back to article Open source biz sick of FOSS community exploitation overhauls software rights

Lightbend is fed up with commercial entities using its open source wares in production environments and giving nothing back to the FOSS community, so is making an alteration to the licensing of a popular product. The license for Akka – Lightbend's library for creating concurrent and fault tolerant applications – is moving from …

  1. trevorde Silver badge

    New concept

    Paying for things you use!

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: New concept

      You make an oss project. Proves successful, then make a company

      Finally, do an Oracle move, at oracle pricing.

      If you have a thousand servers running this, well, rhey ask for about 36 million a year at least.

      It would be cheaper to just fork the project.

      1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        Re: New concept

        It would be cheaper to just fork the project.

        Which is fine. If you have decided to build your own business on a FOSS product then you have built-in to your plan what to do in the event that the product stops being developed. That might include moving to another product (works well if the API you are using is an industry standard like SQL) or continuing development/bug-fixing yourself, or paying a third party.

        If you don't like this change then just treat it as though they had announced there would be no further development and activate your plan, whatever it is. You can balance that against deciding whether to pay for their new, non-FOSS, software.

        1. badflorist Bronze badge

          Re: New concept

          "...balance that against..." ... 36 million? The number 36,000,000 was used as an example and that number more than justifies hiring a fleet of programmers to not only develop it but to specialize it.

          Seriously, 36 million... that's a lot of programmers for a project like this. (100 @ 360k/yr)

        2. keithpeter Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: New concept

          Your point is well made.

          Contributors might however be leery of spending much time on a project that requires copyright assignment to the entity that coordinates the project in future, thus leading to a chilling effect on new projects.

          Without copyright assignment, changing the licence like this would require consultations and unanimous agreement I think.

          Icon: I actually paid for Netscape Navigator in a shop. I came home with a mostly empty cardboard box containing a CD-ROM.

    2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: New concept

      NOT paying for things you sell!

      Take the software community's free-to-you fixes and improvements and charge money for them.

      People with this "business plan" are a reason why open source projects must be forkable.

  2. Duke of Source

    Fair and just

    The product is now a former open source product. But for all practical reasons it doesn't matter, because the only limitation is placed on huge corporations, where it's fair and just to extract some of their obscene wealth that is resting to some extent on this free tool. Therefore I say to the whiner on HN: pay up!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fair and just

      Except the huge corporations are exactly the ones in a position to fork the codebase at the most recent open-source commit, and maintain that version independently.

      Depending on the huge corporation, they may even make it a public open-source project, where it has every chance to eventually supplant the now-closed original and kill their new "available source" business model.

  3. deive

    It is right that "Corporations with a turnover higher than $25 million a year" should have to pay for some of their core technology.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      That is a philosophical opinion that I don't, personally, agree with. However, I agree that "Corporations running a business using FOSS software must be prepared to face the consequences of no one being willing to provide free updates/changes/fixes to the software at any time. with no notice".

      If you want guarantees, pay for them.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Absolutely, and they do. They buy proprietary stuff when they want it. They donate to open source when it benefits them. They don't pay for stuff they're given for free unless they see a benefit in it, which is the risk in giving stuff away for free. Everyone knows there's a risk that, if you make code available, someone will make money off it and not give it to you, but that's intrinsic when you go for a free or open source license which explicitly says so. You want proprietary, go proprietary. Don't act surprised when you don't get an open source community building around your proprietary thing. If it's good enough, you will still turn a profit. Thousands of software companies have succeeded by making proprietary software.

      1. Robert Grant Silver badge

        > Everyone knows there's a risk that, if you make code available, someone will make money off it and not give it to you

        It would be strange to choose a licence that explicitly allows this eventuality, and then think of it happening as a risk.

    3. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      No, nobody should pay for your product if you gave it for free.

      The only reason your OS project was used was because it was advertised as free. Don’t expect to earn money if you chose this model.

  4. LDS Silver badge

    "Everyone loves Open Source because of the freedoms it provides"

    Sorry, the right sentence is "Everyone loves Open Source because it is free and you don't have to pay for it" - only a few cares about the "freedoms", and specifically, not companies. Sure, large IT entities like to have the source code to tailor it to their needs - but they are the same that see keeping it for them as a competitive advantage as well. So they can fund some generic development which anyway keep their cost low compared to develop the whole thing themselves - but aren't going to give back anything else.

    Everything comes from the original sin of Stallman & C. and their environment - they liked people contributing code they had not to pay for, but they wanted to be free to use it for their own work for which they were actually paid for by the entities they worked for - so even the GPL have exceptions. For example universities and their researches would not like to give back the code they were using internally for their own projects - at least not too soon.... and of course companies are not different. As soon as most software switched from packaged software to "services" or being modified for "internal use only"... - bang!

    Be careful what you wish for, it might just come true...

