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Palamida: Rival snitched open-source database

Palamida accuses rival Black Duck of "blatant plagiarism" of a database of open-source projects. Black Duck says it only used a "small slice."

Unfettered sharing is one of the hallmarks and touted virtues of open-source programming, but even companies closely allied to the movement can grow uncomfortable with such liberal principles.

Case in point: Palamida and Black Duck Software, two rivals that offer software and services to help companies ensure open-source and proprietary software aren't inappropriately intermixing.

On Monday, Black Duck announced its Open Source License Resource Center, described as "an online guide of particular interest to companies developing or deploying software that includes code governed by version three of the GNU General Public License (GPL) or Lesser General Public License (LGPL)."

A day later, Palamida cried foul. "After two days of intense investigation, we have confirmed that most of our database has been copied directly--word for word and misspelling for misspelling, with very few original additions to our initial work," said Palamida spokeswoman Melisa LaBancz-Bleasdale, pointing the "blatant plagiarism" finger at Black Duck.

Black Duck on Wednesday acknowledged using some of Palamida's information, but sees things differently.

"We have a spider team that goes out to other sources of information on the Internet (e.g., news, blogs) to collect data. Palamida is only one of many sites that they visit and ultimately the source of only a small slice of data," said Andreas Zink, vice president of engineering, in a statement. Other sources include SourceForge, RubyForge, the Free Software Foundation's Savannah, the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network and FreshMeat, he said.

Palamida has been keeping a running tally of free and open-source programming projects that have shifted from GPLv2 to the new GPLv3, a significant update released earlier this year. The current tally is 940 GPLv3 projects. The database is compiled by Palamida with extensive contributions from outsiders.

"It has always been the aim of Palamida to run our Resource Site like an open-source project--encouraging collaboration, edits, transparency and commentary--so we understand that our data has always been free for redistribution. However, we did not anticipate the entirety of our database being re-copied and re-packaged as original information without appropriately referencing Palamida as the source," LaBancz-Bleasdale said.

Black Duck disagreed with some of Palamida's data, though. "Our spiders continuously review and validate our data. Based on this research, we decided not to publish at least 40 projects from Palamida's site since we did not agree with their assessment. Some examples include Wine is Not an Emulator, GNU Common Lisp, GNU gv and Zhu3D," Zink said.

Because of Black Duck's move, Palamida is changing the terms of use of the database so it's governed by a Creative Commons license, the company said.

It didn't specify which license, but many Creative Commons licenses permit others to use and modify content as long as they give credit to the original author.

"We are disappointed to have to add any sort of copyright but have chosen an open-source license in hopes of continuing the spirit of the resource," LaBancz-Bleasdale said.