New Open Source Licenses

In mid-July, the PolyForm project appeared. Its authors are developing new types of licenses for open source software. We tell you why they are needed and which company has already used them.

Photos - Patrick Tomasso - Unsplash


If an open source project has become successful and has become famous in the IT community, it is logical to assume that they will want to commercialize it in one form or another. For example, a large number of paid services built on the basis of Hadoop or Spark. This situation leaves developers of original products out of work in terms of revenue sharing. Many of them express their disagreement, although they cannot claim anything even in court cases, since initially they themselves decided to bring the project under an open source license.

Over the past few years, such cases have become noticeably more, and the atmosphere of the open source community has become heated. To “smooth the corners”, some developers decided to switch to new types of open licenses, and large IT companies began to meet them - they were more willing to take products that provide payments to developers under their wing.

We went to Redis along this path - they developed their Redis Source Available License ( RSAL ). The most popular database modules companies can use only for money. We talked about the story with Redis licensing here and here .

Late last year, MongoDB also released a restrictive software license, the Server Side Public License (SSPL). Any company that builds its services on the basis of this DBMS must acquire a commercial license or open the source code of a modified product.

On the other hand, the path with rewriting licenses is suitable only for those open source companies that have long existed in the market and have a demand for their developments. It is unprofitable for young projects to write a restrictive license from scratch, since it is not known whether the product will be of interest to anyone. However, it is possible to foresee this scenario in order to obtain material benefits if someone nevertheless wants to commercialize the solution.

In July, the PolyForm initiative appeared - its authors offer their own edition of licenses for open source projects - depending on the goals the author pursues.

What kind of licenses

They were written by a team of specialists led by Heather Meeker, an open source licensing lawyer. By the way, it was she who helped MongoDB develop the Server Side Public License. So far, there are five licenses in the PolyForm pool:

Photos - Tim Mossholder - Unsplash

PolyForm authors say new licenses will give open source developers more control over how their products are used. All changes in the text of the documents, as well as the latest PolyForm news, can be found in the organization's mailing list .

Who is already using

One of the PolyForm licenses has a first user. It became the American startup YugaByte, which is developing the database of the same name - YugaByte DB. Their product consists of two parts: the database management system itself and the analytical tool for it.

YugaByte DB is open source software ( GitHub ), which is licensed under the Apache 2.0 license. Companies are free to use this DBMS, build their applications on its basis and commercialize them.

As for the analytical tool, it is licensed under the PolyForm Free Trial. This utility offers several unique functions for working with YugaByte DB and is a paid service. However, the PolyForm license allows you to learn all the functions of the product (and start building other services on its basis) for a month. The developers hope that the additional service will help to actively sell the subscription. If not, then companies will be able to work with the YugaByte DBMS for free, but without additional analytics.

The authors of the project say that they managed to interest a lot of companies, so the practice of applying such licenses is already in full swing. Let's see if it will be mass.

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