The mission of the ASF is to provide software for the public good. We use the Apache License to do this, which ensures that users of our software have the freedom to use our software however they see fit – even in proprietary products. Our steadfast belief in freedom for our users both serves our public purpose, as well as ensures that users from all areas are able to - and often desire to - contribute back to our communities. Our pragmatic license allows contributors from individuals to corporate teams to join together, secure in the knowledge that their product is freely usable by all.
Pragmatism is about doing what makes sense for the community and the all of public, without other agendas. As a public charity, adopting a pragmatic attitude about licensing and community is a key part of our success. Our pragmatism is primarily defined through our license, which we require all of our projects to use on the software products they release. Pragmatism is also shown through how we prefer diverse, consensus based communities for our development work.
The Apache License welcomes everyone to use our software however they please – including in closed or otherwise proprietary ways. We’re happy to have users take Apache software and use it privately, with or without ever sharing their changes with the world. We’re happy to have corporations build proprietary projects on top of our software and sell the resulting product for a profit. As long as users comply with the very basic terms of our license, we want them to have the freedom to do as they will with our software.
This pragmatic background to our license and our communities is most starkly contrasted to the Free Software Foundation’s Gnu Public License (GPL). Much of the intent of GPL licenses – often called “CopyLeft” licenses to distinguish them from copyright concepts – is to ensure that the software itself and it’s derivatives will forever remain free. The GPL essentially requires that future changes to any GPL software released publicly are given back to the community, using the GPL on the derived work. In some ways, the GPL provides for the software itself to be free, even at the expense of developers who might want to release derived works under another (possibly proprietary) license. The Apache License, in contrast, wants to give maximum freedom to the users of our software.
All ASF projects are required to use the Apache License. The rights we ensure that users of our software have is one of the fundamental aspects of the ASF.