Court erred in Neo4j source license ruling, says Software Freedom Conservancy

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by | April 4, 2022


A US federal district court decision in California favoring database biz Neoj4 is incorrect and imperils free open-source software, according to the Software Freedom Conservancy.

Neo4j Enterprise Edition (EE) was at first offered under both a paid-for commercial license and for free under the GNU Affero General Public License, version 3 (AGPLv3). In May 2018, version 3.4 of the software was put under AGLv3 plus additional terms from the Commons Clause license, which is not an open-source license and explicitly says as much in its documentation.

The viability of Neo4j’s AGPLv3+Commons Clause license is what’s at issue, because taken as a whole, the AGPLv3 includes language that says any added terms are removable. That view has been rejected in court – which accepts Neoj4’s right to craft custom terms and to resolve contradictions in those terms – and the Software Freedom Conservancy believes the court erred.

As The Register reported last month, Neo4j and its Swedish subsidiary have been pursuing legal claims, filed in 2018 and 2019, against several companies that sold what was marketed as an open-source licensed version of Neo4j EE under the name ONgDB – allegedly in violation of terms in the concatenated AGPLv3+Commons Clause license and Neo4j’s trademarks.

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