CyanogenMod, the rest of the story

Android

CyanogenMod, a purely community replacement for Google’s Android OS, until about a week ago, when it became the mobile OS of Cyanogen, Inc, a company formed by the founder of CyanogenMod and other lead contributors, has an interesting tale to it.

To outsiders like me, the announcement of the formation of Cyanogen, Inc. was a bit of a surprise. And the fact that the company succeeded in raising millions of venture capital (VC) funds was even more surprising.

Because now that VC money is flowing, how is the company going to make all its open source contributors happy, especially those not under its payroll? And how is it going to reconcile the interaction between Free Software code and proprietary hardware that the company will no doubt be supporting? Those are not questions that I have to worry about, but which I’m sure those who have written apps for CyanogenMod have to.

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As with these things, there tend to be another side to them, a side which only an inside source is best positioned to tell. Fortunately, Guillaume Lesniak, an insider who wrote a camera app for CynogenMod, has written an account of what transpired before and after the announcement of Cyanogen, Inc.

Here’s an except:

I remained silent about the whole Focal relicensing troubles for now. There was a lot of drama between the app being GPL, and the fact Cyanogen Inc wanted to use it, which drove some frustration between me, some CM contributors, and CM leaders. As a result, to avoid any problem, Focal has been removed from CyanogenMod. I think you deserve explanations and “behind the scenes” view on how all of this happened, and to know it’s not just a last-minute decision or ragequit.

So this is where I started to feel screwed. I didn’t think much further, but I felt like I had no other choice but comply with Cyanogen’s relicensing, and allow them to do whatever they want with my code, and sell it customized to their vendors. They used the Contributor License Agreement as an argument, saying that basically they could do anything with my code since I submitted it.

… and he came up with the fact that this wasn’t legally right: the software is licensed as GPL, the repository on CyanogenMod’s github is forked from my GitHub, so it didn’t go through the Contributor License Agreement (which only applies to Gerrit submissions), and the Berne convention can prove through the commits history that I did fully write the app, and not Cyanogen Inc. – and even if the CLA would apply, it only allows them to sublicense the software, not relicense or dual-license it without my permission.

You may read the complete article here.

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