Facebook’s BSD+Patents License and how it affects your company or side-project

TL;DR First let me say I’m not a lawyer and only a lawyer can figure out your situation.

Image found via Google Images at https://img.rt.com/files/2017.01/original/588cfd87c4618899638b45e4.jpg

Update: Facebook is relicensing React, Jest, Flow, and Immutable.js to MIT

There has been large upset about Facebook’s BSD+Patents License this is mostly because the language isn’t very clear. Also, keep in mind that Netflix had their lawyers look at it and they feel there is no issue for them. With that said the License issue has been brought back up due to Apache Software Foundation Legal Affairs Committee announcing

https://issues.apache.org/jira/browse/LEGAL-303?focusedCommentId=16088663&page=com.atlassian.jira.plugin.system.issuetabpanels:comment-tabpanel#comment-16088663

That Facebook’s BSD+Patents License is no longer allowed to be used as a direct dependency in Apache projects. The reason for this is best described by this comment.

I’ll use WordPress as an example. If WordPress adopts React, which they are currently using to build the Gutenberg project which is the planned replacement for the main editor in WordPress, it could have consequences to the entire WordPress ecosystem of commercial WordPress products. Yes, many of these are small businesses. But, many of these have also been acquired by bigger businesses. If WordPress adopts React and that startups product is built on top of WordPress… those bigger businesses could back out of acquisitions because their legal team raises a red flag during due diligence over the React clause.

comment-317143085317143085

If Facebook offers an online streaming service then maybe Netflix will change their stance on the License but right now they don’t see an issue. If you plan to start side-project/company/startup with Facebook’s tech:

from what I found that’s fine so long as you understand the License and have a migration plan if it becomes an issue. The only reason people are saying to “switch off React” is that you just avoid the situation because it’s an unnecessary risk. Here is an overly simplified breakdown that might help.

  • If you don’t plan to have any patents this is not an issue.
  • If you plan to get acquired by a company make sure they also are fine with the License or migrate before they do due diligence.
  • If you’re outside of the US then patent laws don’t even affect you unless you do business in the US.
  • If you do plan to sue Facebook for patent infringement make sure you migrate off of any Facebook’s tech before you do otherwise they can countersue.

Disclaimer

Again I’m not a lawyer and this is just what I found on twitter/articles/etc and the only way to know for sure if this affects your company is to ask your lawyer. Free feel to tweet me at @gdi2290 for more questions or anything else I should include in this article.

Open-source frameworks without a Patents License

Over 75+ popular Open Source projects (6000+ stars and above) from ~35 companies, and concluded that Facebook is an exception within the Open Source space. The only other company using the same license model is Palantir. Most frameworks are MIT which allows you to pretty much do anything you want.

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so

https://opensource.org/licenses/MIT

Angular via MIT (and AngularJS via MIT)

Preact via MIT

Vue.js via MIT

Ember.js via MIT

Resources

Apache Software Foundation Legal Affairs Committee has announced that ‘Facebook BSD+Patents License’ can not be a direct dependency in Apache projects.

Github Issue created to ask React to change their license

Facebook explaining React’s license

Hacker New comment about Facebook’s explaining the license

Hacker News comment on Preact

Legal Notes: What’s the Deal with ReactJS’s Licensing Scheme?

Too Broad Non-assertion Obligations of React License — PATENTS —

Topics of interest

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