    1. Duke of Source

      Re: "Everyone loves Open Source because of the freedoms it provides"

      I don't think Stallman and his acolytes were ever in it for the money. Just look at the current homepage video on gnu.org. The main character escapes dungeons full of human eating titans and finds herself in a warm LSD augmented world with her friends and everyones happy thanks to the freedoms granted by the licenses. It seems money making was only ever a necessity for FSF ideologists to survive in the darkest dungeons of cruel capitalist world. When FSF lost a slew of sponsors due to the attack on Stallman, they dug in, Stallman went on a vacation, and a few months later Stallman returned and FSF continued unbent. (One might say it's fine due to them being the moral compass in software world.)

      1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        Re: "Everyone loves Open Source because of the freedoms it provides"

        FSF is useful, and does some very important work. I used to support it financially but I stopped when they brought Stallman back as a director. His controverial history is bad for the FSF brand, and he should have voluntarily stood down as a director. He does have valuable skills, and experience, but if FSF needed those they should have brought him back as an employee or consultant - not in control.

        1. cornetman Silver badge

          Re: "Everyone loves Open Source because of the freedoms it provides"

          Pretty much everything of what Stallman was accused of subsequently turned out to be nothing more than shallow character assassination by nobodies, perpetuated and amplified by a willfully ignorant press and believed out-of-hand by people who should really know better.

          Accusations like "he showed me the mattress in his office and it made me feel very uncomfortable" were made to seem like sexual assaults. The FSF did exactly what more organisations should do. If there is nothing substantive to the accusations, ignore them and they will go away: and they did. If there was anything to those accusations, we would have seen court cases by now. And we haven't.

          If crimes have been committed, we have well defined processes for dealing with them. I just wish that more companies would have the backbone that the FSF has shown. Throwing your key members of staff under the bus because an Internet army of pink and purple-haired morons have found a new "cause" is the very definition of cowardice.

          1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

            RMS

            I don't believe anyone accused him of actual crimes so when you say no crimes were proven, it's a bit of a strawman. ICBW on that: we didn't TTBOMK report him breaking any laws, alleged or otherwise.

            The criticisms against him were that he was crashingly insensitive or naive about sensitive topics, and that he allegedly did things like, as a senior academic, ask 19 year old students out on dates within minutes of meeting them. It just creeps people out after a while.

            He suggested that the possession of sexual material of minors, and even sex between an adult and a child, should be legal under the assumption that a minor could consent to it and everything would be OK. I believe he later backtracked on all or most of that stuff.

            Bottom line is, his colleagues in the community just didn't like him any more. And when the press covered that tension, it was all wrongly interpreted - for some weird reason - as an attack on Free software. Free software has and had nothing to do with it.

            This was all on RMS and his behavior. I'm aware of the concept of free speech and that folks should generally support those with differing opinions, and all that, but if people find you sketchy on the basis of your attitude and comments, don't be surprised if they don't want to keep you in their community.

            You don't invite back the loudmouth bore who scared away guests at a previous party.

            C.

            1. cornetman Silver badge

              Re: RMS

              You make some good points.

              However, at the risk of opening an old cans of worms, I would make some additional comments:

              > I don't believe anyone accused him of actual crimes so when you say no crimes were proven, it's a bit of a strawman.

              I agree with this. However, from what I gather, his general behaviour is nothing really new. What probably happened is society moved on and he didn't. It is right that he be berated and told to do better. In past times, this would have been settled (if settlement was possible), apologies would have been made and life would go on, hopefully with people acting in a more mature fashion. Unfortunately, in the current volatile social media environment, such a measured, productive response is hardly possible. The opportunity was made to destroy him as a person. It is not reasonable for anyone to have to experience such a tirade of abuse as was heaped on Stallman for what are fairly correctable faults. One might reasonably expect such acrimony for actual assault (sexual or otherwise), murder etc.

              > He suggested that the possession of sexual material of minors, and even sex between an adult and a child, should be legal under the assumption that a minor could consent to it and everything would be OK. I believe he later backtracked on all or most of that stuff.

              I think what actually happened is that he claimed that what he said was taken woefully out of context. Actually, there is some reasonable debate about whether or not laws about the age of consent and statutory rape are fair or just in all circumstances. They *do* throw up fairly weird anomalies from time to time (young, loving couples who do want to marry suddenly becoming criminals because someone had a birthday), even if you obviously have to have measures to protect young vulnerable children from much older monsters. The law is a blunt instrument and doesn't serve everybody fairly or evenly.

              > This was all on RMS and his behavior.

              Again, agreed. However, RMS has been consistent on his views on free software. Sometimes, you do need a spokesman that is deaf to other voices talking about "compromise" and "we prefer to talk about open source" to cut through the bullsh*t. RMS has been that voice. Perhaps people like RMS come with some other attributes that we like less but have to tolerate to avoid the important message being lost.

