Last week, Google banned my PHP port of JSMin from Google Code due to a quibble over a line in the license stating that “The Software shall be used for Good, not Evil”, which they believe makes the license non-free. When I asked Google’s Chris DiBona whether all Google Code projects including JSMin would be subject to bans due to this clause in the license, he replied, “Sadly, yes”.
I bring this up not because I have anything against Etherpad or Google Code, and not because I want to start a fight, but because it demonstrates the slipperiness of the slope Google launched themselves down when they banned jsmin-php last week. While I may disagree with their interpretation of the JSMin license as non-free, Google is certainly within their rights to refuse to host it. However, since JSMin is so widely used by so many open source projects, Google now has to choose between banning popular, high profile projects (including their own) or applying their rules selectively and thus promoting a double standard.
So what will it be, Google? Will you remove JSMin from Etherpad, ban Etherpad, or just be—dare I say it—evil and ignore your own rules when they’re inconvenient?
If you need a new host for the Etherpad project, the lovely folks over at GitHub don’t seem to have any problem hosting JSMin.
Update (2009-12-18): Chris clarifies: “As a side note, it’s not a matter of violating the terms of service, which don’t mention specific licenses, it is against our practices, though.” I’ve updated the title of this post accordingly. Chris has also asked the Etherpad maintainers to remove JSMin, which seems to indicate that Google is going to do the right thing and follow their own rules. Admirable!
Update 2 (2009-12-18): There are several other Google-sponsored projects that fall afoul of this ban as well: