Why Nexus Moved to the Affero General Public License


January 4, 2011 By Wayne Jackson

When Sonatype originally chose the GPL license for Nexus, our goal was to provide an innovative OSS repository management technology to the community while also allowing Sonatype to grow a commercial product (Nexus Professional) by adding enterprise features on top of an open source core. At that time, Sonatype decided to use the GPL license because it provided the best balance of community encouragement and community protection.

We chose not to use the AGPLv3 (“Affero” GPL based on the GPL v3) license back then because we did not envision open source Nexus being offered as a service and did not want to raise any unnecessary concerns about a relatively new form of license. With the explosion of cloud computing, however, the likelihood of open source Nexus being delivered as a hosted commercial service is growing steadily. Under the GPL, there is no requirement that enhancements made to open source Nexus by service providers be contributed back to the community. For that reason, we have concluded that the time is right to move to the AGPL where the service provider loophole is closed; affording the community maximum protection as well as significant potential contributions by a new class of user (service providers).

We have been consulting with licensing experts through this decision-making process and are confident that this change will have no effect on the broader Nexus community. The AGPLv3 license will have no incremental effect on the internal use of Nexus, even if you are using Nexus to host artifacts that make up applications that will be part of a service offering. The AGPL only differs from the GPL if you are offering Nexus itself as a service. If you have any questions about this license change I encourage you to contact Brian Fox, our VP of Engineering, via email at brianf@sonatype.com.

  • http://dwschulze.pip.verisignlabs.com/ Dean Schulze

    I hadn’t thought about changing the license for code before. Who has the right to change the license under which software is released? If anyone who obtained a copy of, for example, GPLed code could change the license the original license would be meaningless.

    Do you know who has the legal right to change the license that code is released under?

  • Wolfenstein

    The owner/creator/holder of the works can change it. Nexus is a fairly easy case but for example the Linux kernel would not be so simple, i don’t think even Linus himself with the generals could change it. You can however not change the license of Nexus in any case, GPL or AGPL, only Sonatype can do that.

  • http://zac.ca/ Zac Thompson