Hacker News new | more | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The Commons Clause is an existential threat to open source (drewdevault.com)
349 points by Sir_Cmpwn 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 238 comments



Regardless of whether or not it is harmful to open source, I find the choice to use two words beginning with C (thus CC as an acronym) flawed, as that abbreviation is typically used to refer to Creative Commons, and Commons Clause and Creative Commons sound quite similar too since they both use the word Commons.

I would hope this was not an intentional choice to sow confusion.

Edit: obvious spelling error :)


Between the name, the abbreviation, and the suggested usage of "Apache + Commons Clause" for a proprietary offering, this "Commons Clause" project has severe problems with deceptive messaging.

If it was unintentional it was incredibly foolish; if it was deliberate....

Either way it should be junked.


The plus sign suggests an additional right, as a dual license would offer, instead, it removes rights from the Apache license. I don't think that's an accident because judging from the website, this seems to be a very serious attempt to put a positive spin on "look but don't touch" style proprietary licensing schemes. Fuck this.


In other words, it is no longer Apache license and it is NOT ALLOWED to use Apache Software Foundation trademark Apache.

Call it Indian license or what not.

This is unlike GPL which allows the use of the name as long as the clauses are not restrictive.


> Call it Indian license or what not.

Come on, really? I'm sure you could have picked a less offensive example than "Indian license".


how can extra clauses not be restrictive? I mean, if they don't add new restrictions, what do they do?


Remove restrictions? For example, the BSD license requires attribution, so you could have an extra clause that basically says "attribution is not required anywhere".


I guess a clause could specify exemptions to previous clauses.


Exactly. This used to be quite common, see for example https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPL_linking_exception


Apache + Commons...Apache Commons...how confusing can you be?

https://commons.apache.org/


Tiny note: "sew confusion" is a malapropism; "sow confusion" is the canonical expression.


Thanks! I knew something didn't look right, but apparently hadn't had enough sleep or caffeine to figure it out.


I agree. I think this is my biggest objection with it. Aside from that attempt to hijack mindshare (consumer protection and trademarks anyone?) I couldn't care less about the license. Proprietary licenses are a dime a dozen.


I agree it is confusing. However, there are Creative Commons licenses which do restrict resale of the licensed work (in the same way that this clause restricts resale of the licensed software).

In my mind, this fact somewhat diminishes the scale of the deception.


yes, I assumed they were related.


And since Creative Commons have a non-commerical licence, which is similar in aim to this. Plenty understand that as "CC-NC"


I am sure it is intentional


Another problematic aspect of this is that to me the Redis situation seems like a corporate grab of open source software after the fact.

By that I mean, Redis Labs are not the creators of Redis. They are a consulting agency that then hired the creator of Redis. In other words, they only exist because the original Redis was not Commons Clause. Now they want to build a moat so others can't do what they did.

Not a good precedent.


"Now they want to build a moat so others can't do what they did."

Do you mean to say "can't use their stuff for free, but can do what they did if they want", i.e. a moat to absolutely prevent others from stuff is usually in IP etc. whereas restrictive licensing means you need to 'write it yourself' if you want it.

Despite the conflation of early Redis and the corporate Redis - almost all commercial projects that use Open Source are the same thing really. ABC Corp. uses Open Source XYZ to make software and protects their addtions. It just so happens that in this case, it's Redis going into a commercial version of Redis, not Redis going into CAD software or something.


It's not like this is exactly new, either. See MySQL, for example.


> corporate grab of open source software

Well then fork them. I mean it.

‘Licenses applied to previous versions cannot be revoked’ - https://commonsclause.com

My understanding (IANAL), is that only new code can be subjected to new conditions/licenses. Old code can still be used under the old license.


Developer and volunteer time and attention is a finite resource though. Effort that was spent on open software that's now spent on proprietary software is less effort being spent on open source. Furthermore if you're now expending effort to fork something - in this case possibly many things - thats effort you're not spending on what used to be your higher priorities.

Yes forking might in some cases be the only option, but it's not easy and it's not cost-free especially when the code is still available 'for free' (warning: many actual freedoms not included).


Nothing is free. There is no entitlement to benefiting from someone else's investment in software. I don't see why future Redis development or whatever can't be taken proprietary.

Yes, you could make a license that precludes it, but if you insist on copyright assignment then you'll always get the right to re-license anyways.


I understand nothing is free. Creators and owners can license their software however they please. Their freedom to do so is not what is under discussion here. The vast majority of the code I’ve ever written was proprietary, but I’m very proud of the roughly 10k lines that is open source. We’re just having a debate about pros, cons and possible consequences, which I think is perfectly reasonable and legitimate.


It might be worth collectively paying someone else to do it.


Precedent? This precedent has been set long ago. E.g., Microsoft (for one example) used BSD code in Windows in a proprietary way. There aren't very many prominent cases like this because software is hard to monetize, whether it be open source or proprietary.

I don't see the problem with proprietary forks of open source whose license allows it, and when it's the original creator who pulls it off then I say good for them. When I choose to use BSD or MIT licensing, I do it because a) I don't expect to monetize that code, b) I don't mind if someone else figures out a way to monetize that code -- this is a willful, eyes-wide-open choice on my part. I wouldn't recommend always using any one license; instead I recommend picking a license for each codebase according to whether you want to allow third parties to monetize or whether you want to prevent proprietary forks. There is no one-size-fits all license.


Fake news, according to the man himself: http://antirez.com/news/120

The whole thing is evidently not about Redis, but modules that were developed by Redis Labs.


People need to stop using the term "fake news" it is more a meme at this point than constructive English.

Even reading that statement and assuming the best intentions I can see why people would be upset/concerned. Redis has gone from Open Source to "Open Core" with some of the best modules now essentially paid for.


> People need to stop using the term "fake news" it is more a meme at this point than constructive English.

Just yesterday the most powerful politician from my country (a EU and NATO member) said during a live interview on prime-time TV that George Soros had sent 4 men in order to assassinate him last year (spoiler alert: they didn't succeed, even though they had been checked-in at the local Hilton hotel). His right-hand man had an interview the day before that saying that the KGB (yes, the Russian KGB) had tried to recruit him (spoiler alert: apparently the Russians didn't succeed). All I want to say is that "fake news" is indeed a live and active concept, just trying to hide it under the rug won't bring back the former, saner times.


I think you miss the point .

Call a lie a lie, and don't trivialize it with the cute meme of the day.


> cute meme of the day.

I don't think I'm missing anything, I'm afraid "fake news" is here to stay, is what propaganda was back in the 1920s and '30s. Calling it a "lie" means that the person saying the lie and those "receiving" it would change their views once the lie is "exposed", but under the current media and political climate I'm afraid that won't happen anymore, i.e. people will keep believing the "fake news" no matter if it would get "exposed" or not.


But that's not "fake news." That's a politician lying. No journalists were involved. And there were no former, saner times when politicians did not lie.


Both journalists who took those interviews were definitely involved, as in they didn't call out the bullsh*t.


Seems like a good case study in poor communication then. It doesn't excuse people spreading misinformation without a decent attempt to ascertain the facts, but it seems Redis Labs mainly have themselves to blame. Their page [0] starts out: "Initiated by a coalition of top infrastructure software companies to protect their rights...". So they're trying to make it sound like a Big Deal, and beyond just for Redis. Then later we hear 'oh it's just relicensing a couple of non-core modules, what are you all carrying on about?' Even now it's not clear to me (not being particularly familiar with Redis) what direction things are changing in.

shakes head

Edit: Oh, and the confusing name. Why is it called "Commons Clause"?

[0] https://redislabs.com/community/commons-clause/


> Oh, and the confusing name. Why is it called "Commons Clause"?

Exactly. What is in effect crossing the boundary between open source and shared source (as Microsoft called the first source release of the .Netruntime) is made to sound like an afterthought. So, instead of AGPL (widely recognized as off-limits for corporate users), you could claim it's "Apache plus Commons Clause" which sounds nice as long as you squint really hard.

It's ok to put software under a BSD-inspired or Apache-inspired noncommercial-only license - in fact plenty of people are doing this already - but it's disingenuous to use the name of the open source license you took inspiration from in the hope to profit from the open source halo for non-open-source software.


That presumes that functionality of Redis is not subsequently moved into modules, and that new functionality is not only done in modules.

The current development path does seem to favor modules - a slim core with the functionality added as modules.


Reminds me of Databricks, the company founded by the Apache Spark creators. More and more of what they do is fully proprietary and at least one their previously OSS module is now proprietary (Redshift integration). They also boast of how much faster their cloud offering (running on top of AWS) is than other Spark cloud versions (running on top of AWS) which makes me suspect there's performance improvements that they're not open sourcing.


Since Spark is a project at Apache, though, if someone wants to contribute a Redshift integration module to Spark, no one cannot stop them.

Projects at the ASF are governed by a Project Management Committee drawn from the wider community -- not a single company, not a steering committee where seats are bought.

The ASF is a 501(c)(3) charity, which means that monetary contributions are tax-deductible and therefore very limited in what they can be used for. The ASF cannot unduly privilege any particular commercial entity.

Credit to companies, like Databricks, who choose to participate in ASF projects under these constraints.


You seem to be misunderstanding which Redis projects are changing licenses. Redis is not changing. Some of Redis Labs' extensions are. While I agree this is highly problematic it's not changing the core software's license.


That is part of the right you grant people when you use a permissive license. That is the whole point of the license being permissive.


Sounds like corporatism to me. Change the rules so nobody else can follow you.


Kevin Wang here. Thanks Drew for the thoughtful post.

I can accept that you might not appreciate my work on the Commons Clause, but I'm glad to see you acknowledge why funding OSS is so difficult.

I think it's okay to fear the world of open source becoming a bit more closed. I do too. Whether that's a better world or not is up to debate, but I certainly don't think so.

I think where we might disagree is what the greatest threat to "open-ness" is. Sometimes people do bad things to open source projects, and force them to go closed. The license choice will inevitably follow -- and when they do, they can choose to close the source entirely or choose a licensing scheme that makes it available.

