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Facebook won't change React.js license despite Apache developer pain

We love open source so much we can't drop sueball shield, says The Social Network™

By Simon Sharwood, 21 Aug 2017

Facebook's decided to stick with its preferred version of the BSD license despite the Apache Foundation sin-binning it for any future projects.

The Foundation barred use of Facebook's BSD-plus-Patents license in July, placing it in the “Category X” it reserves for “disallowed licenses”.

Facebook's BSD+Patents license earned that black mark because the Foundation felt it “includes a specification of a PATENTS file that passes along risk to downstream consumers of our software imbalanced in favor of the licensor, not the licensee, thereby violating our Apache legal policy of being a universal donor.”

Apache's decision became a problem because Facebook's React UI-building JavaScript library is widely used by projects. Developers are therefore faced with disentangling React if they want to stay on the right side of the T&Cs.

Developers who didn't fancy that work therefore kicked off a GitHub thread calling for Facebook to change React's licence.

But despite describing the situation developers face as “painful”, Facebook's engineering director Adam Wolff has explained that The Social Network™ won't be changing anything.

Wolff's asserts that Facebook adores open source and likes to give as good as it gets, but says “As our business has become successful, we've become a larger target for meritless patent litigation” that sucks up time and money.

Facebook could have walked away from open source, he says, but instead “decided to add a clear patent grant when we release software under the 3-clause BSD license, creating what has come to be known as the BSD + Patents license. The patent grant says that if you're going to use the software we've released under it, you lose the patent license from us if you sue us for patent infringement.”

Wolff says Facebook believes “that if this license were widely adopted, it could actually reduce meritless litigation for all adopters, and we want to work with others to explore this possibility.”

As Facebook likes its license and feels it is commercially necessary to keep The Social Network™ in the world of open source but out of legal strife, Wolff says the company won't change it. Discussions with Apache about a compromise have “come up empty”.

“We recognize that we may lose some React community members because of this decision,” Wolff writes. “We are sorry for that, but we need to balance our desire to participate in open source with our desire to protect ourselves from costly litigation. We think changing our approach would inhibit our ability to continue releasing meaningful open source software and increase the amount of time and money we have to spend fighting meritless lawsuits.” ®

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