News

Amazon: NOT OK - why we had to change Elastic licensing

Please note: Since we initially published this blog, we completed our review and announced updates to the Elastic License.

We recently announced a license change: Blog, FAQ. We posted some additional guidance on the license change this morning. I wanted to share why we had to make this change.

This was an incredibly hard decision, especially with my background and history around Open Source. I take our responsibility very seriously. And to be clear, this change most likely has zero effect on you, our users. It has no effect on our customers that engage with us either in cloud or on premises. Its goal, hopefully, is pretty clear.

So why the change? AWS and Amazon Elasticsearch Service. They have been doing things that we think are just NOT OK since 2015 and it has only gotten worse. If we don’t stand up to them now, as a successful company and leader in the market, who will?

Our license change is aimed at preventing companies from taking our Elasticsearch and Kibana products and providing them directly as a service without collaborating with us.

Our license change comes after years of what we believe to be Amazon/AWS misleading and confusing the community - enough is enough.

We’ve tried every avenue available including going through the courts, but with AWS’s ongoing behavior, we have decided to change our license so that we can focus on building products and innovating rather than litigating.

AWS’s behavior has forced us to take this step and we do not do so lightly. If they had not acted as they have, we would not be having this discussion today.

We think that Amazon’s behavior is inconsistent with the norms and values that are especially important in the open source ecosystem. Our hope is to take our presence in the market and use it to stand up to this now so others don’t face these same issues in the future.

In the open source world, trademarks are considered a great and positive way to protect product reputation. Trademarks have been used and enforced broadly. They are considered sacred by the open source community, from small projects to foundations like Apache to companies like RedHat. So imagine our surprise when Amazon launched their service in 2015 based on Elasticsearch and called it Amazon Elasticsearch Service. We consider this to be a pretty obvious trademark violation. NOT OK.

I took a personal loan to register the Elasticsearch trademark in 2011 believing in this norm in the open source ecosystem. Seeing the trademark so blatantly misused was especially painful to me. Our efforts to resolve the problem with Amazon failed, forcing us to file a lawsuit. NOT OK.

We have seen that this trademark issue drives confusion with users thinking Amazon Elasticsearch Service is actually a service provided jointly with Elastic, with our blessing and collaboration. This is just not true. NOT OK.

When the service launched, imagine our surprise when the Amazon CTO tweeted that the service was released in collaboration with us. It was not. And over the years, we have heard repeatedly that this confusion persists. NOT OK.

amazon-cto-tweet-license-change.jpg

When Amazon announced their Open Distro for Elasticsearch fork, they used code that we believe was copied by a third party from our commercial code and provided it as part of the Open Distro project. We believe this further divided our community and drove additional confusion.

More on this here. NOT OK.

Recently, we found more examples of what we consider to be ethically challenged behavior. We have differentiated with proprietary features, and now we see these feature designs serving as "inspiration" for Amazon, telling us their behavior continues and is more brazen. NOT OK.

We collaborate with cloud service providers, including Microsoft, Google, Alibaba, Tencent, Clever Cloud, and others. We have shown we can find a way to do it. We even work with other parts of Amazon. We are always open to doing that; it just needs to be OK.

I believe in the core values of the Open Source Community: transparency, collaboration, openness. Building great products to the benefit of users across the world. Amazing things have been built and will continue to be built using Elasticsearch and Kibana.

And to be clear, this change most likely has zero effect on you, our users. And no effect on our customers that engage with us either in cloud or on premises.

We created Elasticsearch; we care about it more than anyone else. It is our life’s work. We will wake up every day and do more to move the technology forward and innovate on your behalf.

Thanks for listening. If you have more questions or you want more clarification please read here or contact us at elastic_license@elastic.co.

Thank you. It is a privilege to be on this journey with you.

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