HLT Koha Committee report on discussions with PTFS

Over the last 2 weeks the Horowhenua Library Trust Koha Subcommittee (The Committee) has been communicating with John Yokley from PTFS. We believe it is past time that we inform the Koha community on where things stand at the moment.

NZ Koha Trademark

It had come to our attention that in February 2010 Metavore, INC. DBA LibLime filed an application to register the Koha trademark in New Zealand. When the Committee became aware of this action by Joshua Ferraro, on the 15th April, we wrote to John Yokley drawing to his attention to the application and inviting PTFS to withdraw it.

Inaccurate Trademark statements

The Committee were also concerned about recent changes made to the trademark and copyright statements which have appeared on the LibLime site in recent weeks:

“Koha and the Koha logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of LibLime in the United States and other countries.

This statement is wrong and we requested that the earlier version be reinstated:

“Koha and the Koha logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of LibLime and BibLibre in the United States, France and other countries”.

Secrecy

John Yokley approached a number of individuals to discuss Koha business but these discussions did not eventuate for 2 reasons. Firstly, a non-disclosure agreement was required to be signed and secondly the Committee believes that PTFS needed to work with the Committee as the elected representatives of the community on the issue of the Koha trademarks and website. We assured John of our discretion, reserving the right to publish a précis of discussions that touch on Koha project policy, and welcomed the opportunity to enter into discussions.

On Monday 26th April John wrote to 4 Committee members requesting an official response to Kelly Sherman’s request for collaborative help in supporting the Koha.org web site. The community response to Kelly’s request had been consistent: the community home is now koha-community.org, come join us and please redirect all traffic from koha.org to the new site. This was interpreted by John as being negative.

Our individual responses to the discussion list supported the community opinion. None of the individuals who comprise the Committee have any authority to make agreements or commitments on behalf of the community. When PTFS were ready to work with the Committee we would respond in a timely manner, after considering the issues with the best interests of the Koha global community interests at heart.

Working with HLT Koha Committee

The Committee has written twice to John Yokley issuing invitations to work with the Koha Committee to resolve outstanding issues. This invitation was accepted earlier this week, and The Committee have been invited to participate in a conference call.

The Koha community’s preferred method of working is in an open and transparent manner. However, as an acknowledgment of LibLime/PTFS sensitivity around the community asset issues the Committee believed we were authorised to work privately with PTFS to settle these issues.

We were not comfortable with a conference call and explained this to John:

“The Koha community has established ways of communicating: email and IRC. Email allows participation of all parties regardless of timezones and allows a thoughtful, considered response. IRC allows for collaboration and real time discussion. Once again though everyone has a voice and has a chance to absorb, digest, translate and contribute to the conversation – even if the thread has moved on.

There is concern that the proposed conference call will be ineffective. To begin, not everyone can attend at the proposed time. Moreover, there is scope for varying interpretations of what has been agreed. Frankly we prefer our well established processes, described above, as they have proven effective over many years.”

John has proposed 3 agenda items:

1. The Integration of acquired assets with community versions of the Koha software
2. PTFS involvement in the Koha Project Organization
3. Koha.org/Koha-Community.org Web Site

The Committee proposed the following agenda:

1. Pointing koha.org to koha-community.org,
2. Transferring the koha.org domain to HLT,
3. Withdrawal of application for the New Zealand Koha trademark,
4. Correction of the false trademark statements on LibLime website,
5. USA Koha trademarks,
6. PTFS involvement in Koha project,
7. Reintegration of LEK back into Koha.

The Koha Committee believe that items [1] through [4] could all be solved by PTFS very quickly. They are very important to the Koha Community and probably non-negotiable.

The Committee believes that items [6] and [7] are outside the scope of what the Koha Committee have been authorised to do. Our only role is to advise the Trustees, whose only role is to hold property on behalf of the community.

[6] It is entirely up to PTFS to decide whether they want to be involved in the Koha community or not. We would all like PTFS to be a part of the community.

[7] The reintegration of LEK back into the Koha project would be great – but again it is entirely a PTFS business decision. A reading of the lists confirms that the Koha Community would love to have PTFS back in the Koha project. After all, most of the LibLime clients acquired by PTFS thought they were buying into Koha as an open source community project, not LEK which is a closed proprietary one.

John Yokley is not prepared to discuss issues with the Committee via email or IRC. He reads our flagging of the non-negotiable items as The Committee indicating that we don’t really want PTFS as a corporate partner and that we are looking for an excuse to terminate our discussion and any possibility of coming to an agreement. John also believes that the committee is more interested in playing politics than working together globally to build a better open source ILS for libraries.

