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28 January 2010, 10:14

Alfresco to drop GPL, goes LGPL

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Alfresco Logo Alfresco has announced that it is changing the licensing of the community edition of its enterprise content management system from GPL to LGPL. The move was announced by the company's CEO, John Newton, in a posting on his blog. He explained that the company had initially gone with the GPL licence three years ago as it was the "most widely used open source license and provided a fairness of use that meant we could comfortably grow the project, company and brand".

Alfresco say that the brand is now established and they are ready to move to a more permissive licence. The big difference between the LGPL and GPL is that the LGPL allows proprietary and closed code to be linked to the software. Companies have used the inability of GPL code to be linked to proprietary code as a cornerstone of dual-licensing, where they make the code open source, but sell licences to users who wish to integrate it with proprietary components.

Newton says the company selected the LGPL licence because it gives "the ability to link in the Alfresco repository without affecting proprietary software that links (to) it". He also cites JBoss's reasoning in its paper "Why We Use The LGPL"PDF that the LGPL "promotes software freedom without affecting the proprietary software that sits alongside and on top of JBoss". Although the company considered more liberal licences, such as Apache or BSD, it was prevented from using them because it already incorporates two LGPL components (Hibernate and JBPM), but it will consider a more liberal licence in the future.

The change to the licence will be incorporated into the code for Alfresco by the release of Alfresco Community Edition 3.3, due in March. Newton points out that the process will take a while as it involves changing every single source code file's header to reflect the licence change. In the interim though, he says "If you wish to consider alfresco.war today as LGPL, you may do so".

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