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WordPress to ditch React library over Facebook patent clause risk

WordPress to ditch React library over Facebook patent clause risk
From TechCrunch - September 15, 2017

Automattic, the company behind the popular open source web publishing software WordPress, has said it will be pulling away from using Facebooks React javaScript library over concerns about a patent clause in Facebooks open source license.

In a blog post explaining the decision yesterday, WordPress Matt Mullenweg said Automattic had hoped to officially adopt React for WordPressnoting it has already used it for the Calypso ground-up rewrite of WordPress.com a few years ago, and had started using it for its major Gutenberg core project.

But he reveals its changed its mind after seeing Facebook dig in behind the patent clausewhich was recently added tothe Apache Software Foundations (ASF) list of disallowed licenses.

In the ASFs Category X list, where the React patent clause now resides, it writes:

The Facebook BSD+Patents license includes a specification of a PATENTS file that passes along risk to downstream consumers of our software imbalanced in favor of the licensor, not the licensee, thereby violating our Apache legal policy of being auniversal donor. The terms of Facebook BSD+Patents license are not a subset of those found in the ALv2, and they cannot be sublicensed as ALv2.

Last month Facebook wrote its own blog post responding to the ASF decisionin which it conceded it hadnt done a good job of explaining the reasons behind the patent clause. And went on to claim that it was necessary becauseFacebooks business had become a larger target for meritless patent litigation, writing:

We decided to add a clear patent grant when we release software under the 3-clause BSD license, creating what has come to be known as the BSD + Patents license. The patent grant says that if youre going to use the software weve released under it, you lose the patent license from us if you sue us for patent infringement. We believe that if this license were widely adopted, it could actually reduce meritless litigation for all adopters, and we want to work with others to explore this possibility.

We respect third party IP, including patents, and expect others to respect our IP too. The BSD + Patents license just intends to give our teams more room to make meaningful contributions to open source while decreasing our time spent fighting frivolous lawsuits.

Regardless,Mullenweg says his concerns have not been assuaged. And he writes that he cannot, in good conscience, require users of Automattics very widely used open source WordPress software to inherit the patent clause and associated legal risk. So hes made the decision to ditch React.

I think Facebooks clause is actually clearer than many other approaches companies could take, and Facebook has been one of the better open source contributors out there. But we have a lot of problems to tackle, and convincing the world that Facebooks patent clause is fine isnt ours to take on. Its their fight, he writes.

He says the decision means there will be a delay to Automattics Gutenberg projectof at least a few weeksas its rewritten using a different library, with Mullenweg noting this may push the release into next year.

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