hear more from Ian, because his smart questions originally spurned this discussion!
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  • I have responded to "Bunnie"'s points above and on my website, and I now await his reply. Those comments can be found here:

    http://www.bogost.com/blog/chumby_and...

    In short, I found his responses to be unconvincing and look forward to further explanation.
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  • I’m convinced that Chumby is open
    2
    Over on Ian's blog, I found bunnie's final remarks to be really amazing, Chumby seems to have a great attitude of open communication with it's customers and partners. Go check it out: http://www.bogost.com/blog/chumby_and...
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