[License-discuss] Views on React licensing?

Henrik Ingo henrik.ingo at avoinelama.fi
Tue Dec 6 20:33:20 UTC 2016

On Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 8:28 PM, Tzeng, Nigel H. <Nigel.Tzeng at jhuapl.edu> wrote:
> On 12/5/16, 6:55 AM, "License-discuss on behalf of Henrik Ingo"
> <license-discuss-bounces at opensource.org on behalf of
> henrik.ingo at avoinelama.fi> wrote:
>>On Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 6:26 AM, Richard Fontana <fontana at opensource.org>
>>> - is it good practice, and does it affect the open source status of
>>>   software, to supplement OSI-approved licenses with separate patent
>>>   license grants or nonasserts? (This has been done by some other
>>>   companies without significant controversy.)
>>This should of course be discouraged. However, I sympathize with this
>>kind of setup if it is intended to be a proposal for a license that
>>doesn't yet exist. If Facebook a) intends for the combined license to
>>qualify as open source, and b) eventually submit it for OSI approval,
>>then it seems to me this is a natural path towards such a goal.
> React is BSD and therefore already open source.
> As far as I can tell the OSD doesn¹t explicitly address patents.
> Heartache with CC0 wasn¹t based on compliance with the OSD.  Any concerns
> with React likewise.

The question isn't about patents or copyrights. The point is that
taking an OSI approved license and making additions to it by adding a
separate file with additional terms and conditions, results in a
combination which as a whole is not OSI approved open source license.
It is no different from taking the BSD license and making additions to
it within the same file.

Especially in this case, where it is debatable whether the patent
grant adds or removes rights compared to plain BSD. (I appreciate the
patent grant precisely tries to clarify that uncertainty, but even
then the practice of making additions to open source licenses should
be discouraged, and is only ok if the intent is to submit the new
whole as a new license for OSI certification.)

>>> - should Facebook be encouraged to seek OSI approval for the React
>>>   license including the patent license grant?
>>Yes. As far as I can see, the BSD + additional stuff should be a
>>single file and single license, and OSI approved.
> Why not just use Apache?  Because Facebook wants a competitive advantage.
> I don¹t see how Facebook is any more trustworthy than any other
> corporation nor do I see any difference between Oracle, Facebook, Google
> or Microsoft that isn¹t a CEO change away.  Sun was very pro-open source
> until it went out of business and was acquired by Oracle.
> Patent truces favor the big guys and have zero impact on patent trolls.  I
> see little need to "allow terms where those companies actually
> contributing open source software have an equal or even stronger position
> in patent suits² because the level of contributions changes over time,
> sometimes rather quickly.

The React license, when used as a generally approved open source
license, of course wouldn't be written in a way where Facebook gets a
competitive advantage. It would be written in a way where whoever
publishes open source - especially useful and popular open source -
would get the same competitive advantage. In particular, small guys
can enjoy the competitive advantage by making their own small
contributions to the React ecosystem (or any other software project
adopting same license).

Also, since the React license does allow recipients to do counter
suits in your hypothetical case where FB has turned into a patent
aggressor, I just don't see the merits of your argument at all.

> I believe that license terms should be non-discriminatory and range from
> more business-friendly terms to more commons-friendly terms so there is a
> wide range of applicable open source license for all business cases.

I categorize patent grants with wide reaching termination clauses as
commons-friendly. Like I said, my only regret is that there aren't
licenses being used that would be even more wide reaching than this


henrik.ingo at avoinelama.fi
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