ReactJS and Apache Licensing Issues

It seems barely a month goes by without some potential threat to scupper an open source project, however unwittingly. Be it a major security flaw or patent infringement – the latter in this case is what has provoked this post. This time it is the turn of ReactJS and Apache – the problem is licensing. In a nut shell if you use ReactJS on Apache you’re not allowed… To quote Chris Mattmann, legal representative for Apache and citing an excerpt from Apache Foundation and Facebook in Standoff Over React.js License by Christine Hall (accessed 23 Aug, 2017):

“No new project, sub-project or codebase, which has not used Facebook BSD+patents licensed jars (or similar), are allowed to use them,” he wrote. “In other words, if you haven’t been using them, you aren’t allowed to start. It is Cat-X.”

How did we end up in this mess?

Put simply the license that Facebook uses is not compatible with the Apache Open BSD license.

So, what do we do – ignore it?

No, but it would seem rash to just take down and refactor current code bases, NetFlix, Yahoo and Slack are all big users of ReactJS – is it really worth the hassle and risk to Facebook’s and Apache’s reputation to not try and seek a compromise?  Pragmatism should rule the day in the eventual shake down, as has been indicated in a recent post, Don’t Over-REACT to the Facebook Patents License by Heather Meeker (accessed 24 Aug, 2017), Meeker states:

the controversy is more partisan than practical. In fact, it’s unlikely the move will affect adoption of ReactJS, and the criticisms of the BSD+patent grant mostly don’t survive the scrutiny of reason.

Based on the above it would seem to me reasonable to sit tight and keep on using ReactJS with Apache.  It only becomes an issue if you decide to sue Facebook for patent infringement.  Another potential issue is if your product contains a patent which uses ReactJS on Apache and you in turn decide to sue a competitor for infringement of your own patent.  If you are using React or products using similar clauses  in your product it could well be you risk compromising your own patent protection.

And breeeeeath…

If you are prepared to take the risks identified above and sit it out until the fairy of pragmatism does her thing you should be fine.   Happy React development!