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A timely re­minder that open source is not for life…

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Redis aban­dons open source in its database mod­ules. Plus: Steam!

Redis Labs has an­nounced that its range of Redis Mod­ules are no longer open source. By aban­don­ing the AGPL li­cence, in favour of com­bin­ing Apache v2.0 with Com­mons Clause, in-house mod­ules ex­tend­ing the func­tion­al­ity of the Redis database soft­ware are now off-lim­its to third-party cloud ser­vice providers.

Mod­ules af­fected by this change in­clude RediSearch, Redis Graph and ReJSON. Redis Labs co­founder and CTO Yif­tach Shool­man jus­ti­fied the de­vel­op­ment in a blog post, com­plain­ing that “Cloud providers have been tak­ing ad­van­tage of the open source com­mu­nity for years […]. This dis­cour­ages the com­mu­nity from in­vest­ing in de­vel­op­ing open source code, be­cause any po­ten­tial ben­e­fit goes to cloud providers rather than the code de­vel­oper.”

To un­der­stand the im­pli­ca­tions of this, we spoke to Shashank Sharma (www. men­schlaw.in), a trial lawyer and soft­ware li­cens­ing ex­pert who has been writ­ing about open source soft­ware for more than 14 years.

He told us that while the Redis project re­mains BSD-licensed, only Redis­Labs’ Redis Mod­ules have been switched to the “so­called Apache+Com­mons Clause li­cense. [How­ever,] the Redis com­mu­nity can still con­trib­ute mod­ules to the project, un­der their own cho­sen li­cences, such as AGPL. In fact, the lead de­vel­oper in a blog post con­firmed that his cur­rent Redis mod­ule, Disque, will be re­leased un­der AGPL.”

The im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion, notes Sharma, is that “just be­cause the source is avail­able doesn’t make soft­ware open source or free. There are es­sen­tial free­doms (as the FSF calls them) which makes soft­ware Free.” Sim­i­larly, the Open Source Def­i­ni­tion has a set of con­di­tions defin­ing open source soft­ware. By adopt­ing the Com­mons Clause, Redis is erod­ing, or fun­da­men­tally al­ter­ing, these free­doms. “Redis call the new li­cence for Redis Mod­ules Apache + Com­mons Clause, which may lead to peo­ple mis­tak­enly con­clud­ing that Redis Mod­ules are still open source. Any al­ter­ation of the li­cence terms to limit the free­doms/per­mis­sions that it al­lows changes the li­cence from open source to pro­pri­etary.”

Redis claims it wants to limit how cloud providers can profit from Redis de­ploy­ments and sup­port ser­vices, en­sur­ing any money made with its soft­ware isn’t by third par­ties. But Sharma told Linux user & De­vel­oper that the adop­tion of the Com­mons Clause has “broader im­pli­ca­tions,” re­fer­ring specif­i­cally to this line of the clause:

“‘Sell’ means prac­tis­ing any or all of the rights granted to you un­der the Li­cence to pro­vide to third par­ties, for a fee or other con­sid­er­a­tion (in­clud­ing with­out lim­i­ta­tion fees for host­ing or con­sult­ing/sup­port ser­vices re­lated to the Soft­ware), a prod­uct or ser­vice whose value de­rives, en­tirely or sub­stan­tially, from the func­tion­al­ity of the Soft­ware.”

Not only will this im­pact cloud providers, but also Linux sup­port com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­ual con­sul­tants. Sharma con­cludes: “The real is­sue for any­one us­ing Redis is how much of the reliance is on Redis Core, and whether any­one can use Redis with­out re­ly­ing on Redis Mod­ules.”

Just be­cause the source is avail­able doesn’t make soft­ware open source or free

Above Redis says it doesn’t want third-party cloud providers prof­it­ing from its soft­ware

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