              We should also be careful to not avoid self-reflection from time-to-time. When sitting on the bus, if a stranger starts to talk to me and it makes me feel uncomfortable, if they are just being friendly, perhaps it is me that has the problem, not them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Everyone loves Open Source because of the freedoms it provides"

      Sorry, the right sentence is "Everyone loves Open Source because it is free and you don't have to pay for it" - only a few cares about the "freedoms", and specifically, not companies.

      Oh they do care about the freedom bit too. When IBM routed around in their petty cash box and bought everyone's favourite enterprise server OS and extinguish CentOS they really cared that the freedom aspect of free meant that the likes of Alma & Rocky could instantly step in and fill the CentOS shaped hole in their business.

      Someone of them even cared enough to throw a few micro shekels in the direction of the saviours of their corporate bacon.

      In many cases it is the freedom bit which helps keep the free ($0) bit.

  5. VoiceOfTruth

    I wonder if Lightbend as a company depends on FOSS

    Does Lightbend as a company use FOSS software? Does it build its products on FOSS? If so, is this not hypocrisy? It's saying "we are too important to be giving our stuff away for free but we will keep using other free stuff'.

    1. AlanSh

      Re: I wonder if Lightbend as a company depends on FOSS

      But you don't know that they do. So don't accuse them of hypocrisy without some facts.

      1. VoiceOfTruth

        Re: I wonder if Lightbend as a company depends on FOSS

        Their web site uses JavaScript. They didn't write it themselves. Back to you...

      2. G40

        Re: I wonder if Lightbend as a company depends on FOSS

        Seem to be perfectly valid questions, with no accusation made. Don’t get the downvote or your comment

      3. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: I wonder if Lightbend as a company depends on FOSS

        They didn't say absolutely that they're hypocritical. They suggested it's possible. The chances are very high that they do use open source software; they're employing devs who are probably using open source tooling, they probably have many Linux servers, and unless they forged the record just to mess with me, they're definitely using Nginx as their HTTP server. We don't know if they donate to all of those things, but if, and only if, they don't donate to at least one of them, they can be seen as hypocritical. I don't claim to have proof that they are, but it is not only possible but also wouldn't be surprising.

    2. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: I wonder if Lightbend as a company depends on FOSS

      That is irrelevant. It isn't hypocrisy - it is completely their choice to decide to stop working on the FOSS project and work on something else. The existing software hasn't gone away and people can both use it and modify it just as before.

      Of course, I prefer to use, and certainly to contribute to, software with licences which provide stronger freedoms, which is why the software I publish is under GPL.

      If anyone wants to, they can take the existing code and choose to support it and/or develop it and make it available for no charge. It just won't be Lightbend doing it.

      1. VoiceOfTruth

        Re: I wonder if Lightbend as a company depends on FOSS

        If you read my comment more carefully you would have seen and understood I was not referring to their software. I was querying if they use FOSS software, take your pick: Linux, BSDs, VIM, Apache, GCC, etc. If they do, do they contribute back? Do they pay for it?

        Look at the opening statement in the article: "Lightbend is fed up with commercial entities using its open source wares in production environments"

        Wow! I have never heard anyone from the Apache Foundation being "fed up" that people use Apache in a production environment.

        1. IGotOut Silver badge

          Re: I wonder if Lightbend as a company depends on FOSS

          Nice selective quoting. How about the giving nothing back part?

          Apache get a fuck load of contributions back, they don't write, maintain and upgrade all the code themselves.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "the need and moral obligation to contribute"

    Once again, a FOSS project finding itself successful finds an excuse to extract money.

    Oh sure, only from corporations that make $25+ million. Nice excuse.

    Youd didn't say that when you started, you're saying that now that you know your project is being used.

    Looks like a bait-and-switch to me.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: "the need and moral obligation to contribute"

      Flip side of the coin.

      Company uses our work, depends on our work, expects to continue depending on our work, but "because FOSS is free" doesn't contribute anything back.

      It's okay to be like that when it's an evening project, you're being paid to develop, or there's a sugar daddy. If not, well, bills need paid. Developers need paid.

      Not taking sides, just pointing out that the alternative viewpoint.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: "the need and moral obligation to contribute"

        Yes, they've got bills. When you start a project, you decide what you'll do about them. One possible decision is to go proprietary, as many have before. You get paid as soon as you find someone who wants your product. Another way is to use a license that says people can use it or even sell it for free, and you won't get paid automatically. You'll have to solicit donations or find a different way to make money, but you'll probably get more users and contributors. Then there's this way, where you start with open source without thinking about the consequences, then change the terms and take all the code written by others for your own and make a profit off them. You're allowed to do that, and I'm allowed to dislike you if you do. Just because you have bills to pay doesn't mean I should pay them if you're not making as much as you thought your "give this away for free" plan would generate.