The Committee disagrees with that last assertion. We have been acting to fulfill our remit to secure Koha project assets as directed by the community.

The Committee Position.

The Koha Committee reasserts its belief in the core values that have sustained and will continue to sustain Koha:

  • Koha is a good that collectively belongs to its users and developers
  • Open communication on matters of interest to Koha users and developers
  • For-profit and non-for-profit organizations all have a role to play in strengthening Koha, but on the basis of open partnership
  • Koha community assets should be held in trust for the benefit of the whole community, and are not the sole property of any commercial entity

The specific remit of the Committee includes the following aim: “to advise the Trustees regarding the acquisition and safeguarding of property of the Koha project.” The Committee considers the koha.org domain to be historically and properly the property of the Koha community, and will still aim to secure the domain for the Horowhenua Library Trust for eventual transfer to a non-profit foundation or other collaborative organisation for Koha. However, the Committee also sees that the koha-community.org family of websites is a good new home for the global Koha project. While it is our preference that PTFS transfer the domain and the US trademark interest in Koha to the Trust, we do not view ourselves as being dependent on any action by PTFS.

The Committee is, and will always, stand ready to engage in communication with PTFS. However, we also firmly believe that a true partnership with any corporate citizen of the Koha community must be made on the basis of respect for the history and norms of the Koha project.

The Committee would like to call a community handover meeting on 4 May 2010 at 19:00 UTC+0 on the #koha IRC channel to discuss our report. As usual, all members of the Koha community, including management representatives from PTFS, are invited.

Posted in Events, IRC Meetings, Koha, Koha News Tagged with: ,
15 comments on “HLT Koha Committee report on discussions with PTFS
  1. mjr says:

    Good work and thanks for reporting.

    One small point: the earlier version of the trademark statement was bad too. It was incomplete, failing to acknowledge that many other companies (users, developers and supporters) have also been part of building the community mark.

    I don’t understand why the invitation to join the community is interpreted by John as being negative. I think the negativity is entirely coming from that side: negative on participating fully, negative on openness, negative on electronic discussions. I know those of you on the committee thought it would change, but I’m not entirely surprised it didn’t. I feel that now is the time to gather and strengthen our community and our collective ownership.

    That said, your reply to point 6 is spot on: our door remains open to all.

  2. Ben says:

    I heartily recommend that the community find two or three representatives to discuss PTFS’ original three talking points. These are issues that you’ve long wanted to resolve and changing the agenda as a response prevents progress on these points and endangers future discussion. As important as trademark issues are, there will be another opportunity and venue for that topic — start with these three.

    Conference calls, while not ideal for large group discussion, has advantages. It’s a long respected method for communication in the corporate realm, it’s less threatening for initial discussions on volatile topics, and verbal agreements can be codified for later sign off.

  3. Galen Charlton says:

    The Horowhenua Library Trust’s Koha Subcommittee is the one body empowered by the community to have this sort of small-scale discussion. There is no other group of “two or three” people who has the remit to negotiate anything in that fashion on the issue of the website and the trademarks. The agenda as originally presented was a one-sided proposal by PTFS. The committee made a counter-proposal, which Mr. Yokley dismissed; he remains free to discuss a compromise on the agenda, but the committee will not accept a unilaterally-imposed agenda, particularly give the many opportunities that PTFS has had to make any kind of concession whatsoever. Similarly, Mr. Yokley’s apparent refusal to commit to any statement in writing on any of the matters in question has left the committee dubious as to whether any conference call could be productive.

  4. Andy Chilton says:

    I’d just like to expand what Jo said for [6].

    > [6] It is entirely up to PTFS to decide whether they want to be involved in the Koha community or not. We would all like PTFS to be a part of the community.

    This one is also pretty easy. For PTFS to be involved in the Koha community all they need to do is send patches and have a presence on the mailing lists and irc channel.

  5. Vicki Teal Lovely says:

    With all due respect for those involved, I would suggest that when presented four agenda items along with the words “probably non-negotiable” it doesn’t leave much room for discussion or negotiation. I see no need to make such a statement. Both parties (the Committee and PTFS) should be free to present their sides without a stipulation that the issues are already non-negotiable. I believe there is plenty of room for compromise regarding all of these issues. Also, I do not see that any of these decisions need to be rushed or solved very quickly as the Committee suggests. All parties involved should be satisfied that they have been heard and the outcome should be agreeable to all. These are basic rules of negotiation. The Open Source community frequently talks about being open. The words “probably non-negotiable” do not suggest openness. I would hate for the door to cooperation be closed before it has even been fully opened.

