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Sangoma Merging Proprietary Code Cripples GPL Module

What some of us feared with Sangoma’s acquisition of Asterisk® and FreePBX® is now coming to pass with the departure of almost the entire previous FreePBX development team. New Sangoma staff are "fixing" outstanding FreePBX software bugs in GPL code by merging in proprietary, non-GPL code. In addition to violating the spirit of the GPL,1 it also has immediate consequences for those using Linux platforms other than CentOS since the proprietary code and Zend Guard won’t run under Debian, Ubuntu, or Raspbian.

This issue first appeared when voicemails were not restored using the new Backup & Restore module for FreePBX 15. The module itself had almost two man-years of programming time invested in it, and the beauty of the module as we have previously noted was that it allowed transparent migration of a FreePBX 13 platform to FreePBX 15. At least that was the theory. Unfortunately, there still are some minor bugs which were reported in several issues on the FreePBX Bug Tracker including this one.

In addressing the identified bug, the Sangoma solution required installation of the commercial SysAdmin module which had two major shortcomings: (1) it required non-GPL code to use the new Backup & Restore module and (2) the Backup & Restore module would no longer run on any platform other than the proprietary RHEL-based FreePBX Distro. Thus, while the Backup & Restore component continues to be advertised as a GPLv3 module, it now is actually commercial because of its SysAdmin dependency.

What’s particularly disappointing about this issue’s resolution is that the voicemail recordings which were not being restored do actually exist in the backup files created by the Backup & Restore module. So the simple bug fix was the addition of a single line of code to restore the data, if any, in the backup:

tar zxvf $BACKUP ./var/spool/asterisk/voicemail -C /

Instead, what was proffered was a hack that forced users to migrate to a commercial platform. Whether intended or not, this sort of monetizing scenario is exactly what we feared when Sangoma acquired Asterisk and FreePBX. We hope you will join us in voicing your concern. This is not the way to be a good steward of an open source project.

Originally published: Monday, September 2, 2019

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  1. One of the major shortcomings of the GPL is that it’s a toothless tiger when it comes to GPL infractions by the actual copyright holder of the code. There is no enforcement mechanism when the copyright owner himself breaches the terms of the GPL. []


  1. Today, Sangoma has released a new version of the backup/restore module (.55) that does not require the commercial modules. I have tried it and it mostly works except that I have a large CDR file and the module timed out trying to restore it. I have submitted additional information to them regarding that issue.

    Also, after restoral, the admin passwords do not match so Asterisk does not correctly restart. This is a known difference between FreePBX and IncrdiblePBX passwords on the database.

    Progress is, at least, being made.

  2. Hey Ward,

    Sorry to hear you guys ran into an issue related to Backup and Restore being dependent on a the commercial module SysAdmin. I think that was unintentional, and I believe we have that dependency removed now (in the above linked bug on the issue tracker).

    Best wishes,

    Matthew Fredrickson

  3. nice. 2 days and resolved. such responsiveness to the open source community – way to go team Sangoma !

    [WM: Gotta love Sangoma employees that post back-slappin’ attaboys when not a single person has even tested the new code. Not only does it blow up whenever it’s run (see below), but even after manually fixing that bug, it (still) doesn’t restore voicemail data and settings from the backup. Way to go team Sangoma.]

    Backup extracted to /tmp/backup/fbcb7460-44db-4626-a727-b4b868c9184d. These files will remain until a new restore is run or until cleaned manually.
    Loading manifest to memory
    Loading astdb to memory
    Parsing out SQL tables. This may take a moment depending on backup size.
    Found 2 database files in the backup.
    File named: /tmp/backup/fbcb7460-44db-4626-a727-b4b868c9184d/mysql-2.sql.gz
    Detected file /tmp/backup/fbcb7460-44db-4626-a727-b4b868c9184d/mysql-2.sql.gz as the PBX (Asterisk) database. Attempting restore
    Extracting supplied database file mysql-2.sql.gz
    Loading supplied database file mysql-2.sql
    SQLSTATE[HY000]: General error: 1 near "COMMENT": syntax error

  4. I have a small veterinary business. Currently we’re using 3 seats of VoIP from RingCentral. I was just looking around for a new solution that wasn’t as costly and I found this sight and Incredible PBX. I was starting to get very interested in heading in this direction until I saw the latest news about Sangoma taking over.

    Is now a bad time to consider jumping into Incredible, and Raspberry Pi, and I should wait to see if the outcome of the Sangoma takeover ends up successful, as far as Incredible goes, or it effectively destroys its value, and thus its reason for existence?

    Any feedback from you guys would be helpful, thank you.

    [WM: The new 16-15 builds (including 16-15.2 for CentOS coming Sep. 16) should buy you about four years of safety even with Sangoma at the helm. A lot can improve in that time frame.]

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