Alfresco moves to GPL

Posted by on March 15, 2007

We get lots of questions regarding Alfresco’s move from the Mozilla Public License (plus Attribution) to the GNU GPL.

First off, what is the difference between MPL and GPL?

Well, a primary difference is in the reciprocity requirements. The GPL requires that any derivative work of the original software program be licensed under GPL, whereas the MPL requires only that modifications to one of the files containing Original Code or previous Modifications or a new file containing Original Code or previous Modifications must be released under MPL.

In other words, if GPL code resides anywhere within your end software solution/product (i.e., is compiled in), the entire software code base must be licensed under GPL. In contrast, you may combine/compile MPL code with closed-source code as long as your closed-source code does not mix with the MPL code at the file level.

The bottom line: any OEM or end-user who wants to build a solution using Alfresco Community (GPL) must also release their entire software source code base under GPL. Alfresco provides an exception to this if it involves software licensed under an OSI approved license by virtue of Alfresco’s Free/Libre Open Source Software Exception.

If you are an OEM or end-user who wants to ensure that your modifications, extensions, and customizations to Alfresco remain closed, well that’s where Alfresco’s Enterprise license comes in — it waives the reciprocity requirements of the GPL. This dual-licensing approach to open source software is very common (e.g., MySQL)

So now there are two (independent) reasons to purchase Alfresco Enterprise:

1) Support – to get responsive support and consulting help from Alfresco and their certified partners like Rivet Logic

2) GPL Waiver

Other thoughts:

  • Alfresco is now truly open source as defined by OSI and free software as defined by the Free Software Foundation (”free” as in “free speech”).
  • And as a result, Alfresco’s community should grow much larger. According to John Newton (Alfresco’s Chairman and CTO), this effect has been immediate.
  • Look for more Alfresco integrations with other open source projects.

A great move in all respects.


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