Should Facebook be trusted on React and patents?

Submitted by aleksip on Tue, 10/03/2017 - 10:48

Dries Buytaert, the BDFL of Drupal, has just published a blog post in which he states that “React is the right direction to move for Drupal's administrative interfaces”. A related issue has also been opened on drupal.org.

With all the fuss about patents, why did Facebook choose the MIT license?

React’s previous BSD + Patents license received considerable criticism, including notable rejections by the Apache Software Foundation and WordPress. This criticism eventually forced Facebook to relicense React.

However, Facebook chose to relicense React under the MIT license, which does not mention patents at all. I find this interesting, because Facebook has told us that the additional patent grant in the BSD + Patents license was “designed to ensure that developers can use our projects with confidence”.

React was initially released under the Apache 2.0 license, which explicitly covers patents. So why didn’t Facebook now relicense React under Apache 2.0?

It all boils down to trust

As far as I know, the MIT license has not been tested in court regarding patents, and there are differing legal opinions on whether the license covers patents or not.

The Free Software Foundation states on the MIT license that “for substantial programs it is better to use the Apache 2.0 license since it blocks patent treachery”.

The MIT license is a popular license, also used by projects like Angular 2, Ember and Vue. Avoiding all projects that use the MIT license would be a very limiting decision.

So it all boils down to trust. Should we trust Facebook? I don’t, and I don’t think the Drupal community should either.

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