I know that the JED made it a requirement that all software extensions that are listed on the JED are GPL.

There is a 'workaround' that subverts GPL by not 'distributing' the code (i.e. offering your code only as SaaS).

Theoretically, it may be possible to distribute a GPL client that will only work with a specific server - and of course, if you made that client dependent on software on the server that was SaaS only and propriety, that would effectively subvert the 4 freedoms of GPL.

So my question is - is this type of 'workaround' of the GPL permitted on the JED?

  • I would avoid using the reference to the "JED" because in this context they are simply one service provider among many and comply with service provider rules is a little out of scope. Your question is actually something like does the GPL have an influence over third-party API's (for example, RESTful web services, SOAP, etc) I can use. May 8, 2014 at 5:12
  • This question has been flagged as potentially off topic. Please contribute thoughts on whether you think that this question is a good fit for this site or not here: meta.joomla.stackexchange.com/questions/111/… May 8, 2014 at 6:29
  • Chad's answer has been confirmed by a JED Manager. @Valentin - can you kindly clarify which part of the question or answer you feel is 'opinion-based'? That would allow for an appropriate edit.
    – NivF007
    May 11, 2014 at 4:04
  • I'm not sure how a question with a YES/NO answer, one which has been provided and confirmed by the JED Manager as accurate can be closed as 'opinion-based.'
    – NivF007
    May 17, 2014 at 3:19

2 Answers 2


I would say technically yes, it's permitted. Watchful is a proprietary SaaS service which is run via a GPL client which is on the JED: (http://extensions.joomla.org/extensions/access-a-security/site-security/site-monitoring/22225). So based on the fact there are current extensions approved I would say it's permitted.

That said, i did a little reading on the topic and I found this post by Tim O'Reilly. I tend to agree with this point he makes:

... free software license requirements to release source code are all triggered by the act of distribution, and that web applications, which are not actually “distributed,” are therefore not bound by these licenses.

Because SaaS doesn't "technically" involve the distribution ("conveyance") of source-code, SaaS extensions do not violate the JED rules.

  • Can you show an example where the JED doesn't enforce this equally? IMO the JED already has a few too restrictive rules about listing on their site (i.e. All extensions on a site must be GPL if the site is linked from JED), it would hurt the marketplace if we took another step and required all code associated with an extension, even if GPL terms don't apply to it like a SaaS platform such as Watchful be GPL'd and open source too. And FWIW, their client was JED listed prior to said individual assuming his role with OSM.
    – Michael
    May 7, 2014 at 1:35
  • @ Michael 1) It's assumed (at least hoped!) that the JED is 'even-handed' and not giving special privileges to any extension developer due to their positions. Please note I didn't raise the issue or refer to anybody's roles; 2) I don't see any other examples permitted on the JED, but there are 9000 extensions (please point me to another if you can); and 3) The rest is for debate/discussion and more suited to my forum post at forum.joomla.org/viewtopic.php?f=262&t=844735
    – NivF007
    May 7, 2014 at 2:49

Per the JED checklist (http://docs.joomla.org/JED_Entries_License_Checklist), an extension which connects to a non-GPL service may be listed in the JED based on certain conditions. See list C2.3 item 10.

  • "Only if: The non GPL product works independently from Joomla Extension is GPL and created for Joomla Clear statement that the extension requires a non GPL product to work" In this case, the client is installed within Joomla! so it seems that the example provided by Chad above violates the JED rules - yet it's listed. Can you clarify?
    – NivF007
    May 7, 2014 at 2:23
  • No I can't clarify as I'm not an employee of a company affiliated with that product nor do I have access to any code in question but the GPL extension. That specific example aside though, does my answer adequately answer your question with an "official position" which seems to be what the original question is about?
    – Michael
    May 7, 2014 at 2:30
  • I understand your answer per the official position of the JED that extension developers are permitted to list on the JED without fully distributing the source code (i.e. keeping part of the source code integral to to the make extension work out of the hands of the software consumer) so as to effectively prevent the software consumer from the benefit of the four freedoms of open-source.
    – NivF007
    May 7, 2014 at 2:42
  • 1
    Be that your belief, I respect it. My belief is if what they are doing is legal (as in complies with all applicable licenses), then I don't see a concern, but if they are violating the license then it needs to be addressed as such. There are times where it is good to not open source code, like if something in the code could enable unauthorized access to sensitive data.
    – Michael
    May 7, 2014 at 2:54
  • That's a policy position. In the particular example above, there is no 'sensitive data,' and I'm not trying to argue policy decisions on SE, I'm trying to nail down the official position of the JED - the docs appear to say one thing, the listed extension referenced by Chad appears to violate those rules - do you see the confusion and hence the request for clarifications of the JED's official position?
    – NivF007
    May 7, 2014 at 3:12

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