On February 14, 2017, MariaDB released an update to its Business Source License. The BSL is an alternative to free software licensing, intended to help developers reap the economic benefits of their work, while still making source code available to the community.
The BSL mades code available for a limited time on limited terms, but converts automatically to an open source license (the “Change License”) on a pre-determined date (the “Change Date”).
This new version of BSL was reviewed by open source pioneer Bruce Perens (and me), and so now BSL 1.1 has been adjusted for clarity, consistency with eventual open source release of the code, and potential use by other developers as a template license.
The changes included:
- Limits on the time elapsing before the Change Date, so the software will be converted to open source in a reasonable amount of time
- Requiring the Change License to be GPL compatible
MariaDB also used the announcement to adjust and clarify the licensing going forward for its MaxScale products.
The BSL represents one of a new crop of license models attempting to bridge the gap between open source licensing and proprietary licensing — seeking to create the community benefits of access to source code while preserving a viable economic model for the developer. The more common open source business models of customization or maintenance services, widget frosting, and dual licensing have lost some of their luster over the years, as businesses — particularly startups — have struggled to serve both the community and their own economic needs. Another approach in this new crop is the Fair Source License — which is a proprietary source-available license with modest limitations on royalty-free use.
As Kaj Arnö commented on his blog: “It’s authentic, it’s honest, it’s fair for your users, your customers, your developers and your shareholders alike. Go BSL!”
MariaDB is an increasingly popular open source database product started by the founders of MySQL. Many users have grown frustrated and dismayed with MySQL’s licensing policies and lack of community involvement after the acquisition by Oracle, and so many are turning to MariaDB as a viable option.
Congratulations to MariaDB on this effort.