Six Apart Re-evaluated Movable Type License

After out cries from the Movable Type blogger community last Thursday when Six Aprt released the new license terms for the up-coming Movable Type 3, 6A has since written up a clarification on this issue. Here is a summary:

  • New license terms do not apply to MT 2.661 or below.
  • No more single CPU restriction.
  • Slightly better price, and you can get 1 new author and 1 new weblog for USD$10.
  • When 6A says "weblog", they mean "blog site".
  • Inactive author for 90 days does not count as one. The same applies to "weblog" (or is it "blog site"?)
  • 6A will honour previous payments to commercial licenses.

Obviously there are two school of thoughts on MT3's license so far:

  1. Not a big deal. MT is great. 6A has all the rights to charge licenses. Don't whinge.
  2. Sky is falling! MT is no free beer speech! 6A has no right to take what was free before! Whinge whinge whinge.

Interestingly, two of my frequent blogsites have different view on this issue. Jeremy Zawodny reckons that it is not worth the time to migrate, as time worths a lot more than the money he spent on purchasing a licensed copy of MT. On the other hand, Mark Pilgrim has migrated to WordPress as he pursuits the freedom it has given to him.

Over here, I has to give my salute to Mark Pilgrim, who has also generously donate to the developers of WordPress, amount that he originally has to pay to 6A for the new licenses. At the end, it is not really the license fee that matters. Yes. Paying for something that was originally free (as in beer) would definitely upset somebody. However, the real issue here is that, do you have the assurance of freedom? After cooling down over the weekend, I don't blame Six Apart. After all, they are just a company out there trying to make a living selling proprietary software. They have rights to do whatever to Movable Type. I was having the same whinge and moan when I had to buy Panther to upgrade my 5 month old iBook, but well, I can't blame Apple as they have placed so much effort in developing the new Mac OS X. At the same time, I am also given the choice to not to upgrade, if I am happy enough with Jaguar.

Paying something that was initially free was not something new for Apple as well. I remembered that there was a big chaos when Apple released the pricing plan for the .Mac service, which was initially free for all Mac users. People have been given choices - paying up the subscription, or find a free alternative. I chose the later by setting up a DAV server at home. Not as integrated as .Mac, and it does require some tinkering. But I always enjoy free pizza (I don't drink beer), and I can be assured that in an unlikely situation where Apple has ridiculously decided to jack up the fee of .Mac again, or limit its usage in any ways, I will not be affected.

That is the issue many computer users face everyday, and today it has been applied to Six Apart, Movable Type and its community of users. You want to support a company you love? Good on you! You enjoy every bits of Movable Type 3, and don't mind paying for the license fee? Great! But given a choice, many technical savvy users today would rather choose "freedom" - a freedom not only allow them to patch, hack and fork, but an assurance that this freedom will always be provided. A "free-enough" policy of Movable Type previously might have placed some of its users into their comfort zone, but we should have learnt our lessons today. As Mark has concluded:

It's not about money; it's about freedom.

I totally agree.

(Ironically written by me, who wrote proprietary software for a living)