Licensing follows intent, and I certainly don't think the Clause inspires people to close their source. But sometimes people need to change their license -- and I think it's unrealistic to say that this doesn't happen.


Hi Kevin, Drew here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I appreciate your response, but I find it frustratingly vauge. What kinds of bad things happen to open source projects that drive them to this? If you are fearful of open source becoming more closed, why are you promoting that very approach?

Did you consider promoting alternatives like AGPL first? Before I see an option violating one of the four essential freedoms I would really like to see a detailed exposition on why the AGPL or other approaches discussed in my article are not suitable. I don't think that the brief summary on AGPL on your website is detailed enough - it doesn't have any specific criticisms of AGPL.

The problem with "needing to change their license" is that it's really just a few people who "need" to change it. In reality, open source projects are community works, and even the maintainers don't have the (certainly moral, and usually legal) right to change the license.

I think your Commons Clause gives vulnerable people (open source maintainers struggling to make ends meet) an easy but despicable option for their projects. Especially in cases like Redis, where a company has ulterior motives and employs the maintainers, they can strongarm maintainers into making choices which are not in the best interests of the project.


An open source project can (and some do) require copyright assignment such that there is a single owner who can re-license at will. It's a fair thing to do: would-be contributors know this is happening and can choose to not participate.

I have no objection to owners taking a codebase proprietary. It doesn't change the fact that earlier versions stay open source and third parties (including the community) can still fork them if they want to. That's because have no objection to proprietary codebases to begin with, even though I appreciate open source, use open source, and prefer to make my code open source.

Open source is not an end for me, but a means to: a) establish/burnish the authors' reputations, b) benefit from third parties' contributions in-kind. Monetization is not so much dependent on whether a codebase is open source or proprietary, nor on its license, but on the codebase's value (to others) including the value of future development on that codebase.

Monetizing infrastructure software can be very difficult, especially when it is a commodity, but SQLite3 has succeeded at that https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17819950


>An open source project can (and some do) require copyright assignment such that there is a single owner who can re-license at will. It's a fair thing to do: would-be contributors know this is happening and can choose to not participate.

I spoke directly to this point in my article, grep for "CLA".

>but SQLite3 has succeeded

Note that SQLite3 succeeded and is open source.


Yes, I thought both of those points were clear enough. The first I wanted to make here in the comments, and the second I thought I mentioned SQLite3 is in the public domain...


I think inverting the power structure between maintainers and contributors is good for openness. The tradeoff here is it makes the project harder to govern and maintain, which an have its own unintended consequences.


The Clause was drafted as a reactionary move to solve against specific bad behavior. I'm not entirely sure it's my place to call out these actors (I'll leave that to the users of the Clause), but our job was to open up an option that isn't quite "screw this, let's go full closed source".

See the commons clause FAQ for answers to your other questions:

https://commonsclause.com/


No, it's not bad behavior, it's a fundamental misunderstanding of open source economic models, and a desire to have your cake and eat it too.

I will steal an argument from a friend who has been doing free software/open source for 30+ years now.

Y'all created a bunch of open source software, it became valuable. Y'all think that you should get to extract some percentage of that value, and that others being able to do it instead is "bad behavior".

But this is very very wrong, and if that is your understanding of open source, you really should say screw it, and take your ball elsewhere. Try it. See if you can create the same amount of value.

In fact, it is your attempt to "extract your share" that is the bad behavior. You cannot, in fact, have your cake and eat it too. If you and others all get to extract your "fair share", that software will cease to exist. This is not theoretical, this is what has happened every time. That is because the value exists because you made the software free. If you didn't, people would have used something else that was free and worked well enough. Also not theoretical. When i review diligence from companies as part of M&A, the vast majority (90-99%) of software is free software, not commercial software.

This paradox has existed since free/open source/etc software was created. The solution traditionally is for developers to just be happy creating cool software and making a living on it. I have rarely, if ever, seen this fail to work at the scale seen here. It certainly fails in smaller scales, but you are not solving that problem even a little.

Instead these claims of bad behavior only seem to come up when people see a billion dollar ecosystem and think they deserve 50% of it.

You are pretty much never going to get anyone worked up over that. Because they shouldn't be. Of all the injustice in this world, this doesn't even register.


Vaguely similar prior art, similar in motivation, similarly flawed, IMO: Monty's Business Source license.

http://monty-says.blogspot.com/2016/08/applying-business-sou...

That received a lot of criticism from its community as well, but also from existing MariaDB Corp customers. I know because I worked for one at the time that was seriously considering stopping the level of collaboration we had. We were quite sad about that at the time and decided to not go that far but instead stopped giving additional funding to the extensions that we were interested in.


Many conditions of a project can change when it goes from being a small community to a business that supports billions of revenue with its software.

Ultimately, the Clause is not meant to transition an open source project with the intention of staying open, it's to keep as much openness as possible when events happen that force a project to close certain things.

I think a lot of the fear is that this will make a lot of open projects close up. This is not the case. Other things are forcing projects to close, and ignoring those forces and blaming it on evil investors and business people is not only disconnected from reality -- it's a really sad an un-empathetic view towards those that _actually_ develop this software (actually = git commit history).


> Other things are forcing projects to close, and ignoring those forces and blaming it on evil investors and business people is not only disconnected from reality -- it's a really sad an un-empathetic view

Please, please clarify what those 'other things' are.

Both the Commons Clause FAQ and your comments here repeatedly imply this is about handling "specific bad behavior", "other things... forcing projects to close", and "the most predatory of use cases". But nowhere is there any clarity about what these dark forces are. What's 'predatory'? Are we talking about harassment by contributors? Extortion by lawsuit? Cloud hosting for a fee? Just contributors undercutting the business offerings?

The only motive explicitly clarified in the FAQ is the need to monetize, which is what Drew's piece challenged. In response there's this suggestion that the clause is actually defensive against some sort of attack by contributors and so it won't affect most people. In the comments here, you've said it's not your place to call out specific actors, but haven't given any example of what sort of behavior you mean.

It sounds like there's a real problem here, deeper than "we want to make money like RedisLabs", but this conversation is hopeless as long as that problem goes unstated. I don't think it's fair to say people are being un-empathetic to actual developers when no one can understand what situation we're supposed to be showing empathy about.


> It sounds like there's a real problem here, deeper than "we want to make money like RedisLabs", but this conversation is hopeless as long as that problem goes unstated. I don't think it's fair to say people are being un-empathetic to actual developers when no one can understand what situation we're supposed to be showing empathy about.

This.


I wish I could upvote this twice. That was well put.


What "bad behavior"? Was anybody doing anything that was prohibited by the terms of the previous license(s)? If not, then the real "problem" is that somebody made a bad choice w/r/t licensing. The solution is to switch to an existing license which has the desired terms, OR - as an absolute last resort - create a new license. Preferably the former, as the latter adds to license proliferation, creates confusion, contributes to FUD around open source, etc.

And if one is going to create a new license, they should just create a complete license, in it's entirety. Creating an "add-on" that can be tacked on the the ALv2 or other licenses, which goes completely against the nature of Open Source, is absurd.


This RedisLabs link explains the kind of bad behavior this clause aims to prevent. As I understand it, the bad guys here are cloud providers.

[1]: https://redislabs.com/community/licences/


So in effect Redis has moved from a traditional community project (by the community, for the community—where RedisLabs is part of that community) to a please-do-my-work-for-me project (by the community, for RedisLabs).

RedisLabs is about to experience in real time just how quickly a community can abandon software and embrace a fork or competitor. Which is stupid, because many other projects have gone through the exact same process.


So cloud providers who take a piece of open source software, install it, upgrade it, and generally maintain its operation in order to provide a service to their customers, billing the service, are now the bad guys?

Sounds like somebody needs to re-evaluate their business model to me, and it's not the cloud providers.

This attempt to have the cake and eat it too is dumb.


Again, what was happening that was a violation of the license terms? As I read it, nothing. That's not "bad behavior". That's "I chose the wrong license for my project".


I agree that this seems like what the Commons Clause is intended for. But it looks to me like it just validates Drew's concerns?

The complaint here is "Redis is only making money for people who host and manage it, not people who develop it". The proposed solution looks to be "ensure these modules are making money for RedisLabs instead". RedisLabs wanted to profit from their work and stop others from doing so, so they adopted a not-OSS license.

Fine, but the framing of bad behavior and a threat to open source doesn't make much sense to me. It looks like exactly what Drew described; funding OSS development is tricky, but RedisLabs responded by giving up on doing OSS. Kevin's FAQ and comments in this thread imply some much darker bad behavior than that, with things like "predatory uses" and "forced to close". If it's just "AWS hosts Redis for a fee", that doesn't seem justified.


> However, today’s cloud providers have repeatedly violated this ethos by taking advantage of successful open source projects and repackaging them into competitive, proprietary service offerings. Cloud providers contribute very little (if anything) to those open source projects.

The complaint seems to just be masking “Google, AWS, et al. don't give us, a competing cloud provider that took over a pre-existing open source project, money” beyond a smokescreen of misleading generalizations.


>The Clause was drafted as a reactionary move to solve against specific bad behavior. I'm not entirely sure it's my place to call out these actors

Still frustratingly vauge. Without this information I can't assume The Commons Clause is working in good faith. At least you can speak to the types of behaviors, rather than the specific actors, which led to this?

>See the commons clause FAQ for answers to your other questions

I specifically refered to your website in my comment and called out the summary there as insufficient. Can you elaborate on it here on HN?


I share your concern, if the "Commons Clause" (misleading name, IMO) became widespread enough, it could be somewhat of a virus that people may add to their Github projects, possibly causing a lack of clarity what license terms it's really under. It's even worse than a distinct new license in my opinion, as software might be advertised as "being under the Apache license" when it really has additional non-libre terms on it.


I don't know why he doesn't comment on it when it's already written on the Commons Clause FAQ. He thinks the "bad guys" are the cloud providers.

https://redislabs.com/community/licenses/

"However, today’s cloud providers have repeatedly violated this ethos by taking advantage of successful open source projects and repackaging them into competitive, proprietary service offerings. Cloud providers contribute very little (if anything) to those open source projects. Instead, they use their monopolistic nature to derive hundreds of millions dollars in revenues from them. Already, this behavior has damaged open source communities and put some of the companies that support them out of business."


