OpenMRS History & Licensing Move to MPLv2

Burke Mamlin | OpenMRS Blog | July 7, 2012

This is for those who missed this interesting OpenMRS Blog post several months ago on their move to the open source Mozilla Public License (MPL). The following are some excerpts from the blog post:

In the process of upgrading the software license for OpenMRS, it seems like a good time to review how we got here and why we’re changing our license.  Here’s a brief history of OpenMRS Licensing:

  • 2004 – OpenMRS is born as an informal collaboration between Regenstrief & Partners In Health starting with a data model, some code, and loads of experience.  None of us can even spell “open source,” yet we’re academics and go out of our way to work openly.
  • 2005 – The OpenMRS platform starts to come together.  As we work openly, more interested parties join.
  • 2006 – OpenMRS starts getting deployed
  • 2007 – All contributors to the code (just shy of a dozen by then) formally sign over rights to code to the community.  OpenMRS is trademarked.  The OpenMRS Public License 1.0 is born.

Living with OPL 1.0

  • 2008 – 2010 – Life is good, but we run into a couple license issues: conflicts with other libraries (e.g., ExtJS) and some missed opportunities here & there.  Nothing horrible, but as time progresses, we start to learn some of the gotchas in licensing.  More importantly, we yearn to be using an official OSI-approved license.
  • 2011 – We decide that we want to either switch to an OSI-approved license or get the OpenMRS Public License itself OSI-approved.
  • 2012 – Efforts begin in earnest to explore an OSI-approved alternative.

OpenMRS Public License 2.0 / Mozilla Public License 2.0 + Disclaimer

In 2013, with some hard work by Paul and help from OSI, Luis Villa, and some other lawyers, we discover that the Mozilla Public License 2.0 with a disclaimer could meet all of our needs, so we proposed the idea to the community.  Overall, people in the community are pleased to see us adopting an OSI-approved license.

...But why Mozilla Public License 2.0 (MPL 2.0)?

  • MPL 2.0 is a natural evolution from MPL 1.1, meeting all of our original requirements while eliminating drawbacks of MPL 1.1.
  • MPL 2.0 allows for a disclaimer, letting us add our medico-legal language without altering the license and remaining OSI-approved.
  • MPL 2.0 is not only OSI-approved, but endorsed by the Free Software Foundation.
  • The MPL 2.0 is refreshingly simple to read/understand.