Inside OpenSSL's Battle to Change its License: Coders' Rights, Tech Giants, Patents and More

Thomas Claburn | The Register | March 24, 2017

The OpenSSL project, possibly the most widely used open-source cryptographic software, has a license to kill – specifically its own. But its effort to obtain permission to rewrite contributors' rights runs the risk of alienating the community that sustains it. The software is licensed under the OpenSSL License, which includes its own terms and those dating back to the preceding SSLeay license.

Those driving the project announced plans to shift to a new license in 2015 and now the thousand or so people who have contributed code over the years have started receiving email messages asking them to grant permission to relicense their contributions under the Apache Software License, version 2. Theo De Raadt, founder of OpenBSD, a contributor to OpenSSL, and creator of a LibreSSL – forked from OpenSSL in 2014 – expressed dissatisfaction with the relicensing campaign in a mailing list post, criticizing OpenSSL for failing to consult its community of authors.

"My worry is that the rights of the authors are being trampled upon, and they are only being given one choice of license which appears to be driven by a secret agreement between big corporations, Linux Foundation, lawyers, and such," he explained in an interview with The Register via phone and email. For years, OpenSSL went largely unappreciated, until the Heartbleed vulnerability surfaced in 2014 and shamed the large companies that depend on the software for online security to contribute funds and code...