Unless you can describe the bad behaviour in question, it just looks like an attempt to make more proprietary software for personal gain.

The FAQ does not answer the patent comment's good questions.

Why have you chosen a name so similar to Creative Commons, when you seem to prefer the term Source Available from a descriptive point of view?

Frankly, it just sounds like an attempt to pass off software licensed under this abhorrent license term as Creative Commons.


It is often said that if you don't call people out for bad behavior, you enable it, and them.


This?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omert%C3%A0

also called Conspiracy of Silence


My fundamental issue with the clause is that it fundamentally changes the nature of the licences it infects. It is just as disingenuous to say "we're an Open Source plus Common Clause project (Apache + Common Clause)" as it is to say "We host Redis (we mean Redis + Proprietary add-ons we use under the AGPL from Redis Labs, that you can't have, which make us incompatible with Open Source Redis)". There's nothing new or controversial about relicensing your project. I'd bet what most people have a problem with is the "open sources but not open source" angle the clause pulls. Given the confusion it creates by piggy backing on existing well-known licence brands, I see why they have a problem with it.


I don't think the Clause is necessarily the most elegant end-all solution, but there are often broad business, timing and legal requirements that make it really hard to draft a full license to satisfy everyone.

In fact, I'd love to see a v2 standalone license. One of the design constraints was size and readability. I think part of the goal here was to start with something extremely short-form.

More broadly, the average OSS license is far from robust.


> More broadly, the average OSS license is far from robust.

Care to elaborate? That is an extremely broad claim. The GPL has been upheld a number of times. The MIT/BSD licences are about as simple and solid as they get.

> I think part of the goal here was to start with something extremely short-form.

Yes, but to your point above, courts rarely appreciate schizophrenic agreements which say one thing in one place and an entirely different thing elsewhere.

How is X Open Source + Common Clause any different than the Redis^e + X hosting/brand piggybacking others have been doing to RedisLabs?


> More broadly, the average OSS license is far from robust.

Like several people here, I'd really appreciate clarification on this.

The average OSS license doesn't apply to some use cases, but in every case I know that's intentional; they're uses that don't uphold the four freedoms. There are a handful of outstanding issues like Google's allergy to AGPL, but the GPL and MIT licenses are well-tested and accepted. I've regularly used them personally and professionally without any confusion or trouble at all.

If there's a flaw or weakness in these licenses, people are obviously eager to hear about it. If they simply don't support restricting downstream rights, that's by design and I think "far from robust" is a thoroughly unfair way of framing the situation.


Most OSS licenses are actually very robust, but they all support the four essential freedoms - which you are specifically attempting to undermine.


> More broadly, the average OSS license is far from robust.

This is pure FUD.


Can you at least change the name, to something that's not CC? It's going to be confused with Creative Commons otherwise.


That's their purpose. This entire endeavor is quite evil IMHO.


We haven't read anything about their intentions yet. Have they addressed this confusion?


It's been asked several times to him on this topic, and quite frankly, he's had ample time to respond to someone.


Sometimes you can tell what someone means by what they don't say, especially if saying the thing is embarrassing/bad for them.


Is it possible he could be sued over trademark issues?


I wish there were more publications on how open source is really funded. Earlier Linux and BSD kernels were made by a combination of researchers, people with spare time, volunteers as well as big companies who paid people full time. We see much more of the latter. Intel has an entire OSS division in Portland, OR that writes most of the drives, works on Linux kernel patches, etc. Nintendo and Sony both use big parts of the BSD TCP stack in their operating systems and have an interest in contributing and keeping it up to date.

But open source didn't depend on these funding models in the 90s/2000s did it? I did a whole post on the philosophy of open source a while back:

https://penguindreams.org/blog/the-philosophy-of-open-source...

..but one of the things I didn't find enough sources on where a lot of funding came from (And percentage of volunteer contributors).

This recent Redis things reminds me of the Caddy controversy, and maybe even more recently, how Win/Mac Docker binaries are behind a login wall.

What changed? Do developers no longer have the time to volunteer to work on this stuff? The desire? Is the demand for tech in The Valley/West Cost changing the dynamics of how much time people have to contribute. Were the earlier efforts way less commercial and new efforts moving much faster and requirement more maintenance/resources?


"What changed? Do developers no longer have the time to volunteer to work on this stuff? The desire? Is the demand for tech in The Valley/West Cost changing the dynamics of how much time people have to contribute. Were the earlier efforts way less commercial and new efforts moving much faster and requirement more maintenance/resources?

"

What's changed is that once open source started getting serious VC's, people believe they've created tons of value, and should be able to extract some of it (in reality, the model created most of the value, not them).

In the past, people were just relatively happy to be doing okay for themselves while created cool software.

Once you try to move to "value extraction", things become a lot thornier because you discover you aren't as important as you thought you were - your attempts to extract value fail. Usually, because it was not you who created the value, but the model.


Some are seeing that corporations are the ones making all the money on the back of open source software. It's hard to want to contribute to something like open source infrastructure tooling, when it's use case is purely commercial, for example. I imagine some also feel that it's setting an unrealistic value on digital products, at least I do. Why would I want to build a tool for corporate infrastructure if they take it and make millions while I run support for free? They aren't about to Open Source my rent.

I would much rather an honest transactional relationship for commercial software. That also includes consumer commercial software, like phone apps and websites. If we had honest expectations about the cost of software we wouldn't see so much aggressive advertising and tracking.

There are fantastic use cases for the generosity of open source. Education software is something I whole heartedly agree should be driven by open source. But I feel open source has been taken advantage of in commercial settings.


"Some are seeing that corporations are the ones making all the money on the back of open source software. "

That is often true, but i guess i try to be pragmatic. I did not create the corporation or do all of that work to make that happen. Maybe people think this is easy, but it's not. it is a lot of work in most cases.

I also get paid plenty. Why should i care that someone else is getting paid more? None of this was ever about making significant amounts of money, and open source is almost certainly a bad model to achieve that for real. It tends to create lots of value and attempts to distribute that value usually destroy it.

I may be weird about this though. I have plenty of friends who have made hundreds of millions or billions building those corporations. I chose not to do that, and instead be happy with what i've got (and i've got plenty) and value different things.


It's not really an issue to me that someone else is making money, I understand I could come off as a budding capitalist who's mad they are missing out on their cut. But that's not the case. I have always felt OSS was an embodiment of human generosity, and it just seems that it's been commandeered by commercial interests. Passionate devs are happy to keep working on it anyway, because it's fun. Their efforts might have been better spent on more altruistic OSS projects, but that's not my decision to make, and I don't exactly lead by example.


> Some are seeing that corporations are the ones making all the money on the back of open source software.

This is true of everything. This isn't a problem with open source, it is a problem with society generally.


The rest of society doesn't give their "business cogs" away for free though. It just strikes me as odd that in a business context, there's the expectation that lots of the software will be free.


> Some are seeing that corporations are the ones making all the money on the back of open source software.

But the value those corporations are creating is embodied in much more than just the software. It's the whole infrastructure they build, which integrates the software into a complete solution that meets users' needs.

> Why would I want to build a tool for corporate infrastructure if they take it and make millions while I run support for free?

If someone is using a corporation's cloud infrastructure that happens to rely on open source tools you made, they're not going to call you for support when something goes wrong; they're going to call the corporation. If the corporation comes asking you about it, you are perfectly free to set the price of your services to them.


Certainly it's the sum of the parts that makes the business valuable. Some of those parts are free, but I guess I just don't understand why they should be in a business context. I am not a budding capitalist who is disappointed that I'm not getting a cut mind you. I just have no desire to contribute to commercial tools for free.

Back to the desire to work on OSS. I used to work on an OSS eCommerce platform for a living, and as an agency we would contribute back. The platform gives us work because it exists, we contribute back. But it's still all commercial software made for monetary gain. Its just tiring, and deters me from working on it after hours. I don't want my whole life to be about making other people money.


Publishing books is still largely proprietary. Yet that is not helping many individual writers or small publishers make much of a living.

Amazon on the other hand...


AWS started offering SaaS products based on open source software without contributing anything back to the original projects. Combined with that, and wholesale cloud adoption over the last decade, revenue streams for "enterprise" editions, services have dried up.

In the 90s and 2000s, OSS project were more grass roots efforts. In the past decade, there have been a series of primarily commercial OSS projects like Redis and ElasticSearch that have gained a fair bit of traction. They really aren't grass roots efforts, don't have a lot of volunteers, and have seen their business model gutted by AWS.


> there have been a series of primarily commercial OSS projects like Redis and ElasticSearch that have gained a fair bit of traction. They really aren't grass roots efforts

I think that's very unfair. Both Redis and ElasticSearch are definitely grassroots projects - both Salvatore (Antirez) and Shai worked on their projects for years, with minimal support from the outside world, grew their community organically, and managed to build something useful for thousands of grateful developers. Later, they looked for ways to make a good living while continuing to invest in the success of their projects. In the process they built (or joined, in the case of Salvatore) businesses dedicated to supporting the development of their project. There is no perfect solution, but in both cases I would say that they succeeded - they are making a good living, and their projects have continued to grow and make many users happy, in great part thanks to them and the business they work with.

To use that success as an argument against them - to present their business efforts as opposite to their community efforts is just not true, and I think it’s harmful. It punishes them, the creators and maintainers of a great and useful project, for wanting fair compensation for their efforts, and making the effort to give back in the process - when so many others profit from their work, and give back nothing, or the bare minimum to make themselves look good.


> both Salvatore (Antirez) and Shai worked on their projects for years, with minimal support from the outside world, grew their community organically, and managed to build something useful for thousands of grateful developers. Later, they looked for ways to make a good living

In other words, making a good living from the product was an afterthought. So they shouldn't be surprised that they're not getting as much value for themselves out of the product as they would have if making a good living from it was a fundamental part of the project from the beginning.

