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Nexus OSS switched to the Eclipse Public License: A Clarification and an Observation

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While I was discussing a particularly tricky Nexus configuration issue with a power user of Nexus last week I suggested that he write and ship a custom plugin with Nexus OSS. His response, “I’m not going to modify Nexus, it is covered under the AGPL?” Before I corrected him to tell him that Nexus 2.0 switched back to the Eclipse Public License back in February I tried to find out what the AGPL meant to this developer. The results were interesting, but before I get into that reaction, I’d like to take this time to make an unmistakable statement for those of you who missed the switch:

Nexus OSS is covered by the Eclipse Public License Version 1.0

Any questions? I was going to try to use the “blink” tag, but I was told that might be overkill. Basic clarification here is that Nexus OSS has nothing to do with the AGPL. If someone tells you that, point them at the 36 point, red letter announcement in this blog post.

Still not convinced? Take a look at the NOTICE.txt file in the Nexus OSS distribution you just downloaded. You’ll see the following statement:

This program and the accompanying materials are made available under the terms of the Eclipse Public License Version 1.0, which accompanies this distribution and is available at http://www.eclipse.org/legal/epl-v10.html.

If you are looking for more proof, here is an excerpt from Jason’s interview with InfoQ in February:

InfoQ: You recently announced that the upcoming Nexus repository would be licensed under the EPL-1.0 rather than the AGPLv3. What prompted the change of license?

Jason van Zyl: We find that the community is not receptive to the use of the AGPL in general, and we’ve had a few cases with potential contributors unwilling to publicly release their Nexus plugins because of the AGPL. The AGPL is a fairly aggressive license and just hasn’t been around as long as other well known licenses like the EPL. The AGPL tends to make lawyers wary and we don’t want to hinder adoption because of legal concerns. To date we have only had a small handful of plugins contributed to the Nexus project and we hope to encourage more participation from the community and expand the plugin ecosystem by adopting the EPL.

Why was he under this impression? This somewhat problematic comparison matrix had incorrect information until this morning, and I don’t think we made a big deal about the license switch for Nexus 2.0 to the Eclipse Public License Version 1.0 during our launch of the Nexus 2.0 features in February. We were focused on the compelling features we released with Nexus 2.0, but this license switch is a big deal.

After I corrected him, we started talking about what the AGPL really means. He took five minutes to tell me what his corporate lawyers had told him, and I took an equivalent amount of time to tell him what I had heard. The only thing we could agree on about the AGPL was that two different legal professionals had conflicting interpretations of the license with his expressing concern that the AGPL hadn’t been tested in a court. I understood his concerns, and skipped the rest of the conversation, “Well it doesn’t matter, because Nexus OSS is covered by the same license that covers the Eclipse IDE.”

Published at DZone with permission of Tim O'brien, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Erwin Mueller replied on Thu, 2012/07/05 - 2:56am

The AGPL is like the same as the GPL, only with the extension that if you publish the software as a service on a server, you have to offer the source as well. That is just the same as with the GPL, if you publish the software to others, you have to offer the source as well.

But of course, just as with the GPL, if you are using the software only for yourself, you do not have to publish the source to anyone.

So if Nexus would have been AGPL, then someone can take Nexus and either deploy it only internal, then no source code has to be publish. But if someone takes Nexus and builds his own service (a competing service) then he has to offer the source code, and you could take the improvements and make Nexus better.

As I understand the EPL corrently, it's similar to the GPL, that any derivative work needs to publish the code. I think the difference is that plugins do not have to be under the EPL whereas with the AGPL/GPL a plugin has to be under the AGPL/GPL, too.

If I were a Nexus developer, I would liked the AGPL, because then the people that take Nexus have an obligation to improve Nexus. It's like with the Linux kernel, where a commercial user have the obligation to improve the kernel. Also, I don't see any good if someone builds commercial plugins around Nexus and do not makes them available to Nexus as open source.

Maybe in the short run it will help Nexus, so that more plugins are available. But in the long run it will hurt it, because then the Nexus will become limited and only useful with commercial non-open source plugins.

I think Nexus is more used internally, for maven artifacts. If used internally, there is no difference if Nexus is licensed under the EPL, GPL or AGPL. The open source licences are only applied if the software is redistributed/published. I think most people do not understand that concept. An EULA is applied to you if you are using the software. But an open source license is only applied to you if you are redistribute/publish the software to others. That is, you do not have to agree to the EPL/GPL/AGPL to use the software.

See gpl-2.0.txt

Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope. The act of running the Program is not restricted, [...]

Also, I do not believe that the GPL (or AGPL) is hurting any adoption. There are lots and lots GPL licensed software that is pretty successfull commercially. For example, Wordpress is licensed under the GPL. Also Drupal, Joomla.

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