Last month, Google announced the open source WebM project for the VP8 video codec. Almost immediately the open source community grumbled that the license Google used for WebM was not truly open source. Well, on Friday, Google fixed it.
Google’s Open Source Programs Manager Chris DiBona explained the problem on the WebM blog.
As it was originally written, if a patent action was brought against Google, the patent license terminated. This provision itself is not unusual in an OSS license, and similar provisions exist in the 2nd Apache License and in version 3 of the GPL. The twist was that ours terminated “any” rights and not just rights to the patents, which made our license GPLv3 and GPLv2 incompatible. Also, in doing this, we effectively created a potentially new open source copyright license, something we are loath to do.
The new BSD license decouples the patent language from the copyright license.
“This means we are no longer creating a new open source copyright license, and the patent grant can exist on its own,” DiBona said.
And Open Source Initiative Board Director Simon Phipps, who chastised Google for using a non-open source license of WebM, has blessed Google’s license change.
“I am pleased to say that the project is now fully open source, with the copyright licensed under the BSD license,” Phipps said.