That's not to say that there aren't ways to monetize open source products, just that doing it as an afterthought isn't one of them. If it's a business, it's a business, and you have to treat it that way from day one. Otherwise you will be out-competed, as a business, by others who do.


> That's not to say that there aren't ways to monetize open source products, just that doing it as an afterthought isn't one of them.

Says who? You are entitled to your opinion on the matter, but this is a very contested issue and your opinion is just one of many. If you’re going to argue that Redis and Elastic are “doing open-source monetization wrong”, maybe you should back up your claim with arguments.

> If it's a business, it's a business, and you have to treat it that way from day one. Otherwise you will be out-competed, as a business, by others who do.

You seem very knowledgeable about what is and is not a good monetization strategy for open-source. What do you propose as an alternative to what Elastic and Redis are doing?


> If you’re going to argue that Redis and Elastic are “doing open-source monetization wrong”, maybe you should back up your claim with arguments.

I did. Did you read my post?

> What do you propose as an alternative to what Elastic and Redis are doing?

As an alternative now? I'm not sure there is one. Their products are already out there being monetized by others.

As an alternative back when they started? They could have let everyone know that they were aiming to monetize their products as a business from the beginning. Then they would have been taking on for themselves the business risks that cloud providers, for example, took on by building infrastructure using their products and trying to sell it to users.


We may disagree as to whether they are or are not "grass roots" which is subjective in any case. Both Elastic and Redis Labs were formed relatively early on and are the primary contributors to both projects. There's not a great diversity of contributors as there are on other projects.

That said, I never made the argument that their business efforts were a bad thing nor opposed to community efforts, though certainly others have in this context.

Personally, I believe that both commercial entities are entitled to compensation. One of the points that I was attempting to make is that AWS nearly killed their respective businesses by reselling the product of their efforts while making no contribution back to either project.


The public cloud changed everything. Having Amazon just extract all the value of and strip mine the commercial value of these projects without contributing anything back has left a sour taste in peoples mouths.

It made more sense when you could release a product openly and then start a business around supporting it, consulting and training and selling "enterprise" versions for serious customers. But now that's even hard to do when everyone just wants to use AWS, etc to use this software.

It's a double edged sword and we take for granted. These projects have grown and become so feature rich because of the investment in them and the ability to hire hundreds of developers to contribute full time. But then this is harvested by someone who isn't paying for it and not just a little bit - a whole lot. What will eventually happen is we won't have feature rich products that are open source in the future without a change in how we think about licensing. The Apache License is not compatible with running a business around an open source project any longer.


I 100% agree, and it's disheartening to see so many voices here ignore this reality. It's like there's more passion for the ideal of open-source than for the reality of how open-source practitioners actually struggle to make the model work in practice.

Whether Commons Clause is the right solution or not (and I have my opinion on that), at least the Redis people are trying something to fix the problem of unstustainable one-way resource extraction by mega-corporations. Of the hundreds of people criticizing them here, often in ways that question their motivation and integrity, how many are offering alternative solutions? As far as I can tell, it's a depressingly small number.

After everything Antirez has contributed to us, he deserves better than this avalanche of unconstructive negativity. If you think Commons Clause is not the correct solution to the problem of unsustainable exploitation of open-source projects, what do you propose?


They're just doing the open core model, with a tweak on the licensing of their proprietary add-ons to exclude cloud providers. I don't have a big problem with that, so long as there's a clear delineation between the open source and proprietary offerings.

The only thing they're doing "differently" is the deceptive messaging. For this, I blame the Commons Clause initiative.

Redis Labs could take these same actions under a non-deceptive name and the response of the Open Source community would be vastly different.


I think that's the real problem for many: The naming used here, and the supporting FAQ, appear deceptive to many.

Lots of companies have an "open core" model (where the core is OSS and some modules are proprietary). Many organizations have mechanisms where you can review source code of their proprietary code, subject to certain requirements. When things are made clear, there's no deception.

But naming a license rider "Commons" seems designed to cause confusion. It'll be easily confused with OSS licenses (since a "commons" is the discussed reason for having them) and with the well-known Creative Commons licenses. Saying it's a rider "with" the Apache License 2.0 also makes it appear that that this is the Apache License and endorsed by the Apache Foundation, which it is not. Saying that something is only OSS if you use the standard definition of OSS makes it sound like there's a minor legal nit, but it's a fundamental precept that OSS allows any use (including use by business).

> Redis Labs could take these same actions under a non-deceptive name and the response of the Open Source community would be vastly different.

I think that's right. I'm sure some would be unhappy, but the real problem here is the naming that seems designed to mislead. I'm not sure the information here was actually designed to mislead, but if that wasn't the intent, I think Redis Labs needs to change the names to quell the confusion.

If Redis Labs continues to use these confusing names, I suspect that the Creative Commons Corporation and Apache Foundation will consider going to court to protect their trademarks, since otherwise there's a significant risk of confusion in the marketplace (the reason that trademarks exist). Hopefully Redis Labs will just change to less-confusing names and then the problem will disappear.


I disagree that they’re “just doing the open core model”. Open Core typically is fully proprietary and provides no source access. The least proprietary open core product I can think of is RHEL, and the source they provide is heavily crippled: last I checked it’s basically a giant tarball of patches they throw over the wall every few years, with even more restrictive usage rules (try using the “Red Hat” trademark in your product and count the seconds before their legal department gives you a call). In comparison Commons Clause is very lax.

I get that Commons Clause does not meet the official definition of Open Source (which I believe they admit upfront), but it’s definitely different from “open core” and from whatever Red Hat calls their model. Since it’s something new, it seems reasonable to give it a new name. I don’t have any strong opinions about the name “Commons Clause, maybe there’s a better name for it, but I wouldn’t call this one deceptive.


They should call it the "Redis Labs License".


There are lots of places where money comes from.

One is the following observation. Customers are usually willing to spend $X on a solution to their problem, but are relatively agnostic on how $X is divided up. So if customers are willing to pay about the same for Oracle on Sun, and for Oracle on Linux, but Linux is cheaper than Sun, then Oracle can (and did!) successfully charge more to run on Linux. The result is that it is in Oracle's interest to make the Linux solution available and preferred by any means necessary..including improving Linux.

The same logic applied to IBM contributing to Apache so that they could charge for Websphere. Or any other case where there is a required component of an overall solution.

The widespread recognition of this back in the late 1990s was why the open source movement so quickly got a lot of corporate sponsorship from big companies.


So let me see if i've got the details right:

1. A group of people go off and, without involving their communities at all, try to solve a problem they think they have.

2. They spring it on their communities suddenly and without warning

3. Negative reaction ensues.

4. People decry death of open source.

5. Author of clause bemoans on twitter that the reaction of community should have been collaborative problem solving (and "starting a conversation"), despite completely failing to attempt collaborative problem solving with their community.

Is that about right?

If so, this is a great object lesson in how not to do this.

If you want the reaction to be collaborative problem solving, engage people in collaborative problem solving.

If you want the reaction to be to your solution, present people a solution. But expect people to do precisely that!

This is like when people drop completely designed/implemented megabombs of stuff on OSS projects and then complain when there is pushback.


> including without limitation fees for hosting or consulting/ support services related to the Software

Wow! That seems like a mistake. This casts too wide a net and catches more than it should.

> ... product or service whose value derives, entirely or substantially, from the functionality of the Software...

Ugh. Instead of unambiguous freedom-granting terms, this leaves it up to a court to help determine this vague notion of the product or service's "value".

Steer clear of these license terms!

EDIT: deleted request for OSI to clarify


If I am running a CRUD app for some business domain, does its value derive "substantially" from the functionality of the underlying database? Could a lawyer argue that because one of Slack's major selling points is the speed with which messages are delivered, its value derives "substantially" from whatever technology they use to enable pub-sub?

Even if Redis Labs wouldn't be so aggressive against Slack, could we count on that if they were acquired by Oracle, or if their acquirer were acquired by Oracle? In such a case, Slack would be in a pickle - they might be liable for having used the software without a license historically, which is in many ways a worse situation vs. having had to negotiate a commercial license in the first place. It's an insidious gotcha term wearing the cloak of open source, and thus it tarnishes the brand of the entire open source community.


> Wow! That seems like a mistake. This casts too wide a net and catches more than it should.

It catches everything. Commons Clause makes the software proprietary.


Why do you want OSI to weigh in? The license describes itself as not Open Source, according to https://commonsclause.com/

> It this “Open Source”? [sic]

> No, at least not by the official definition set forth by the OSD. Applying the Clause to an open source project will transition the project to “source-available”.


Good point. I will delete this request.


It's already not open source software (OSS). That said, if some people might think it's OSS, then it'd be useful for the OSI and others to make that even clearer.


For hosting, I can see how that may be a useful clause.

But for consulting or support? That's even worse than the usual terms for proprietary software. As far as I know, I can offer consulting services for Microsoft or Apple software without breaking any license.

Similarly for software that builds upon proprietary software. As far as I know, this is commonly allowed without any additional license.

Or am I missing something?


There are several challenges here.

One challenge is the name "Commons" is very misleading. It's not creating a commons, and it's also confusingly similar to the term "Creative Commons" which has been around for a really long time.

Also, the Commons website says that the Commons license is not OSS "at least not by the official definition set forth by the OSD". Yet that is the official generally-accepted definition.


This is humorously illustrated in Antirez's blog post on this matter[1]: "We at Redis Labs are sorry for the confusion generated by the Creative Common page".

They really should've run the name by someone familiar with the copyright landscape.

[1] http://antirez.com/news/120


> One challenge is the name "Commons" is very misleading. It's not creating a commons

“Commons” isn't the thing the clause creates, it's the problem it aims to solve. Naming contract or license clauses after the problem they address is not uncommon.


It would be terrible PR to call this the "Anti- Commons Clause", but it would indeed be accurate.


Maybe open source is just not keeping up with the real world, a few things could destroy it: lack of open source license choices restrictive enough and clear enough and enabling openness so much that most businesses can't profit in any significant way from software under those licenses; lack of standardized proprietary licenses for dual-licensed open source project; lack of standardized open source CLAs and CLA integration with popular software hubs.

