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ExtJS Licensing Continues to Evolve as a Result of Controversal Switch from LGPL to GPLv3

by Nick Laiacona on May 01, 2008 |

Jack Slocum, lead developer of the popular Javascript library ExtJS, announced this week a community effort to develop two new exceptions for open source software developed using ExtJS 2.1 or greater. This move came as a swift response to frustration and confusion surrounding recent changes in the Ext JS licensing model. The first of these exceptions will cover community developed extensions to Ext JS:

The first step for us is the Open Source License Exception for Extensions. It is currently in draft status and we are seeking input from the community before we have it finalized.

The intention of this exception is to allow for more liberal licensing of extensions, language packs, themes and open source developer toolkits and frameworks for Ext libraries under a variety of open source licenses.

Jack Slocum continues on the Ext JS blog to describe plans for the second of these exceptions, which will cover free and open source software (FLOSS) projects which employ the Ext JS API:

After the Extension Exception is complete, the next step will be drafting a FLOSS exception similar to the one by MySQL AB for both Ext JS and Ext GWT:

http://www.mysql.com/about/legal/licensing/foss-exception.html

This exception will be for open source applications that use Ext JS. It will have a few distinct additional grants the Extension Exception doesn't have (e.g. "bundling" will be ok) but won't be applicable to extensions or toolkits, as that's what the Extension Exception is for.

The original controversy over ExtJS licensing started with the recent release of Ext JS 2.1, in which the project switched from a modified Lesser Gnu Public License (LGPL) license to Gnu Public License v3 (GPL v3):

Until version 2.1 Ext was released under it's own license, the "Ext License". That license granted usage (provided certain conditions were met ) under the LGPL license terms. The CSS and images ("Assets") distributed with Ext before 2.1 had a license all of their own which was not open source compatible at all. We received quite a bit of negative feedback from some prominent members of the open source community about our license not being friendly for open source projects. Some even said Ext was not open source at all since these licenses did not offer the same freedoms that standard open source licenses offer. Since we have been an open source company since our inception, these comments and concerns struck home and we felt a need address the issue.

Although this initial move did clarify the project's status as an open source project, it did not satisfy the concerns of projects which did not or could not use a GPL based license. There were also negative responses from closed source projects that had been using the product for free under LGPL and for whom a GPL license is onerous. Earlier this week, this situation prompted a fork of the project in the form of OpenExt. There are questions about whether the Ext JS license allows this fork:

Ext are claiming that a fork of the existing 2.0 version is not legal, due to the way they applied the LGPL. This is likely to be incorrect, and if correct then their use of the name LGPL was grossly misleading.

The current state of Ext JS licensing is mapped out in the project's license FAQ. The draft of the ExtJS Open Source License Exception for Extensions is available here.

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