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Akka License - Frequently Asked Questions

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Why is Akka licensing changing?

Akka requires significant investment in order to maintain its position as a preeminent distributed systems runtime. Many organizations have adopted Akka and are seeing significant benefits for their organizations.

However, in recent years an increasing number of those organizations have elected to self-support without either contributing back to the community or by investing in annual subscriptions. We have an ambitious roadmap for the future of Akka and require a way to fund and sustain that development.

We believe that larger organizations that are seeing business benefits from Akka should contribute to the ongoing health and evolution of the project.

What is the new license?

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

How does the licensing 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. The commercial license will be available for early stage companies (less than US $25m in annual revenue) at no charge.

The BSL requires that the code licensed revert to an approved open source license (“Change License”) after a period of time (“Change Date”) which can be no later than 4 years.

What open source license will the code revert to and when?

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

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. However, earlier stage companies with annual revenues less than US $25m will be granted the license at no cost.

Can I continue to use the version of Akka I’m currently using?

Yes. However there will be no additional features, enhancements, non-critical security updates, or non-critical bug fixes.

Will critical vulnerabilities and bugs be patched in 2.6.x?

Yes, critical security updates and critical bugs will be patched in Akka v2.6.x under the current Apache 2 license until September of 2023.

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 akka-license@lightbend.com 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.

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 akka-license@lightbend.com for details.

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

Yes. Lightbend has special pricing available for product partners that offer hosted services. Please contact us at akka-license@lightbend.com 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 that license is available at no cost to your company.

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

No. The Akka Startup license is for commercial entities and non-profit organizations. Government departments using Akka in production will require a commercial license.

How much does the commercial license cost?

For early stage companies with annual revenues less than US $25m per annum, the license is free. 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 minor version of the software will have its own Change Date. A “minor version” is defined as a release that changes the second digit of the version number. E.g. a change from Akka 2.7.19 to 2.8.0 would reset the Change Date. A patch build change from 2.7.19 to 2.7.20 would not.

What if I want different license terms?

Contact Lightbend at akka-license@lightbend.com. 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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