Ultimately, though, open source has to incentivize independent creators and not big corporations. AGPL is somewhat successful here, because big corporations already ban its use internally, but it's far from addressing the problem. New restrictive licenses are needed.


Companies like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook are huge open source contributors specifically bc they can get a return on their investment. While your intentions may be noble, I think you'll find that more restrictive licenses will have the exact opposite effect and open source projects and contributions will be quickly whither and die.

Open source was never about preventing people from making money on the works they create, it is about preventing companies from telling people what they can and can't do with that code. It is about insuring forward progress and the ability to build on what other people do, making it better, and ensuring that that future is not meddled with. Or restricted.

And there are plenty of licenses that accomplish that, the GPL and it's offshoots chief among them.


What do you mean by "restrictive" and "openness" here? In particular, how does business and profit affect this? Would it maybe help to distinguish between the goals of Free Software (user freedom) and Open Source (abundance of high quality, royalty free code)?

> AGPL is somewhat successful here, because big corporations already ban its use internally

The word "because" is confusing me here. As far as I'm aware, the goal of AGPL is the same as that of the GPL: protect the freedoms of users (specifically the FSF's "four freedoms"); the difference is that GPL considers "users" to be those who run the software and AGPL also considers those who interact with the software.

There's nothing about preventing business use; although I believe that in dual-licensed projects, the extra stipulations of the AGPL may boost the appeal of the alternative license. Is that what you were getting at?


I think the AGPL point is to say that there is not a need for an anti-commercial license if the AGPL effectively stops the things you're aiming to restrict.

AGPL isn't perfect, but obviously neither is a non-open, non-free anti-commerce clause.


AGPL didn't stop cloud hosting providers from offering hosted serviced with the Redis modules at issue, though, because either they weren't making modifications or they weren't deterred by the requirement to share.

RedisLabs wants money, not sharing, from this kind of downstream use, so AGPL doesn't work.


I agree that AGPL is not a complete anti-commerce license. It doesn't stop all forms of commercial use nor try to. It's unclear that stopping such use (without separate permissiong) will result in more money for the original project, but that's not impossible.

I was just clarifying the point being made above about AGPL.


No license can work where it isn't used, AGPL included. Redis has been licensed under BSD 3-clause since at least version 2.2[1].

[1] https://github.com/antirez/redis/blob/2.2/COPYING


I think the point is that there had been separate modules that were AGPL but still being used…?


Looks like it, according to https://redislabs.com/blog/why-redis-labs-modules-are-agpl

> We wanted to keep our modules open source, so that everyone can freely use them, enhance them and fix issues. On the other hand, we are a commercial entity that invests a lot of time, effort and money developing these modules and verifying they can work under extreme deployment conditions. Therefore, we wanted to make sure no one else can resell them for commercial purposes.

That last sentence is key: it shows the preamble to be a smokescreen, since they're explicitly stating that they're against the literal number 1 criterion of open source (as per https://opensource.org/osd ):

> 1. Free Redistribution

> The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

This condition appears before any related to source code. In other words, RedisLabs are pulling the classic "we want our software to be proprietary, but we also want other people to fix our bugs for free" (see also "Shared Source" and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Source-available_software ).

They thought releasing under the AGPL would strike that balance, but it turns out it didn't so they've now gone to a proprietary license like they always wanted.


lack of open source license choices restrictive enough and clear enough and enabling openness so much that most businesses can't profit in any significant way from software under those licenses;

A license like that would, by definition, not be an Open Source license. Asking projects to switch to such a license is basically asking them to stop being Open Source.


I'm very confused by the number of people arguing that the problem with Open Source is the difficulty of controlling IP and restricting future use. It looks to me like a case of burning the house down today to be sure it won't crumble in the future.


Relevant: https://twitter.com/antirez/status/1032180321834467330

@Antirez has confirmed the core project is remaining BSD. The "Common Clause" stuff applies to the modules that RedisLabs create.

Additional modules @Antirez creates himself, are also not under Common Clause, they're AGPL.


It's just a "free-with-source for non-commercial use" distribution of certain modules that would otherwise be proprietary.

There is nothing to see here, folks; "free-with-source for non-commercial use" has been a thing in the proprietary world for decades. It's like "free trial" or "freemium" with source code.

It's a good thing for customers and would-be customers. Customers can track down bugs and security flaws if they have access to the code. Would-be customers can evaluate the product based not only performance of the executables but code quality.

It is a "better proprietary", in other words.


There is nothing to see here, folks; "free-with-source for non-commercial use" has been a thing in the proprietary world for decades. It's like "free trial" or "freemium" with source code.

Right. And if they would just call it that and not try to make it sound like it's "sorta / kinda Apache licensed" then I wouldn't really care. But it's like people using this clause want to benefit from the general perception of open-ness and the wide acceptance of the ALv2, while not actually being Open Source. It's just dishonest.


You are right; if you're going to radically change a license by adding a free-for-noncommercial-use type clause, you should change the name, and don't maintain even the slightest insinuations that it's related to the original license. Textually it may be, but legally it's a completely different beast.


> There is nothing to see here, folks; "free-with-source for non-commercial use" has been a thing in the proprietary world for decades. It's like "free trial" or "freemium" with source code.

The problem is the definition of "commercial use" here, which is broader than most proprietary licenses, since it includes e.g. consulting.


All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again.

The guidelines/definitions/blah blah blah exist precisely because of attempts to do this in the past.

If people want to try again, great, let them. Experimentation is good. (I personally wish they'd stop experimenting with repeatedly proven-to-fail models, but c'est la vie)

In the end, it's the developers who are going to decide whether it's the right way for the world to be.

That is, it's not going to destroy open source or anything else unless the people using/developing open source want it to.

Past that, Kevin's refrain is kind of tired, at least to me. Open source has always been a community that basically eats its own over time (nothing is ever good enough, free enough, open enough, etc). Solving that seems more important than solving this.

Saying "The OSS project we tried to build as a business sinks tons of money into open source and gets no help" as if it was a new problem is just silly. This is not a new problem at all. The fact that they believe doing literally the same thing that hasn't worked in the past will suddenly work to solve this problem in any meaningful way is disappointing.

For a person whose twitter bio likes to tell me how impressive they are, this is not impressive at all. I would have hoped for something better.

Because if this is all they've got, then yeah, that model of open source is likely screwed.

I will paraphrase a colleague:

The underlying issue they are trying to solve is that developers believe they should be able to extract some of the wealth they feel they created. In open source, that wealth is often only created because the software was free. Otherwise, people would have used something else that was free but worked well enough. Developers like to often argue this isn't true, but history shows it to be true basically always :) So saying you should be able to extract this wealth is probably wrong. Saying you should be able to get paid a reasonable amount of money is not.


Let them do what they want; the open source community does not suffer fools.

It's a dirty practice to build something open source and after a certain point, try to close it off. But, it's not unheard of. Any project can change their license, I believe Google did this with Android. Older versions will get forked and others will do with those forks what they choose.

I'm hoping doing this would cause so much backlash that it'll force projects to revert back to OSS. But, it could just push people out of contributing to OSS -- then again, there might be some people more likely to contribute if they knew no one was going to make money off their work.

Let the market sort it out.


Google and Android is weirder. The base OS is still totally open source and based on a Linux kernel. But in order to distribute Android with Play/Gapps, you have to join the Open Handset Alliance. You're heavily restricted on what apps you can bundle and you CANNOT manufacture any Amazon Fire devices (or any Android devices that do not contain the Google base services).

The base is open, but what makes it useful is licensed, essentially making the free still crippled. I did a post about Android a while back:

https://penguindreams.org/blog/android-fragmentation/


Thanks for the clarification. The more I think about it, the less my comparison applies.


Say I made a sizable contribution to an OSS project, one that qualified me as an expert. For projects that have this clause, I wouldn't not be able to make money directly with the source that _I wrote_. I would certainly not lend my expertise to a project that put me in this position, and I would guess that others would feel the same. Imagine if the Linux kernel had this clause. All this "commons clause" will do is remove the community from an open source project, and probably kill open source adoption as a result.


The example clause at https://commonsclause.com/ does not really make any sense. It first says you can't sell the software and then provides example text below like this:

Software: [name software]

License: [i.e. Apache 2.0]

Licensor: [ABC company]

If they actually used the Apache 2.0 license anyone would have the right to sell the software. Hence putting that clause and then putting "Apache 2.0" as the license makes no sense. The licensing terms would be contradictory.


Yes, exactly. You can't use an unmodified Apache 2.0 license and then try and tack on some extra clause which is incompatible with the underlying license and end up with an intelligible end result. You certainly can't call it "Apache 2.0" and direct people to apache.org. It looks like a legal nightmare.

Even if you like this license, please never use it!


I agree, it's terribly misleading and could cause a real lack of licensing clarity.


Preposterous logic. Therefore WHAT?

> If the Commons clause were to be adopted by all open source projects, they would cease to be open source, and therefore the Commons clause is trying to destroy open source


Exactly. If everyone used a gun to kill one person, people would cease to exist, and therefore guns are trying to genocide the human race!

Make an absurd assumption, link it back to your pet point, conclude something dramatic, link-baity, and utterly preposterous. For bonus points, attribute a motive to inanimate objects.


Does a software license actually have the power to prevent you from selling consulting services? All a license can do is grant you rights you wouldn’t otherwise have because of copyright law, right?

I’m new to the matter, but I do see in the Commons Clause an intent to manipulate and mislead. If the goal is to provide an option for companies who would otherwise take their software closed-source, why does that option have to sound super-duper open sourcy while not having terms recognizable as open source? I’m not even a rabid free software guy or anything, but just compare the name to the terms. There is no possible way that “Commons Clause” is not intended to be confused with, or somehow gain a positive spin that has nothing to do with its content from, CC or Apache Commons.

People who care about things like Creative Commons or about open source as anything more than “source available” will label this as “evil” or at best a marketing ploy.


Services+software is older than software licensing itself.

DFSG #6 is written to address this specifically: "No discrimination against fields of endeavor, like commercial use." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debian_Free_Software_Guideline...


I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.

> All a license can do is grant you rights you wouldn’t otherwise have because of copyright law, right?

