Facebook backtracks on anti-patent troll license

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Facebook backtracks on anti-patent troll license

React, Jest, Flow and Immutable.js re-licensed.

Social network Facebook has caved in and will relicense some of its popular open source projects without a controversial anti-patent troll clause, following blowback from the developer community.

The controversy was triggered by Facebook adding a clause to the BSD license for the popular, open source React Javascript library that's used to build web application frontends.

Intended to protect Facebook against so-called patent trolls, the clause meant developers would lose the right to use React if they asserted any intellectual property rights against the social network.

Other open source projects such as Jest, Flow and Immutable.js were also issued under the same BSD + Patents license.

The inclusion of the clause was to protect Facebook from so-called patent trolls, which amass intellectual property rights and assert them in court, seeking large amounts of license fees and damages in the process, the social network's engineering director Adam Wolff explained in August this year.

"The BSD + Patents license just intends to give our teams more room to make meaningful contributions to open source while decreasing our time spent fighting frivolous lawsuits," Wolff said.

But large players reacted to the clause: the Apache Software Foundation effectively banned the inclusion of the Facebook-developed software libraries from Apache projects back in July.

This month, Wordpress founder Matt Mullenweg followed Apache's lead, and said an extensive rewrite of the popular content management system would not be based on the React library.

Facebook has now had a change of heart, and will re-license the React, Jest, Flow and Immutable.js open source projects under the permissive MIT licence, with no patents clause attached.

"In the wake of uncertainty about our license, we know that many teams went through the process of selecting an alternative library to React," Wolff said.

"We're sorry for the churn. We don't expect to win these teams back by making this change, but we do want to leave the door open.

"Friendly cooperation and competition in this space pushes us all forward, and we want to participate fully."

React version 16 will be released next week under the MIT license, Wolff said.

This doesn't mean Facebook has given up on its BSD + Patents license, with Wolff saying the rest of the social network's open source project will continue to use it.

"We're evaluating those projects' licenses too, but each project is different and alternative licensing options will depend on a variety of factors," he added.

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