  6. Joann Ransom says:

    I think we are seeing a ‘culture’ clash between the hard nose business world and the collaborative open source world. The Koha Community simply doesn’t have a CEO who can tell us all the way its gonna be around here now – and nor do we want that. Maybe it was always too much to expect that a big American Corporation could adjust to the Koha Community, even though many small vendors all around the world do so very successfully every day.

    I do not think this split is a bad thing. It just formalizes the fork which has been in existence for close to 2 years now since LEK was developed by LibLIme.

    Koha Libraries have clear choices and will make their choice based on their business needs, values and budgets. Some libraries will feel much happier with proprietary LEK solution and others with open source Koha. Its just horses for courses.

    Since reclaiming our tools the Koha community has become stronger than ever, development is galloping along and I look forward to the future with clear eyes.

  7. Although reaching an apparent stalemate in discussions with PTFS is discouraging, I hope the Koha community at large remains focused on what it’s true purpose is; to pool resources in order to develop a great tool for libraries.

    I’m confident that ultimately that focus, along with using an open methodology that allows for maximum sharing of ideas for maximum benefit to the community, will distinguish Koha development from other forks as being of better value.

    Continue to advance Koha and people will be drawn to the project. Be drawn into an unending effort to get PTFS/Liblime to do things other than the way they seem determined to and the real danger is to lose focus on improving Koha.

    If the Koha project continues to improve than I wouldn’t be surprised if PTFS, based on their business’s interests, will come back into the main community as “just another member”.

    In most cases, from my view that of being apart of a separate open source project that shares some collaborators and tools, PTFS seem to be working within their rights. It may not be how the community would prefer them to work, but that is how it goes sometimes.

    Now that PTFS and the community have had a chance to state their cases, it seems to me that to focus on trying to get PTFS to change distracts from building Koha. On a practical level, it gives the mailinglist an overall negative tone which is a downer to those considering Koha. It’s time to move on and pull focus back to working on Koha in a positive way.

    I would send them the same message that I would send any other software project:

    “If it makes sense, hopefully we can work together someday.”

    Cheers,
    Walter

    P.S. – on caveat, I do think that if PTFS does tries to do something that oversteps or tries to expand their rights into an area that should be held by the Koha community, it should be addressed in a targeted, unemotional, and pragmatic way. I’m thinking of the trademark application in NZ specifically.

  8. chris says:

    This will no doubt be taken by the Koha community as the final
    authoritative word from PTFS on their posture with regard to the Koha
    community. It is, in some respects, a relief, albeit quite
    disappointing.

    Koha is what it is by virtue of community participation. No doubt PTFS
    will go on to produce some sort of ILS “foo.” However, it will not be
    Koha. Koha always has been and always will be the product of the Koha
    community, regardless of the direction PTFS takes.

  9. Don Christie says:

    Apologies for the cross posting…

    As the director of a company that supports and develops many FLOSS
    products, including Koha and as the President of the New Zealand Open
    Source Society, I would just like to make a few points on this topic.

    Koha is a project that was started by a very small community in New
    Zealand. That community donated Koha, a gift, to the world. That the
    world wide community has been able to extend Koha fantastically,
    organise itself and sustain itself is testament to the vision and ideals
    that were behind the original gift.

    Indeed, for potential users of Koha the community strength and
    resilience should be a major attraction. This resilience is more
    important in the medium and long term than the technology itself.

    The GNU General Public Licence that Koha uses guarantees that users of
    the software will always have their rights and freedoms protected and
    sustained. These cannot be captured by single entities or individuals
    such as Catalyst or Liblime or even the company originally developed and
    still supports the technology, Katipo.

    As a businessman, seeing the Koha community take such interest in their
    software gives me confidence that it is a system worth supporting and
    investing in. I know many other businesses round the world feel the
    same. As long as there is a vibrant and demanding community of users
    there will be many businesses vying to offer their support services. If
    that community fades away then so will the support.

    LibLime have been, and hopefully will continue to be, a leading member
    of the Koha community, but it will have to be on the community’s terms,
    not someone’s outdated ideal of a business model.

    As Kiwi I am proud of HLT, Katipo and Koha. As a businessman I am
    confident in the sustainability and future of the software.

    Kia Kaha

    Don

  10. David Schuster says:

    I agree with Ben and he stated it very precisely. I would hope that the two groups after pondering this can come back together and discuss their issues. Granted 2 agenda’s were proposed, and then the call was cancelled. I can only dream of what might have happened if the call actually took place. Granted nothing may have been achieved, but a dialog would have been started that has been silent and non communicative to this point.

    I can only hope that the two groups will attempt to communicate again to start working together.