No, it can absolutely restrict your rights. A license is a contract, and other contracts can also restrict your rights in exchange for other legal goods (see e.g. NDAs, or non-compete clauses in employment contracts).


I think that the Commons Clause is good for Open Source. There aren't many alternatives at the moment; it seems better than allowing external corporate sponsors to dictate the direction of the project.

In the case of Redis, I think that it's a really deserving project and I fully trust the integrity of the people behind it.

As someone who created a popular OSS project outside of Silicon Valley, I can relate to how difficult it is to be an outsider in this industry and I understand why Redis Labs would feel entitled to capture a tiny fraction of the enormous value that they created.

I think that if the Commons Clause is just related to optional things like plugins or addons then I honestly don't see any harm; at least the plugins/addons are still available for small companies to use for free so it's still a step up from the typical OSS freemium model where they sell the plugins.


> at least the plugins/addons are still available for small companies to use for free so it's still a step up from the typical OSS freemium model where they sell the plugins.

This doesn't allow any companies (except not for profits) to use the plugins without buying them.


An alarmist title, I know, but it’s true. If the Commons clause were to be adopted by all open source projects, they would cease to be open source1, and therefore the Commons clause is trying to destroy open source.

But it's not true, it's complete, self-admitted clickbait. An asteroid will destroy most life on Earth tomorrow. If a sufficiently large asteroid strikes Earth tomorrow. It's an overwrought premise leading to predictably overwrought handwringing.


> Without limiting other conditions in the License, the grant of rights under the License will not include, and the License does not grant to you, the right to Sell the Software.

> For purposes of the foregoing, “Sell” means...fees for hosting or consulting/ support services related to the Software...

Why anyone would ever use this license is beyond me. No paid hosted version. No paid consulting. No paid support.

I mean this is great for folks who have already made their money but for those of us with bills to pay, it's not exactly realistic.

[0] https://commonsclause.com/


> for those of us with bills to pay

Do you think the authors of the software you want to resell don't have bills to pay?


I actually think open source will destroy the “Commons Clause”, which is just a name for a model that keeps being tried (shared source with limited free use but pay us for the use we think we'd like to monetize) that keeps getting killed by open source again and again and again.


After reading your post, your comments here, the Redislabs post and the entire Commons Clause and FAQ, I feel like you didn’t read either of them completely yourself before getting all doomsday about it.

Redislabs made a good point, cloud providers are making huge amounts of money off these products and often contribute little back. Take Linode and their Block Storage service for example. They use Ceph, but contribute nothing to the Ceph open source. Or QEMU, the entire basis of their business, and not a single commit from anyone there.

The Commons Clause addressed the AGPL question you ask in your comment.

Redislabs states the goal is not to close source redis core, that will remain free forever, and that the use of the priority modules will be free for most use cases, but when companies makes money from packaging it all up as a service, they should have to pay a license fee, which seems completely fair.

I’ve worked for a large cloud providers and some small ones, it’s pretty common at these places to not care what the License is because as long as it’s running on a server, it doesn’t matter. And selling service based off them, just means profits without giving back in most cases.

The final point of the Commons Clause says very clearly that this was not meant to be slapped on every OSS license and that it’s not a final solution but meant to spark conversation.

In that way, it’s working exactly as intended.


This argument is theological in that it's arguing against an idea, labeling it heresy. His ideal 'solution' is to just fold it all up and try to forget it ever happened. But you can't fight ideas, ideas provide solutions to problems that people have and if you want people to stop rolling their own solutions, then the orthodoxy needs to make their solutions actually work for actual people, not just the faithful.

Not every business can be Red Hat.


> This argument is theological in that it's arguing against an idea, labeling it heresy.

I find this use of "theological" insulting and not fitting to the situation. "Ideological" or "partisan" would be better IMO.


Whilst I completely understand why you would find it inappropriate, I'm struggling to see why you would find it insulting.

Can you elaborate?


Insulting is not the right word. I'm not sitting here mad or anything.

But I often see people labelling disagreements over things like licenses or editors or programming language as "religious" disagreements, with the implication that this means "driven purely by thoughtless adherence to a group and/or authority".

Clearly, religion sometimes works like this. But consider people like mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal, or literature professor and theologian C.S. Lewis, or any number of ordinary Christians I know who do think critically, including about their theology. Being religious does not necessarily mean holding a position uncritically, being hostile to those with whom you disagree, or being able to acknowledge partial agreement and gray areas.

On the other hand, non-religion can also display the "religious" tendencies people are trying to deride by using this term. Some people are so fervently allied to the Republican party, or Marxism, or environmental causes, or conspiracy theories, or atheism, or white supremacy, or feminism, or any number of other things, that they're unable to consider opposing arguments.

Unthinking herd mentality is neither inherent nor specific to religion.


Do you consider "religious" appropriate? I see the point that theology originally means something like the study of God.


Au contraire, I find religion to be extremely fitting to the free software - open source debate. Richard Stallman himself is very sympathetic to theological analogies for technology debates, calling himself Saint IGNUcius.

https://stallman.org/saint.html


From that page:

Warning: taking the Church of Emacs (or any church) too seriously may be hazardous to your health.

So at least that page is absolutely not evidence that Stallman is sympathetic to theological analogies (the fact that he is joking by making a theological analogy indicates the opposite).


Invoking an atheist like RMS doesn't help matters, even if he may have a lot of wisdom and experience in the licensing wars. Conflating an argument over a particular licensing debate in 2018 with deeply-held religious beliefs that may have existed for thousands of years and even inspired actual religious wars (where thousands of people, or even millions -- might as well loop Godwin's law into this debate -- actually died in horrific ways) would certainly appear to be insulting to those who are religious (and many who are not) and might take your irreverence more seriously than it was intended.


I think you're overblowing the potential for offense and committing the sin of assuming it's other people and not you that will get offended. If some religious person is offended by the characterization, I welcome them to articulate why. I'm highly spiritual myself and have interacted with many very religious people, and I can say that most of them relish the opportunity to think about worldly things using religious framing.


> I'm highly spiritual myself and have interacted with many very religious people, and I can say that most of them relish the opportunity to think about worldly things using religious framing.

Would they “relish” your using the term “theological” in the way you did in your original comment? Be honest.


Well, they certainly wouldn't take offense to it like a atheist / materialist would at the idea that a debate they care a lot about might be framed that way.


"We've killed lots of people for much less, so mind your manners!"

Wow I'm glad we don't live like that anymore. If using a word in a way that totally suits its literal meaning and most of its connotations is "insulting" enough to help forestall a return to that, bring on the insults! Here's one: RMS believes in free software more deeply and authentically than anyone in this thread believes in God.



Thank you for this!

> To join the Church of Emacs, you need only pronounce the Confession of the Faith: There is no system but GNU, and Linux is one of its kernels.


I don't agree that it's an ideological argument at all, I see it as a pragmatic perspective on what will 'actually happen' given the arguably 'ideological' stance of this new kind of license.

The license are short and powerful ant try to 'make a statement' themselves ... in reality, the resulting behaviour of the community is another thing altogether.


The pragmatic perspective is the one given by the supporters of the Commons Clause. The ideological one is the one given by the Free Software advocates who have longer memories and thus know where this leads.

I personally support the ideological position, I just don't think this is the right way to make that argument.


There is nothing pragmatic about the CC because it will wield all sorts of problems, most of them unanticipated and unexpected, and may very well 'do the opposite' of intended. That's not 'pragmatic'.

'Pragmatic' is recognizing that maybe what we have today is kind of crap and not perfect, but it's much better than some new pipe-dream of a clause.


> Not every business can be Red Hat.

No, but they can try, https://tidelift.com is a good starting point.


Of course you can fight ideas. Happens all the time. Convincing the dogmatic is difficult or impossible, but not every idea is dogma to many or any people.


> This argument is theological in that it's arguing against an idea

With an actual license text publicly available, this is way beyond just an idea, wouldn't you agree?

> His ideal 'solution' is to just fold it all up and try to forget it ever happened

This was not proposed as a solution to the problem(s) that Commons Clause wants to solve, problem(s) BTW that I can't see clearly articulated anywhere.


I don’t usually post here (more interested in the articles than the discourse over them), but this is something that really resonated with me. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, the suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, and there's no place for it in the endeavor of engineering. We don’t know beforehand where fundamental insights will arise from about our disciplines. The history of the study of engineering shows us clearly that accepted and conventional ideas are often insufficient for the changing future, and that fundamental insights into new possibilities can arise from the most unexpected sources.

All of us are entitled to our opinions on the healthiness of the Commons Clause, but if history has taught us anything, censoring the mere _idea_ of it for being in conflict with one’s personal ideology is the greater injustice, and will accomplish nothing in the long run. Might its adoption hurt some people? Maybe. Might it help some people? Also maybe. But shooting it down before it has the chance to do either feels wrong.


> censoring the mere _idea_

Nobody is censoring anything, in either a precise or a fuzzy sense[1]. Conflating criticism and censorship is (a) a category error, (b) a really pernicious notion, and (c) confuses people and derails discourse.

A core principle of free speech is that the answer to bad speech is more speech. Mislabeling criticism censorship attempts to delegitimize that answer, and thus paradoxically attacking the very notion purportedly being defended.

Please don't do that.

[1] Insert private-citizens-cannot-censor distinction here beside an acknowledgment that the word is used informally with wider applicability.


Normally I’d agree, but in fact this post is not just criticism, it’s a demand for self-censorship. That is, stop talking about this, and don’t ever talk about it again.

>The only solution is to bury the Common Clause project. Kill the website and GitHub repository, and we can try to forget this ever happened.


Having made a similar comment myself, I feel pretty confident in saying that that is mostly just intentional hyperbole, used to emphasize the seriousness of the issue. Although the OP of the bit you quoted there may choose to disagree.

Personally I'm not advocating any kind of "censorship", self or otherwise, in any literal sense. But I do want everyone to understand the extent to which I think this "clause" is an abomination and a threat to the entire Open Source movement.


