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Akka License - Frequently Asked Questions

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Why did Akka change its license?

In September 2022, Akka reduced the permissiveness of its license to require larger organizations deploying Akka for business benefits to acquire a Lightbend subscription. Our goal was to obtain a long term, sustainable approach to maintaining and improving Akka.

Akka requires significant investment to maintain its position as a preeminent distributed systems runtime. Akka has more than 100,000 lines of code across 50 modules with over 500 transitive dependencies. Security reviews, patching, bug fixing, performance benchmarking, and testing require significant ongoing maintenance in human and infrastructure costs.

Driving more than 600M downloads of Akka, thousands of organizations see benefits in the product. We believe that larger organizations that see business benefits from Akka should contribute to the ongoing health and evolution of the project.

The community made a free Akka fork, Apache Pekko. When should I use that?

Apache Pekko is a fork of Akka 2.6.2 originally released in September 2022. It is a member project of the Apache Software Foundation and licensed as Apache v2.

Open source projects can obtain an open source usage license for Akka from Lightbend at no charge. OSS projects hosted at a foundation, such as the Apache Software Foundation or the Eclipse Foundation, are given restrictive licensing flexibility and may only embed software that fits within the foundation’s defined legal parameters. These foundation projects are forced to use Apache Pekko for its license.

Apache Pekko released version 1.0 on July 13, 2023. Pekko does not provide a compatibility and interoperability policy statement between Akka and Pekko for SDKs, binaries, or modules. Pekko has stated that Akka and Pekko nodes are not able to form clusters together.

There are multiple known runtime and durability bugs that exist within Apache Pekko, which have been resolved within Akka. Lightbend has resolved nearly 50 CVEs since the BSL conversion and indemnifies organizations from IP liability issues tied to Akka or any of the dependencies Akka leverages. Given the severity of the malware that was injected by the xz Utils backdoor into Linux, community-governed projects pose a security threat. Neither the Apache Software Foundation nor the Apache Pekko project offer legal protections or remedies that could come from malware insertions that happen from bad actor maintainers.

Lightbend provides commercial support for Pekko v1.0.x through Akka migrations. We are not aware of other commercial software vendors providing a Pekko support commitment.

Lightbend has been audited and attested to be SOC 2 and NIST CSF compliant. Open source and forked versions before Akka 23.05 are not SOC 2 compliant. Organizations that require compliance with SOC 2, NIST CSF, or ISO 27001 can migrate from Pekko v1.0 to Akka by obtaining a Lightbend subscription.

Pekko has made commits for their upcoming 1.1 release which breaks API compatibility that could make migrations to Akka difficult. Lightbend will periodically review Pekko SDK additions for incorporation to work around any incompatibilities. For additional information

What license did Akka change to?

Akka is licensed under the Business Source License (BSL) v1.1 with an additional usage grant to permit free open source usage of Akka. The BSL was originally created by David Axmark and Michael Widenius and has been adopted by organizations such as Hashicorp, MariaDB, Cockroach Labs, Sentry, and Materialized.

How does the BSL license work?

The BSL is a source available license that freely allows usage of the code for development and other non-production work such as testing.

Production use of the software requires a commercial license from the Copyright holder, in our case Lightbend. Lightbend sells subscriptions that include a commercial license for production usage of Akka. Please contact us at if you have questions about the Lightbend subscription.

For organizations whose annual financial collections are less than $25M, Lightbend provides a no-charge commercial license. A no-charge commercial license is also available for academic institutions using Akka in production environments for research and teaching purposes.

Additionally, open source projects are able to embed Akka and use it within their projects with a commercial agreement under the additional usage grant for open source projects included within the BSL..

The code licensed under the BSL reverts to an approved open source license (“Change License”) after a period of time (“Change Date”) which, for Akka, was set to 3 years.

What open source license will Akka code revert to?

The open source Change License will be Apache 2.0 with a Change Date of 3 years– i.e. whenever Akka code is released under the BSL, that version of code will revert from BSL to the Apache license after three years and all of the terms of the Apache license will apply at that time.

This Change License clause within the BSL is designed to encourage and compel Lightbend to continually invest into the maintenance and advancement of the Akka platform, while also enabling the vast majority of users to continue using Akka for free.

Do I need a special license or Lightbend subscription to use Akka in a research, development, or pre-production environment?

