One of the things that we have had to learn and be flexible on is the whole area of open source licenses. It's been nearly three years since we went to the GPL license with Alfresco Community. The GPL was and is the most widely used open source license and provided a fairness of use that meant that we could feel comfortable to grow the project, company and brand. Alfresco is now one of the strongest brands in both open source and ECM.
Now we have grown the Alfresco brand considerably since its beginning, we believe that we can now move the Alfresco repository to the LGPL license. This moves us back to the model that is similar to the JBoss license model (see JBoss's "Why We Use the LGPL"), which we experimented with in the very early days of Alfresco. Compared to 2005, we see more of an opportunity to be a platform beyond individual applications, particularly with the emergence of CMIS. What the LGPL license provides over GPL is the ability to link in the Alfresco repository without affecting proprietary software that links it. As stated in JBoss's document:
We use the LGPL for JBoss because it promotes software freedom without affecting the proprietary software that sits alongside and on top of JBoss.This reflects our feeling too. The LGPL code is share and share alike, but you can link it with any proprietary code without affecting the license of that code. We have considered more liberal licenses as well, but we currently have two main LGPL components - Hibernate for database access and JBPM for workflow - which prevent us from going to something like Apache or BSD licenses. However, this is something we may consider changing in the future.
We do this in the spirit of making Alfresco available as a CMIS platform and a general ECM platform to build content applications without inhibiting your business opportunities. What we hope is that your applications will build demand for Alfresco services from Alfresco Software, particularly in larger enterprise environments.
What this means practically, is that we are changing the license of all the software in the alfresco.war file. This is not an overnight operation, since every single files header needs to change to reflect the new license. Thus the license officially will change with the Alfresco 3.3 Community release in March. If you wish to consider alfresco.war today as LGPL, you may do so.
If you are an enterprise customer, then this won't affect you. You still have a full commercial license from Alfresco and have the full freedom of those terms.