From what I understand, Markham completely rewrote it (in which case it wouldn't be covered) and people accused him of just using the original source without viable proof, and that's what caused the whole meltdown. Better without proof of wrongdoing to leave it in the past.
IIRC the problem came down to the fact Markham had rewritten (or written) about 90% of the current version(s) code and was annoyed that other developers (far less ethical) had appropriated the original codebase - plus his
own rather significant contributions - and were selling it as their
own closed-source commercial
Because he was quite understandably angered by this, he asked why he should be subject to the rules of the GPL - when others didn't seem to be.
When he went to assert a GPL violation however, he discovered that only the original programmer
who licensed the project under the GPL could appeal to the OSF for intervention and assistance. And Markham was unsuccessful, despite exerting a great deal of personal effort, to contact the original programmer Eric Wong.
Being now caught in a no-win situation, Markham next announced he would just re-write that last 10% of original code so that it was now all
his own work. And further, that the resulting app would be released - and sold - as your usual closed-source commercially licensed program.
That's when the tomatoes hit the fan.
There was the argument that since Markham had done work on a GPLed project,
both the original code, and all his subsequent contributions
, were bound by the rules of GPL. And that all his coding contributions - up to that point
- would still
need to remain open-sourced and under GPL regardless
of what he decided to do subsequently. Because once something is released under GPL, that license specifically disallows any attempts to rescind or "un-GPL' something.
GPL is a "one-way" street. Once code is GPLed - it's GPLed forever. Otherwise there's nothing to stop an unscrupulous developer from benefiting from the open-source movement - then taking all the free contributions of others - and running off with them. Or even worse, to code something which becomes an established standard app (e.g. MySQL, Apache, GCC, etc.), and then pull the rug out from under all the users by suddenly declaring they now have to license it commercially, and pay whatever the developer decides to charge, if they want to continue using it.
The important thing to understand here is that the GPL is primarily designed to protect the user
the developer - although it does
do that to a lesser extent as well.
In Markham's case, it was true that (strictly speaking) everything he had done up to that point needed to remain available as open-source and under GPL. However, here's where what angered him
about what others were doing now worked to his
advantage. Only the original coder who released the original app under the GPL could assert a claim against Mr. Markham.
Was Markham ethically bound?
Yes he was.
Would anything happen if he didn't abide by the rules of GPL?
. Not unless Eric Wong reappeared from wherever he vanished to and filed a complaint with the OSF
But there was an escape hatch. And AFAIK that's the one Markham took. Because while he couldn't un-GPL what was done, neither was he was under any obligation to support CircleDock - or make its source code available at his own expense. He could simply dump and abandon it on GitHub or SourceForge and walk away. And he was also under no
obligation to provide an executable
. GPL says that only the source code
needs to remain open and free to use. It does not say you must also provide a finished and ready to install program or binary. And my understanding is that dumping and walking away is exactly what Markham did.
Then he went off to do a commercial version of his own, which included rewriting that last bit of original code, so that all the code he was now using in his commercial app was completely his own work.
I'm pretty much on Markham's side if he did in fact do the dump and abandon route. If he didn't, I don't feel it's my place (as someone who didn't contribute any code) to comment one way or the other. That's Eric Wong's prerogative. Not mine.
Sorry to dredge this all up again. But I think it's important to not have people get the wrong impression of what went down. And although I'm possibly the biggest F/OSS advocate and cheerleader here at DoCo, I get no pleasure seeing somebody walk away who feels (correctly or incorrectly) that they've just been screwed over royally by the GPL. Because, with something like the F/OSS movement - which is entirely dependent on trust and goodwill to accomplish its goals - hard feelings can't benefit anybody.