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


June 27, 2012 By Tim O'Brien

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

Nexus OSS is covered by the Eclipse Public License Version 1.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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