I don't think it's about censorship so much as it's thinking ahead and realizing how huge of a threat this clause could be towards free software. The author is (IMO, rightly) concerned about this and wants to limit how much damage is caused by it.


That's pretty much the driving force behind all censorship - thinking ahead and realizing how huge of a threat the information in question is.


That still isn't censorship, or even anything approaching censorship, because the author has no power to actually do those things. It's still just a suggestion, albeit a pretty strongly worded one


That's why I said "self-censorship". Basically, not just criticizing (that's more speech), but to tell the person who disagrees that they need to stop talking.


> [1] Insert private-citizens-cannot-censor distinction here beside an acknowledgment that the word is used informally with wider applicability.

That's not "usage" that's wider applicability, it's accuracy.

You are no less censored if your boss threatens your livelihood than if your government threatens your freedom or Twitter bans your account. Tyranny is tyranny, and censorship is censorship. No matter the cause for a voice to be excluded from public discourse, it's exclusion is censorship. The only distinction is that government censorship is explicitly illegal under the United States Constitution.

Nevertheless, the First Amendment is not a comprehensive definition of censorship nor is the Bill of Rights a complete expression of all human rights. If you want something that's closer to one of those, please refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[1]. The concept of censorship as well as the ideals free expression, freedom and liberty extend well beyond the scope of a mere government law or institution.

No, not all censorship is illegal. The state can't make all censorship illegal because that power is too easily abused -- you yourself are discussing the difference between criticism and censorship right here. However, we should not mistake the wisdom of proscribing our government from acting as judge over free expression as a unique or defining characteristic of what it means to censor or silence another's right to free expression.

[1]: http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/


> You are no less censored if your boss threatens your livelihood than if your government threatens your freedom or Twitter bans your account.

Of course I'm less censored by my boss than by my government. My boss doesn't have a monopoly on my potential sources of income, but my government does have a monopoly on my citizenship; I simply can't move to another country without the permission of both governments. My boss can't persuade me with anything but a temporary lack of income; my government can (legally!) persuade me with a long list of effective arguments, ultimately ending in a gun barrel.


If you're vaporized in an nuclear explosion, are you more or less dead than if you suffer an aortic dissection? No. You're still dead.

If the government threatens you with political imprisonment, are you more or less silent than if your boss threatens you with termination and legal proceedings? No. You're still unable to voice your opinion.

Don't mistake the amount of power brought to bear to coerce with the outcome of acquiescence. Dead is dead. Silent is silent.

The ideal of free speech says that restricting the flow of ideas is harmful and immoral in and of itself. Yes, we need additional protection against government tyranny. That's why it is illegal. But "it's not against the Constitution" doesn't make an action right or just. "It's not illegal according to the Constitution" is perhaps the weakest defense I can possibly think of. If that's the best thing you can say about your actions, you're not really endorsing yourself. Congratulations. You haven't done something so stupendously wrong that we wrote it down a couple hundred years ago and made everybody working in one country's government promise not to do it anymore. If we're to judge you by the strictest letter of a document explicitly intended to proscribe one government's power, you're doing great. And we just nevermind that if you were acting on behalf of the government, it would be illegal? We just ignore the ideal of free speech in lieu of a single embodiment of it?

It's like a CS student saying, "It doesn't segfault on compile. I deserve an A." Well, not segfaulting during compile is the bare minimum. Well done. You wrote a program that's syntactically valid and results in a binary output file. It might be incorrect, it might be insecure, it might be buggy, it might be incomplete, it might be less efficient than bogosort, it might perform trivial work, it might even be completely useless, but at least it does so within the basic rules of the OS!

You managed not to do something illegal. That doesn't mean you're doing something right.


False equivalence. Let me paraphrase your argument a little bit:

"If you suffer a sunburn, are you more or less injured than being run through with a katana? No. [In both cases] you're still injured."

But of course you can be more injured or less injured. The entire point is that injury isn't a binary measure, and neither is freedom/censorship.

---

Let me put it another way... imagine the most oppressive possible regime, and then imagine the most liberal utopia but with one added restriction: you can't say "purple fuzzy dishwasher". That's the only restriction. Absolutely everything else is permitted but that one phrase is illegal, and immediately punishable by a million-dollar fine. Keep in mind that the most-oppressive regime also disallows the phrase "purple fuzzy dishwasher", and in their case it's punishable by torture and then death.

If your definition of censorship doesn't meaningfully differentiate between the two societies, then it's completely useless. You could only use it to conclude that "all people are censored", since there are always possible material repercussions to things we could say.


It's not being "censored". A lot of us are just saying it's a fucking stupid idea, that's all.


Get off your free speech soapbox, nobody is saying that this person has no right to discuss this idea, we are just saying it is a terrible idea. This is a ridiculous non-argument


Personal swipes and name-calling will get you banned here. If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules when posting to HN, we'd appreciate it.


I'm genuinely confused why there is so much backlash against the Commons Clause. Ignoring for a second the confusion around RedisLabs and its relationship with Redis core, the Commons Clause is setting out to solve the following problem with open source:

  - A person or company creates an open-source library, at great cost of time and effort.
  - A big company adds that library to their cloud offerings, at arguably far lesser cost, and monetizes it.
  - The library author receives no compensation.
This article seems to argue against the Commons Clause because it's not 'true open source,' but this seems like a purely ideological argument that sidesteps the true problem that CC is trying to solve: open source creators not getting a cut of the profit they are generating for big companies. Am I missing something here?


Affero GPL is the license that purports to solve this problem. It's been around for a while, and it's getting some use, but I wouldn't call it popular.


GPL does not allow the addition of this clause, anyone who did so would be in violation of the GPL. For license that would allow it, it's not fair to say License+CommonCrap - not to the license, and not to the users.


CC should really be renamed to 'Corporate Continuation' (or abbreviation changed entirely).

Commons Clause is misleading in the context of Open source licenses.

On a separate note, it is important to address volunteer open source contribution and development. I think as a community we are missing a model that guides how :

a) developers,

b) their hosting organizations

c) financial contributors / donors

can all benefit from their activities.

Right now, there are different models and experimentation are being used.

But I think we, as a community, could come up with 3-4 models that make it worthwile to the above groups.


> CC should really be renamed to 'Corporate Continuation' (or abbreviation changed entirely).

'Corporate Co-option' or 'Cash Capture' might also be appropriate...


Near as I can tell, there’s nothing in this agreement that prevents me from choosing another license model.

If I can choose to apply whichever license I want, then it would seem that The Commons Clause could only possibly harm those that choose it.

Anyway, there are plenty of unprofitable licenses out there, and the reality is, for all of them, if you’ve already given something away for free, once the cat’s out of the bag, you probably won’t make any money, even if your license doesn’t say you’re a bad person for even thinking about trying.

That said, The Commons Clause is probably fine for foundations, where lots of people are sharing an array of technologies, and not really asking for money. Meanwhile, it’s been several decades of HTTP over TCP/IP, and last time I checked, there isn’t a whole lot to lock down, and the real money is in adding reach to flip switches from the other side of a network connection. JSON isn’t going away, so, there really isn’t much to apply licenses to, in this area, without being silly.

But hey, databases, operating systems, desktop applications, peripheral drivers, all these things still happen, so I guess there’s stuff to license. But really all the fringe licenses mostly get applied to JavaScript frameworks, and by the time you actually read a JS library’s license, three other projects have replaced it, so why bother.


The D programming language uses the Boost license, the least restrictive license we could find. We aren't going to switch to a more restrictive one.

https://github.com/dlang/dmd/blob/master/LICENSE.txt


A common fear with Open Source software is "What if someone takes my work and profits from it?". But in my opinion, that's the point of Open Source! If you don't want others to profit from your code, make it proprietary!

But any attempt to make software open source, but still make sure that I get licensing fees or whatnot if someone makes a profit from it, is in my opinion seriously misguided.

With Open Source, our business model should be that lots of people work together to build an ecosystem; no-one profits directly from selling the code, but everyone profits from using the code. Some people contribute to the project because they offer consulting services, some people profit because they use it for their job, etc.


Antirez discovered github was using redis by accident on a non related thread here sometime ago, and there was very little outrage.

Open source should be just about taking, if million dollar companies, forget supporting projects they rely on, can't even tell the authors something has gone wrong.

Ideally those who can afford it should throw some support to the projects they use. But clearly this is not happening, if the project becomes too important then they simply acquire the project with downsides for everyone.

There has to be a middle way that has upsides for all parties and untill that is figured out this can work in the interim.


I understand the objection but in general I support the Commons Clause-- as long as developers can easily opt out for projects where it isn't desired or doesn't make sense.

Open source developers are building software for free that is then used by extremely large corporations to make vast amounts of money without compensation to the original author. Even worse much of this revenue comes from business practices that the original authors may find highly objectionable including mass surveillance, "surveillance capitalism," and data-driven propaganda, con artistry, and manipulation.

If you create open source today you have no choice but to indirectly offer free labor toward the construction of a global surveillance state. The commons clause offers a way out while still encouraging people to use your software for personal, private, academic, and other purposes and retaining the openness of open source.

The "free as in beer" part of OSS is a relic of the 1990s when the prevailing enemy was "embrace-extend-extinguish" at the hands of (mostly) Microsoft. It was sort of a growth hack to enable open source software to gain critical mass and challenge closed source proprietary platforms.

Times have changed. Today the big threat is SAAS walled gardens, surveillance capitalism, and other business models that in many cases run on and depend upon open source. In some cases SAAS can verge on piracy-- not necessarily in the legal sense since nothing is being done to violate any license but in the moral sense of profiting handsomely from the work of others without compensating them.

Edit: I will provide a concrete example of the last point: RethinkDB.

RethinkDB was probably the best NoSQL database, at least before Mongo was improved enough to challenge it on robustness and versatility. It still has features Mongo and others lack.

Unfortunately RethinkDB the company failed because... well... nobody paid them. Instead they paid services like compose.io to run RethinkDb for them in the cloud. Cloud SAAS database services were making more money off RethinkDB than the database's own developers were. In the end they failed and the project is now almost abandoned.

There are numerous similar examples. AFIAK the Commons Clause would have prevented this, allowing either RethinkDB to capture their own SAAS market or charge compose.io something for making money off their software.