        Sure, in this case, those who have to pay are not that sympathetic. Who cares if a large corporation has to pay more money. The problem comes when they change the license in other ways. They could put the bar anywhere. They can make the source unavailable for future updates. They can charge for any production use if they want. One benefit of open source software was that they were suggesting they weren't going to do those things. They've abandoned that.

      2. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

        Re: "the need and moral obligation to contribute"

        “ It's okay to be like that when it's an evening project”

        No. If you decided to work on make your project Open Source, it is OK fir everyone, however rich they are, to get your work for free.

        If you think otherwise, use a licence upfront that does not allow them doing it, don’t demand payment from people who you promised it is going to be free.

        The only reason most of OSS projects were success was because they were free. By making someone paying for it you are being dishonest.

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: "the need and moral obligation to contribute"

          Gosh, so many possible responses. I believe they traditional one is if you don’t like it, you can always fork.

          Your demand is essentially that developers, who have given away a produce for free for years, are now not permitted to change their mind even if it turns out to be unsustainable.

          This is very naive. Situations change, and If you can’t pay your staff, they leave and the project folds. It may still, of course, but if it’s providing value customers will pay up.

  7. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Open source biz sick of FOSS community exploitation

    Dear oh dear, if your source is open and free, expect it to be used by anyone for anything, up to and including big profitable businesses. If you couldn't make money from supporting and customising it then you failed as an "open souce biz". That's OK, and if you want to develop commercial paid software from now on, do so. But don't whinge about freeloaders profiting from your work after open sourcing software - it's inevitable, and you should really just see that as a compliment and a useful way to recommend the quality and usefulness of your work. There is no right to make money once a FOSS project becomes successful, you have to work out how to do it if you planned to make a living from it.

    These guys are trying one way of doing so. But if other people keep the open source project going and do it better, that will probably be curtains for their business licence idea.

  8. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Re: Looks like a bait-and-switch to me

    How so bait and switch?

    If you are successfully using Akka at the moment under the Apache licence you can keep on using that copy forever.

    Now the response will be "but I can't get free updates any more"!

    Well, as was pointed out above, you were never guaranteed any free updates: you don't have a support contract, you were just keeping your fingers crossed that the Akka devs would decide to keep writing and releasing free updates. They didn't decide to do that, so just the same as if they were hit by a bus, you put your contingency plan into action.

    (Oops, meant to be a reply to Pascal Monett, missed the "reply" button)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A common but never successful move.

    I have worked in OSS for years and its not uncommon for a company trying to make a living off OSS to go through phases where they decide that people using the open source version without paying are their biggest competitors and try and force them onto a paid version. Usually, its done by removing features from the open-source version or delaying the availability of security patches.

    However, companies do it though I have never seen it cause a significant bump in revenue. Organizations that are sufficiently tied into the software will already be paying for an enterprise version. Smaller companies will shift to other frameworks.

    Akka is a nice framework, but it has a small and decreasing share of the modern application framework space. I think this move will just reduce that share further. A fork is unlikely to happen as it would need a decent number of committers to move to the fork (developers building applications on Akka don't know enough about its internals to fork it), and I think most Akka committers work for lightbend.

  10. ChoHag Bronze badge
    FAIL

    "Here is a free product with no restrictions"

    "Wait ... did you think that meant that you could use it how you wanted and not pay?"

    If you give your work away for free you do not get to whine when people use it for free.

    Open sores has become a joke.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: "Here is a free product with no restrictions"

      Downvoted for tarring everyone with the same brush.

    2. Falmari Silver badge

      Re: "Here is a free product with no restrictions"

      @TheMeerkat ”nobody should pay for your product if you gave it for free.”

      No one will pay for the product they gave away for free. Akka v2.6 is still covered by Apache 2 license. It can continue to be used for free, can still be installed for free and modified in whatever way (forked) for free.

      The next version will not be free to large commercial companies, if they want to use the next version, say because it has new features, they will have to pay or wait 3 years for the next version to revert to the Apache 2 license.

      So Akka v2.6 will always be free in cost, how it is used, or modified. But free did not include a free maintenance contract for life, or a free for life Saas contract to upgrade to the latest version.

  11. bigtreeman

    monetise and get stinking rich

    We have had commercial software up to here.

    You want to make money OR you want to make free software.

    Not both.

    Make your business position, free or not free

    you can't have it both ways.

  12. Mark Talbot

    The problem with this is not so much the licence change (as bad as it is) but the fact they went for a per core licences model for a cloud native horizontally auto scalable framework, which makes buying the insane licence costs just stupid, are you supposed to be having contract negotiations with them every few hours as you scale up and down with load? Part of the reason everyone self supported is that lightbend where taking the piss with their pricing.

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