Friday, June 4, 2010

Changes to the WebM Open Source License

You'll see on the WebM license page and in our source code repositories that we've made a small change to our open source license. There were a couple of issues that popped up after we released WebM at Google I/O a couple weeks ago, specifically around how the patent clause was written.

As it was originally written, if a patent action was brought against Google, the patent license terminated. This provision itself is not unusual in an OSS license, and similar provisions exist in the 2nd Apache License and in version 3 of the GPL. The twist was that ours terminated "any" rights and not just rights to the patents, which made our license GPLv3 and GPLv2 incompatible. Also, in doing this, we effectively created a potentially new open source copyright license, something we are loath to do.

Using patent language borrowed from both the Apache and GPLv3 patent clauses, in this new iteration of the patent clause we've decoupled patents from copyright, thus preserving the pure BSD nature of the copyright license. This means we are no longer creating a new open source copyright license, and the patent grant can exist on its own. Additionally, we have updated the patent grant language to make it clearer that the grant includes the right to modify the code and give it to others. (We've updated the licensing FAQ to reflect these changes as well.)

We've also added a definition for the "this implementation" language, to make that more clear.

Thanks for your patience as we worked through this, and we hope you like, enjoy and (most importantly) use WebM and join with us in creating more freedom online. We had a lot of help on these changes, so thanks to our friends in open source and free software who traded many emails, often at odd hours, with us.

Chris DiBona is the Open Source Programs Manager at Google.

Polite, on-topic comments are welcomed on the webm-discuss mailing list. Please link to this post when commenting.