Facebook buckles under pressure over hated React license

The popular JavaScript UI library’s BSD + Patent license will be replaced with the friendlier MIT license—but only if developers update their React code

Facebook buckles under pressure over hated React license

Under pressure from organizations such as the Apache Software Foundation, Facebook is changing the licensing of its open source React JavaScript UI library to one considered less risky for developers.

Beginning with next week’s React 16 release, React will be licensed under the MIT open source license. A point release of React 15 also will be offered next week based on the MIT license.

That change in license removes a controversial term in the BSD + Patents license that Facebook had been using for React. The BSD + Patent license stipulates that anyone using software released under it loses the license if they sue Facebook for patent infringement.

Why Apache and others decried React’s use of the BSD + Patent license

That term was intended to reduce the chances of “meritless” litigation against users of React-containing software written under the license, Facebook said. But Apache added the BSD + Patent license to a list of licenses that were contrary to its policies, effectively banning the use of React in Apache projects. Apache said the BSD + Patent license made Apache software less of a “universal donor” to downstream projects, which is unacceptable.

Automatic, which produces the WordPress web content management system, also objected to Facebook’s BSD + Patent license, calling the patents clause confusing and threatening.

Node.js technology vendor NodeSource also was concerned about the BSD + Patents license. “The issue is web developers are not IP attorneys and the patent clause associated with the React license is not compatible with copyleft licenses,” said NodeSource CEO Joe McCann.

Facebook’s decision to change the license comes after “several weeks of disappointment and uncertainty for our community,” said Adam Wolff, a Facebook engineering director “Although Facebook still believe its BSD + Patents license provides some benefits to users of its projects, we acknowledge that we failed to decisively convince this community.”

How developers can get out of React’s BSD + Patents license

Developers do need to update any existing React components to version 16 or the forthcoming point release of React 15 to have the MIT license apply. Otherwise, the BSD + Patents license still applies.

Several other Facebook JavaScript projects offered under the BSD + Patents license also will be changed to use the MIT license, including the Flow type checker, the Jest test tool, and Immutable.js, which provides persistent data collections. Facebook will evaluate the licenses for its other projects still under the BSD + Patents license.

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