You do not. The BSL offers a grant for use in all of these environments.

I am an ISV using Akka in my product that I ship to my customers. How do they get a license?

Lightbend has an ISV program to provide limited right of use licenses of Akka for your customers so long as Akka is used only in conjunction with your product. These licenses allow distribution to your customers without them having to procure a license directly and are available to our ISV partners at significantly discounted prices. Please contact us at for details.

What Akka modules will be changing under the new licensing?

All future versions of all Akka modules and all associated modules such as alpakka-kafka will be released under the new license.

Who is affected by the license change?

Everyone who wishes to use the latest Akka releases in production.

I am an existing Lightbend subscriber. What is the impact on me?

The vast majority of current subscribers are fully covered by their existing subscriptions. There may be some subscribers who will need to license additional projects that use Akka in production if they were outside the scope of the original subscription.

I use Akka for an OSS project. What does this mean for my project?

The license offers a customizable “Additional Use Grant” that grants production usage for other OSS projects including Play Framework.

If you are running an OSS project using Akka, please contact us at and we will do our best to continue to support your project.

I am using Play but am not directly using Akka libraries, what does this mean for me?

Our goal is to ensure that people using Play without directly using Akka are exempt from requiring a license for Akka. We have an Additional Use grant as part of our BSL license that excludes usage of certain parts of Akka required by Play from requiring a license.

I am using Play and parts of Akka that are included with Play?

If you are using Play and are directly using Akka components as part of your implementation you will be required to have a license for production use. Please contact us at if you have questions about your Play environment.

My company offers a hosted service that uses Akka. Do I need a commercial license?

Yes. Lightbend has pricing, promotion, and vendor co-marketing available for product partners that offer hosted services. Please contact us at for details.

My company is less than $25M but we have a SaaS offering that is used by large organizations. Do we need a commercial license?

Yes, but the commercial license provided by the Lightbend subscription is available at no cost to your company as your organization’s revenues are less than $25M.

I work for a Government department that has no “revenue” associated. Do we qualify for the $0 commercial license?

No. Non-profit organizations and governments whose annual operating budgets are greater than $25M must acquire a commercial license via a Lightbend subscription.

How much does the commercial license cost?

For commercial companies whose annual revenues are less than US $25M per annum or non-profits and governments whose operating budgets are less than $25M per annum, the commercial license can be obtained from Lightbend without charge. Academic institutions using Akka in production environments for research and teaching purposes can obtain a no-charge license, as well. For larger companies, please refer to pricing for details.

I have a copy of the software used for production but other copies that I am only using for development, testing and staging. For which ones do I need a commercial license?

You only need a commercial license for any copies of the software that are being used for production.

Will the Change Date remain constant?

No. Each new release of the software will have its own Change Date. A change from Akka 2.7.19 to 2.7.20 would reset the Change Date for the newly released version to three years after its release.

What if I want different license terms?

Contact Lightbend at We will be happy to discuss your specific licensing requirements.

Can Akka community members continue to contribute to the project?

Yes. This is a source available license that allows and encourages community involvement.

What happens if I mix Akka’s BSL code with other code?

Until the Change Date, the final mixed code will be bound by the license of the BSL code and the license of the other code. This means that the mixed code will still require a commercial license for production usage of the BSL licensed code. After the Change Date, the final mixed code will be bound by at least the Change License (i.e. Apache 2.0), along with whatever licensing requirements are mandated by the other code’s license.

Can I use Akka’s BSL code for my commercial, closed source product?

Yes. Use in a closed source product will usually be for production use so you must get a commercial license. If the annual revenue of your company is less than US $25m per annum then this will be available at no charge.

If I modify the source code of software licensed under the BSL, can I redistribute my modified version under the Apache 2.0 license?

No. Your modified version consists of the original software (which is under the BSL) and your modifications, which together constitute a derivative work of the original software. The license does not grant you the right to redistribute under a permissive license like Apache.

If there is a newer version of the software under BSL, can I backport any of the code to an older, Open Source, version of Akka?

No. In this circumstance, you would either violate Lightbend’s copyright by re-releasing the code under Open Source, or you would violate the earlier Akka version’s Apache license by introducing incompatible BSL code (i.e., code subject to a use limitation not allowed by the Open Source Apache 2.0 license).

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