First Coffee for July 22, 2005

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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First Coffee for July 22, 2005

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Steve Taylor’s six-song EP, I Want To Be A Clone:

A couple days ago First CoffeeSM’s mild-mannered reporter alter ego wrote about VTiger, the Indian company selling an Open Source CRM product using SugarCRM as the base. It’s raised interesting questions about the nature of Open Source.

They had announced a subscription model for customer support, with pricing starting at $149 for a single user pack, $699 for a five-user pack, $1,299 for a ten-user pack, $2,999 for a 25-user pack, $4,995 for a 50-user pack, and $8,995 for a 100-user pack. Customers also have an option of a one-time remote installation fee of $250.

“The software itself is available for free to download and install, with no complex licensing schemes,” says Mani, co-founder of vTiger.

VTiger describes its “mission” as being to “create affordable enterprise IT solutions in CRM, Groupware and other areas.”

Others thought they were pulling a fast one.

VTiger’s wholesale rebranding of SugarCRM as their own product has created “serious dissention within the Open Source ranks,” according to the Casey Software blog. “It appears -- I have NOT done a code audit myself to confirm this -- that they have taken the entire source to SugarCRM and simply rebanded it with their own logos, stylesheet, copyright notices and call it ‘vtiger CRM,’“ the blogger writes.

However, Christiaan Erasmus at LinuxToday writes “Recently vTiger took SugarCRM’s source code, stripped the logos, added an installer and released it as vTiger CRM. I am not a lawyer but it appears to be legal to do this under the SugarCRM Public Licence (SPL), which is an adapted version of the Mozilla Public Licence. vTiger then went further to ensure that they adhere to the SPL by publicly stating that it is based on SugarCRM code and kept the copyright notices intact.”

Yesterday Mani wrote to First CoffeeSM, a pleasant, professional e-mail which is reprinted below:

Thank you very much for covering vtiger PR in TMCnet. First, let me introduce myself. My name is Mani & I am co-founder of vtiger. Since you have covered about vtiger & SugarCRM, I would like to give you some
facts. This will help you understand our side of the story & give you
better understanding of vtiger vision.

1. vtiger was originally forked from SugarCRM with a mission to
contribute to open source. As our first contribution, we gave packaging
for easy installation for SugarCRM as we found the installation is
painful for a wonderful software application.We really found SugarCRM as
one of the great Open Source software application.

2. We gave enough credit to SugarCRM & we even offered to contribute
code to SugarCRM but we have been denied as they looked at us as
competition than contributors. They attacked us in our Forums & at first
it was “legal” threats and then it was the “spirit” of Open Source. But
now you can compare both vtiger & SugarCRM to understand the commitment
& dedication shown to Open Source by each one of us.

3. We forked from there and we added Outlook plugin, Office plugin,
Thunderbird plugin & lot more over SugarCRM Open Source (OS) version.
You can verify this for yourself & you can see that we are 90% different
from SugarCRM. FYI, we used their initial version source code & after that
they changed their licensing.

In the meantime, SugarCRM minimized their contribution in OS version &
started pushing Professional version to customers. They keep OS version
for Marketing & Evaluation & through the OS version they upsell
Professional edition ( that is one reason why they don’t like the
existence of vtiger as we made everything Open Source ). Also, we are in
the process of making vtiger Sugar free soon as already we use only
minimal portion of their code & for which we pay heavy price of
justifying our stands against Sugar.

We value your suggestions. Please feel free to let us know if you see
any moral issues in anything we have done sofar in vtiger. Our intention
is not to steal anyone’s lunch. Our intention is to offer affordable &
credible Open Source software to customers.

Once again thanks for covering our PR in TMCnet. Please feel free to let
me know if you have any comments / suggestions / advice to us. We are
open to correct any mistakes in our part.

Thanks & Regards,

First CoffeeSM isn’t up on the Open Source movement, the ins and outs and codes of chivalry and conduct, but can’t see anything VTiger’s doing that, say, Red Hat or Novell isn’t doing with Linux – give away the actual product, but sell the bells and whistles.

It reminds First CoffeeSM of the business model used to justify selling the Koran in Islamic countries. You don’t sell a Koran, of course, that’s wrong. So you give the Koran away free – and sell the covers.

But First CoffeeSM can’t see anything wrong that VTiger’s doing, although he can see why Sugar CRM’s hacked off even they don’t have a legal (or ethical, really) leg to stand on.

SugarCRM sees a bunch of guys making money off something they didn’t create. Well, that’s Open Source, sorry. If someone sends you the free case of beer count yourself lucky.  The way Mani’s explained it – we’ll wait for a rebuttal from the SugarCRM people – he has done nothing wrong, just been sharp about how he used a free product.

Anybody more up on the mores of Open Source is free to chime in.

If read off-site hit for the fully-linked version. First CoffeeSM accepts no sponsored content.

Feedback for First Coffee for July 22, 2005


I believe that the core of the problem was that when my post was initially written, there was little attribution to SugarCRM anywhere. I found one place on their site which mentioned "built on SugarCRM", but that was it.

The thing that concerned me more than anything was the fact that ALL the copyright notices were gone. According to the SPL - like most of the Open Source Licenses - the proper attributions must stay intact and the licensing terms cannot be changed without the approval of all contributors. It appeared that neither of these was being respected.

I believe that the copyright notices have returned and I consider this a significant improvement of the situation.

Dear KC,

This is Mani from vtiger.

I guess you have a mis understanding about vtiger. The general content on our site is not changed much ( the layout has changed a lot ). From day 1, we have given due credit to SugarCRM. You can verify this through

In our very first post in vtiger forums, we mentioned "We have built this initial version on top of SugarCRM".

KC comment
The thing that concerned me more than anything was the fact that ALL the copyright notices were gone.
This is also not correct. We have missed the copyright notice in just 1 file ( & not in ALL files ) & we corrected it immediately after pointed out in August 2004. The agreement itself gives time to correct such mistakes & we corrected our mistake within 24 hours. Please understand that missing in just 1 file was a mistake & not an intention.

You have posted your blog "Open Source Trials & Travails" on 14th Jan 2005. But we corrected that 1 file copyright issue before end of August 2004. You can check the below FORUM post in for proof. That is the reason why I have asked you to check out the facts in my response to your post.

FYI, we have no intention to hide the fact that vtiger is based on SugarCRM. SugarCRM initial licensing allowed us to do packaging & we only did that with a good intention of making the installation easier for SugarCRM.

Hope I am clear. Please feel free to correct me if I have misunderstood something.


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