Those are my ToS, and if you don’t like them…well I have others.


In my last post I stated that I am not afraid of technical challenges, but that I had made a mistake about the community challenge involved in launching a tool as biicode. I’ve been a C and C++ developer for years, I have released some projects as open source, collaborated in industrial projects and met many other developers, I’ve taught those languages thousands of hours and organized many activities as robotic contests programmed in such languages. So I thought that belonging to that community implied fully understanding such community. It was a big mistake.

Biicode's new ToS

When adding functionality is your main focus

A few days ago, there was a small flame in reddit, as a result of someone posting there our call for beta testers posted in CodeProject. Some redditors were harshly criticizing biicode’s Terms of Service (ToS).

They might have had a rude tone, but the truth is that they were pointing out real problems on our ToS. They were written in summer 2013, long before our first version was released. Many things have changed since then, our vision about our tools, workflows and value proposition have changed largely. In our 1.0 release last July we incorporated anonymous usage, you can download and use the client side tools for reading and retrieving code without having to register at all. We have also flattened (to text files) all biicode’s meta-information so it is easier to integrate with other tools as VCS and services as GitHub. We are improving every week, and biicode is becoming amazing.

But we didn’t pay much attention to our old ToS. They would cost us more time (which is very scarce due to our users’ many feature requests), and would also cost more money (the ToS have to be reviewed by lawyers, and they have the bad habit of billing us). So, after all, we were centered on creating the functionality and didn’t think deeply enough about the possible concerns the ToS could create in the community.

So when we read things like: “you authorize biicode to use, update, adapt, transform, enhance or modify in any way the code stored on the platform” we realized that it is not clear at all, in the sense that it can be understood as if biicode could violate the current licence or remove it. And we have not, the rights to do so by any means. If the user code has a licence, everybody, including ourselves, must comply with that licence, and removing it is a law infringement. We immediately started to review the ToS and will change them ASAP so they become clear about the user rights and our real intentions, not only in this issue, but as deeply as necessary.

What our ToS really persue

It happens that when you build a start-up, you still feel like a colleague developer and you don’t realize that you are running a business, and people might see you as such, even though you are the same developer. And it is OK. The key point here is how you communicate your alignment with the community as a business.

Some people don’t understand that we propose to have the right to retain a copy of the code uploaded to biicode, even if the author (free account) wants to delete it. The only purpose of this is to make sure that the projects that depend on such code, won’t break. Successful examples of a similar approach can be: Github, that allows to easily fork a repo (that cannot be deleted by the original author) or MavenCentral which does not allow to delete uploaded artifacts.

These mechanisms are very important for the community as a whole to keep rolling and not breaking thousands of builds or projects in an arbitrary way.

I am ready to change our ToS, and will soon do it to address the issues mentioned above. So as the great Groucho Marx said once, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well I have others”. I will change our ToS to anything that really benefits our community. But I need to know first where your heart relies on.

Should biicode have the right to keep a copy of uploaded code?

As in all other aspects, you’ve got to walk in the shoes of both users: the one that uploads code and the one that depends on other’s code. They might even be the same person.

Post a comment, tell us what you think.

[UPDATE 16/04/2015]: The ToS have been updated, click here.

Stay tuned

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  • Javier V

    Well, why not to keep a copy? As long as the license allows it nobody can complain. As you pointed out it is the same for github forks. One option to easily address this is to allow to upload code only under specific licenses. Or to include CC-By-SA-NC to all the uploads to users will know that their license is not modified and the code is not used with commercial purposes.

    • Diego

      Yes, I think all SW open-source licences allow copying and distribution, so I see no problem at all with biicode making a copy of the code, of course, keeping the original licence. The debate here could be which is the best “fallback” license, that will be implicitely used if no other license is explicitely added. You say that it could be a CreativeCommons one. Why not something equivalent to a more permissive one as MIT? I think it could be the best for the community.

      • Javier V

        If no other license is explicitely added, why there should be a license? However, I see also no problem on assigning by default a MIT license, for instance.

        I said CreativeCommons because it is easy to understand and its terms are very clear. However, even people from CC discourage the usage of CC as a software license.

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