It drives me nuts how much people talk about OSS when they need to at least mention the difference between FOSS and OSS. One more reason to stick to FOSS instead, as OSS proponents seem increasingly disingenuous.


Help me understand. Which of the following are FOSS licenses and which are OSS licenses?

- Apache

- Apache + Common Clause

- BSD

- MIT

- GPLv2

- GPLv3



> It drives me nuts how much people talk about OSS when they need to at least mention the difference between FOSS and OSS.

Maybe because like you they find it hard to explain?

According to your linked resources, it appears that everything except the Common Clause is FOSS.

So, basically everything I've ever seen is FOSS.


> According to your linked resources, it appears that everything except the Common Clause is FOSS.

> So, basically everything I've ever seen is FOSS.

Correct. Free Software just puts more attention to the freedom part of software.

GNU has a nice diagram and some category definitions for software at https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/categories.html


That's a little bit of a cheap shot, I just wanted to give you a good resource for digging into licenses.

Due to bsd and MIT allowing tivoization, those are the two non-foss licenses in that list in my opinion. I try to always use gplv3 when I can, but apache 2+ is acceptable to me.


There are 2 separate issues here:

1. The existence of the Commons Clause. 2. The application of the Commons Clause to software that previously was not subject to it.

To the original author: How would your view be different if a company released a new product or module that was Commons Clause-licensed from day 1? Would that still be a threat to open source? (What if the alternative to it being Commons Clause-licensed was that it wouldn't exist at all?)


As a non-commercial user, I'm okay with using stuff that's for non-commercial use only.

The problem is when I want to, say, copy a few functions into my own project which I'm publishing under completely unrestricted terms (say, Unlicense). Or use as a dependency, etc.

So, I'd say it's okay-ish for "product-like" stuff, for user-facing applications. But please NEVER publish libraries everyone depends upon under these terms.


I can see their side. GPL was called copyleft for a reason, a nod to copyright. It's a copyright restriction which limits redistribution to certain terms.

Cloud providers do redistribute. It runs on their servers. They do not have to honor copyright restrictions. They can make proprietary modifications and keep them, and they do. They might be honoring the letter of the license, but certainly not the spirit of it.


Don't we have the AGPL for this purpose to require them to contribute back their proprietary changes. As others have pointed out, if this was only about the modifications they would have used AGPL. Instead, and giving the clauses about consulting, it seems more like they are concerned about money than the health of the ecosystem.


> Don't we have the AGPL for this purpose to require them to contribute back their proprietary changes.

That doesn't help upstream monetize; this is entirely about money, not reciprocal contributions of code.


That was the point I was trying to make. Guess I didn't word it well :)


The Redis Labs modules were AGPL, they moved from that to Apache + Common Clause[1].

[1] https://twitter.com/antirez/status/1032192721308594176


Money is a part of the health of the ecosystem.


Here's a possible way around this clause: An AWS-like hosting service prepares images of every clause-bound instance users might want (e.g. Linux + Redis + Redis Add-ons), and provides them completely free for download. They also rent users a virtual machine and the ability to quickly load one of these free images.


What's the difference between the Commons Clause and the GPL?

What's the difference between the Commons Clause and the creative commons "nc" (non-commercial) license?

I'm having trouble seeing how the Commons Clause is a threat to open source, while the GPL and Creative Commons are not.


Apparently you can no longer do business as a Redis consultant or offer hosting. If it were GPL'd, you could, as long as you don't sell binaries without source.


There's nothing preventing you from using GPL licensed software commercially.


"This Clause is not intended to be applied against at-scale existing open source projects, but incrementally on top of commercial counterparts that need to be transitioned to source-availability to satisfy urgent business or legal requirements."


What is the difference between Commons Clause and non-commercial use? Is there one?


The answer to this dilemma is something like https://tidelift.com/.

This Commons Clause is pure blarney and Drew is exactly right.


I don't think the Commons Clause is going to go anywhere: it's not DFSG-free, so Debian and core Ubuntu won't distribute it.


Cloud infrastructure (like DynamoDB) is already closed source and nobody seems to care, so this might not even matter


AWS doesn't want a monopoly on DynamoDB consulting. At most they encourage certification, probably to motivate people to notice their endless roster of new services.


For the Redis example, how does this apply to past versions of Redis? Are we going to see a MariaDB-like fork?


As explained by antirez[1] Redis itself wil remain BSD and his own modules will remain open source licensed. Only the modules developed by Redis Labs will have this clause. So no change for future or past versions of Redis.

[1] http://antirez.com/news/120



From my understanding the commons Clause can only attach itself to new patches. The old code keeps the original license without attachment.


Software is hard to monetize, whether it be open source or not.

The best open source monetization case I've seen yet may be SQLite3, which is in the public domain. SQLite3 has a consortium, has some proprietary products (e.g., the more extensive test suite) not available to the public at large (in source form or otherwise), and is so ubiquitous that there are a number of large companies that are so utterly dependent on it that they are practically obligated to be members of the consortium. I've no idea just how profitable SQLite3 has been for D.R. Hipp and friends, and I don't want to know, but I assume it's been good enough that they are happy to continue working on it. SQLite consortium members probably (I imagine anyways) get to influence SQLite3's development, and that's one generic way to monetize source code regardless of license: get paid to do further (specific) development / bug fixes / support, but SQLite3's proprietary test suite makes it very difficult for third parties to be able to have contributions welcomed by the core, which tends to limit third party commercial support.

Choice of license doesn't seem to have that much to do with whether something can be monetized. Consider the Linux kernel, which is GPL'ed: prolific contributors profit mostly by being well-employed to continue being prolific contributors, but almost certainly no one is making a dime from commercial Linux kernel usage without source code distribution. There might be some GPL licensed codebases where the copyright owners are making a few bucks from commercial usage by third parties who don't want to distribute their changes, but probably not a lot. There are almost certainly no BSD/MIT licensed codebases where the owners are making any money from commercial usage by third parties -- the license simply allows third parties to use such code outright with absolutely minimal obligations on the third parties.

You can have open source and monetization for some value of "open source", but not one that most people would really consider "open" -- getting to see the source code != open source.

Getting paid to support open source (e.g., add features, fix bugs) can be very difficult when it is easy for anyone to do that. SQLite3 has a mechanism for limiting third party contributions (a proprietary test suite) which limits third-party commercial support though in general that would also increase the risk of forks (but SQLite3 is so widely used that forks are extremely unlikely). The SQLite3 approach won't work generically for very many open source projects as it depends on SQLite3's popularity and very widespread use.

The fact is that for many of us open source is just a way to build and maintain a reputation, and we then monetize the reputation.

I myself have been offered payment for development on open source codebases that I maintain, and I always reject such offers, mostly because accepting them would interfere with my main responsibilities, and in some cases also because it's not my right (e.g., I don't think it would be fair to take money to work on jq without giving @stedolan the right of first refusal). If I were to lose clients/employment, I might reconsider this.


The real value is not and never the code, but the product that is enabled by software. Software is not and never an end product that gives real value. software creates value by making valuable products possible.


Please, somebody fork redis.


No it won't. You know what will destroy open source? Lack of money to develop it.


I am currently integrating some of the cleanest FOSS code I have seen, into a Linux setup, and I found their original funding proposal.. It was a German engineering lead and a dozen others in various roles. The first milestone was $9500 USD -- total. 100x that money would not have created this result. I believe they finished their second milestone (a year?) and that was probably more money.. but really, money alone is not enough, and too much is a detriment.


I've seen this prediction on a regular basis since the mid-1990s. Usually the prediction hasn't included the qualifier "sometime after 2018". Would you like to add a qualifier to your statement?


How healthy is open source these days? There may be any number of lines of library code publicly available, but I've felt that the four freedoms are less and less available in software that I'm the end user of.


This is already happens with rethinkdb.

Even after community "acquisition" the development process mostly dead https://github.com/rethinkdb/rethinkdb/graphs/commit-activit...


This thread is about the health of open source in general. A specific project slowing down doesn't tell us anything about that. Especially since the project you're talking about was created by a business and abandoned by that business when the business situation changed. It seems perverse to infer anything about open source from that.


Yeah, I remember back when the Linux kernel was written by some Finnish nerd in university and given away for free. Thank goodness Google hired him back in 1995 to develop it or it would have died in infancy.


The Linux OS, even in 1993, was a combination of Linux kernel plus GNU userland tools and compiler plus X11 plus assorted goodies from the BSD world.

Developed, at least the first bit of time, on Minix, a Unix-like operating system that a university professor wrote as a teaching tool and gave away under a shared source license.

Linux' use of GPL was better than the shared-source license of Minix because you could distribute patched Linux kernels but had to distribute Minix improvements as patches to the original distribution. Linux' use of GPL was also what led everyone to contribute back to Linux while BSD derivatives were silently used to bootstrap software (including MacOSX) that never contributed back.

Linux also shows two properties that make up successful open source: there's an "inside" (kernel-land) and an "outside", and everyone profits if the inside-OSS part is made better and better while having minor kernel improvements is not a huge differentiator for most companies.

Contrast with the Redis addons by Redislabs: they want the ecosystem aspect of open source - people contributing back patches. But they also want to be the only ones to gain a livelihood from their code (which is their right as creators of the software but not conducive to the growth of an ecosystem). And they want their license to be treated as Apache-License-related, which is the part that smells of make-believe and dishonesty. But observe the part of having an ecosystem of different software parts (here: Redis and RedisLabs' extensions) that have an inside and an outside, as well as an ecosystem of developers/users who can make and share improvements to the software.


Childhood is believing in free software, adulthood is knowing Microsoft was right.

What kills open source software is greed, and very few people are immune from that.


What in the world are you talking about? We’re living in the golden age of free software. It’s doing better than it ever has before, and even Microsoft and Apple are enthusiastically contributing to it.


Even Microsoft doesn't think that anymore.


This. FOSS can be monetized by making it an investment rather than a product: offer services, let the software free then get paid for support and customized patches. This works, unless one wants to keep the money flowing while twiddling thumbs.




Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: