Another Licence Change - Elastic Search

Don’t know if anyone else mentioned it, but the Free/Open Source community has been raging about a licence change by Elastic Search from Apache-2.0 to a dual licence SSPL / Elastic Licence

More details to be had in their announcement or in this lengthy twitter thread by a founder.

Essentially seems to follow a pattern noted here before - company offering SAAS doesn’t want its lunch eaten by FAANG offering the same SAAS.


Lengthy @kemitchell post:

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Amazon is a bad actor and Elastic has chosen a license forcing them to contribute back instead of allowing them to keep an entire cloud stack closed source.

Roughly — Parity License-like terms of enforced AGPL-like “share all the bits you use to offer this as a cloud service should you wish to compete”.

(That’s a lot of hand waving of -like)


Oh, I both agree with your analysis and with Elastic, motivation and solution.

I hadn’t noted than Kyle had a post about the issue, so apologies for the duplication of effort. Unhappily, such reasoned analysis is somewhat lacking in most of the internet responses (the thread on “hacker” “news” is up to 650 posts!)


They’ve done some things I definitely wouldn’t have. But I don’t put Amazon in any special moral category. I see it more as a difference of extent—Amazon is bigger, richer, and more diverse—than of kind.

I’m less familiar with the sins of Elastic and Mongo. But I haven’t put them up for sainthood, either. As honest as I think Mongo was about SSPL overall, they made it a lot worse for themselves than they could have.

Black / white statements are simpler :wink:

Amazon talks up a big OSS game when the vast majority of their open source is… SDKs for different programming languages that all connect to their proprietary core offerings.

And yes, corporations are not saints and mostly only listen to legal approaches.

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No duplication! Thank you for kicking off the discussion and adding the tweetstorm link, and signing up to participate!

I just posted the link to Kyle’s article because he hadn’t kicked off a thread yet.

I’m still digesting it because Kyle’s posts are mostly hard to do hot takes on :wink:

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Hot Take: They’re all too long!

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This is kind of like a damn breaking. There continue to be good and nuanced posts on this:

Whole thread is great, this accurately voices my thoughts.

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Who is this person? I have never seen this before.

Is there really much nuance? At the end of the day, a business has chosen to offer goods and services under new terms, in this case the SSPL.

The main argument against the SSPL seems to be that it’s not OSI-approved. I’ve read through some of the mess on the OSI’s license-review mailing list, and Kyle’s post nicely articulated how the SSPL fits within the OSD. At this stage, I wouldn’t trust the OSI’s judgment on anything.

All this fuss is like a form of religious fanaticism. People have rejected independent thought in favour of following a self-appointed higher power.

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It is identical to the FUD I experienced when promoting and advocating for open source software in the 90s and early 2000s which is why it is so frustrating to me.


Don’t know! Wrote about Chef a while back:

He gets tangled up with msw down thread with predictable results.

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This seems very accurate to me. It’s what they’re saying.

Saying that and stopping leaves out why.

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Not sure where to post this… happy to move it if there is a better spot…

I’ve yet to a see any meta license—terms for reuse of a license text—that restricts who can use it, or how. Mitchell, K. 2021

How about this?

Copyright © 2007 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

I wrote them.

They replied.

Paraphrasing, they said it’s because they are worried that someone could completely change the meaning of a clause, maybe by adding a ‘not’ here and still call it the “GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE” and cause some terrifying problems.

I said that would probably be snagged by lawyers keen to litigate for something like ‘passing off’ and/or maybe ‘unfair’/‘misleading’ etc. and so illegal/unenforceable as far as it is possible to go.

Anyway… they also, unambiguously say:

You can legally use the GPL terms (possibly modified) in another license provided that you […] make it clearly different in wording and not mention GNU (though the actual procedure you describe may be similar).

Combined, I would say this is all adds up to a fairly ‘meta’ kind of effort… and the intention and effect seems to me to clearly want to restrict how the license can be used?

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Folks can and do “fork” FSF licenses. SSPL was a “fork” of GPL in this way.

I’ve yet to see a license form made available under a form that, say, required all source code to be made available in the form preferred for making changes, or code compatible with Linux or another free operating system, or software unsuited to military use.

I realize that a few of these terms might be painfully vernacular by now, although most were unfamiliar to me at some point recently, and I hope to slightly future-proof the discussion; I am not providing any links, although if you need greater detail, each definition below should make it unambiguous which search engine results are relevant.

Glossary of Companies, Licences, and Other Acronyms

  • AGPL - Affero General Public Licence; major branch in copyleft compliance, composed for websites and systems fragmented across the Internet
  • Amazon - giant conglomerate providing cloud services; started as a website for buying books, and evolved as a middleman for dropshipping
  • Apache - GPL-compatible open-source licence; named after the webserver library for which it was originally composed
  • FAANG - acronym for referring to a bunch of giant companies, including Amazon
  • Elastic - oligonational company providing various cloud services
  • FSF - Free Software Foundation; you’ve probably heard of this tax-exempt corporation by now!
  • GPL - General Public Licence; backbone of copyleft compliance
  • Mongo - NYC-based company; provides pervasive database library
  • OSI - Open Source Initiative; tax-exempt Californian corporation
  • Parity - copyleft licence authored by a few of this forum’s participants
  • SAAS - software-as-a-service; ill-defined acronym, referring to a broad range of business models without much common denominator beyond not selling hardware
  • SSPL - Server-Side Public Licence; unknown compatibility with the common copyleft licences

This podcast might be of interest.