Full Disclosure: We’re not exactly big fans of Sangoma® and their stewardship of the Asterisk® and FreePBX® projects. So read our commentary with a grain of salt or two. As we predicted when Sangoma purchased Digium®, the employee exodus has begun. The biggest surprise is that a disturbing number of the departures are from the FreePBX SchmoozeCom operation including two of its founding partners: Tony Lewis, the soon-to-be former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Sangoma, and Brian Walters who has been with Tony forever. Rob Thomas and Philippe Lindheimer, two of the original developers of FreePBX, also have left. Correction: Philippe has simply moved out of the FreePBX dev team. While we haven’t kept close tabs on the Sangoma operation for the past couple years, a little digging uncovered some rumors of other possible departures which, if true, would cripple FreePBX development for all intents and purposes. Then there’s the Digium side of things. Mark Spencer, who founded Digium and Asterisk, left with the Golden Parachute as a result of the Digium sale. But he was followed out the door by Danny Windham, Digium’s former CEO, and David Duffett, who has been the cheerful, public face of Asterisk for many, many years.

In measuring what the future holds, we’ve got a few folks we think you should be watching for the next few months. On the Digium side, the most obvious are some of the old-timers like Matt Jordan and Malcolm Davenport. On the FreePBX side, our radar is focused on two key developers: Luke Duquaine and Andrew Nagy. While nobody is irreplaceable, the complexity of FreePBX and its incredibly steep learning curve would make more departures crippling. You can’t farm out FreePBX development as you would phone manufacturing.

May 18 UPDATE: Matt Jordan is leaving as Digium’s CTO to take a position with Amazon. Andrew Nagy has resigned as the head of Sangoma’s FreePBX development team. His last day was yesterday.

This exodus coupled with some rumored departures got us thinking about the possibility of a fork of both the Asterisk and FreePBX projects. After all, it’s open source GPL software. And loyalty isn’t what it once was in the corporate world. Surely, Sangoma employment contracts had non-compete provisions, right? Probably so. But wait. What about the GPL license that Sangoma issues with each new release of Asterisk and FreePBX? Since we’re talking hypotheticals and while you shouldn’t treat this as a legal opinion, here’s one wrinkle that jumps out. Take a look at these GPL license agreement extracts to which Sangoma is bound:

To protect your rights, we need to prevent others from denying you
these rights or asking you to surrender the rights.

Developers that use the GNU GPL protect your rights with two steps:
(1) assert copyright on the software, and (2) offer you this License
giving you legal permission to copy, distribute and/or modify it.

Each time you convey a covered work, the recipient automatically
receives a license from the original licensors, to run, modify and
propagate that work, subject to this License.

You may not impose any further restrictions on the exercise of the
rights granted or affirmed under this License.

Without doing the legal research, I’d be surprised if there has ever been a case pitting a non-compete contract against a GPL license agreement when both were issued by the same company. Generally the enforcement scope of non-compete agreements turns upon state law and whether the employer gave up a protectable interest such as confidential information. That’s an easy case with existing FreePBX commercial modules, but it would be a difficult argument to make with open source GPL software which, by definition, is clearly not confidential. We’ll just have to see how this plays out. In the meantime, keep your ears peeled, and let us know if you hear of other Sangoma happenings. We’ll be listening, too.

Originally published: Friday, April 26, 2019   Updated: Saturday, May 18, 2019



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  1. This is very interesting.

    Sources tried to warn Sangoma that they had made a mistake and the Schmooze crew… [where to begin]. One could say, this is nothing short of poetic.

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