Group: Software/research/ForksAgainstNonFreeReapropriation

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Sometimes some software under free licenses change to nonfree licenses.

This is possible either because these projects are under weak free software licenses (like the MIT or Apache 2.0 licenses) or because an entity (usually a company) owns all the copyright of the project and thus can change the license of subsequent version of that software. See Toward Copyleft Equality for All for more details on the business model and issues behind that.

Since they can't change the versions that have already been published, sometimes these projects are forked with the explicit purpose of remaining free software.


The list below might help finding free software replacements for the software that changed license.

Original software Last free versions Free software fork(s)
Elasticsearch OpenSearch
Kibana OpenSearch Dashboards
MongoDB FerretDB
Terraform OpenTF
Vagrant Vagrunt


Several projects are looking for maintainers, and most free software projects do need help in some form or another.

For instance the GNU project has a list of GNU software looking for maintainers. The FSF also has a list of high priority projects. The Linux kernel project also has a MAINTAINERS file that contains, several project (like u-boot) also follow that convention and have a similar file. Many free software projects are also looking for help. So it's worth considering what is the best way to use your skills to help free software and which project to help maintaining.

If you depends on a project that changed toward a nonfree license, it might be a good idea to step up and maintain a fork of it. It might also be interesting to look at ways to spread the maintenance burden over multiple people to lower the amount of time spending to maintain that project. If many people are interested in contributing to the fork it might also be an option to have the maintainer mostly do patch review and contribute very few modifications to spread more the workload.