FAQ on 2021 License Change
We are moving our Apache 2.0-licensed source code in Elasticsearch and Kibana to be dual licensed under the Elastic License and Server Side Public License (SSPL), giving users the choice of which license to apply. We are also simplifying the Elastic License (Elastic License v2, or ELv2) and making it substantially more permissive. This license change ensures our community and customers have free and open access to use, modify, redistribute, and collaborate on the code. It also protects our continued investment in developing products that we distribute for free and in the open by restricting cloud service providers from offering Elasticsearch and Kibana as a service without contributing back. This will apply to all maintained branches of these two products starting with the 7.11 release. Our default distribution will continue to be under the Elastic License.
Summary of licensing change
Can you summarize the changes?
We are changing the Apache 2.0-licensed source code of Elasticsearch and Kibana to be dual licensed under the Elastic License and SSPL 1.0, giving users the choice of which license to apply. We are also simplifying the Elastic License (Elastic License v2, or ELv2) and making it substantially more permissive. Our default distribution will continue to be under the Elastic License as it has been for nearly the last three years, and we will no longer produce an Apache 2.0 distribution.
Why is Elastic making this change?
This change ensures that our community and customers have free and open access to use, modify, redistribute, and collaborate on Elasticsearch and Kibana source code. It also protects our continued investment in developing products that we distribute for free and in the open by restricting cloud service providers from offering our products as a service without sharing their modifications and the source code of their service management layers.
What are the key changes being made to the Elastic License?
The Elastic License 2.0 applies to our distribution and the source code of all of the free and paid features of Elasticsearch and Kibana. Our goal with ELv2 is to be as permissive as possible, while protecting against abuse. The license allows the free right to use, modify, create derivative works, and redistribute, with three simple limitations:
- You may not provide the products to others as a managed service
- You may not circumvent the license key functionality or remove/obscure features protected by license keys
- You may not remove or obscure any licensing, copyright, or other notices
The aim of these provisions are to protect our products and brand from abuse, while making distribution and modification as simple as possible. See this dedicated FAQ for additional details on ELv2.
I'm a user, how does this license change affect me?
If you download and use our default distribution of Elasticsearch and Kibana, nothing changes for you. Our default distribution continues to be free and open under the Elastic License, as it has been for nearly the last three years. With the Elastic License 2.0, we have simplified the license terms, and made it significantly more permissive. If you build applications on top of Elasticsearch, nothing changes for you. Our client libraries continue to be licensed under Apache 2.0. If you use plugins on top of Elasticsearch or Kibana, nothing changes for you.
I contribute to Elasticsearch and/or Kibana, how does this affect me?
First, a big thank you! You can continue to contribute to Elasticsearch and Kibana as you always have, whether that code is under the Elastic License or SSPL. To learn more about how to contribute, see our contributor guide.
I'm a customer or partner, how does this affect me?
Customers and partners using our products in Elastic Cloud or under a self-managed subscription are not affected by this change.
I build an application that embeds and redistributes Elasticsearch, how does this affect me?
If you're already a customer or have an agreement to redistribute our default distribution, there is no change. Our default distribution, which has been under the Elastic License for nearly 3 years, requires a direct agreement with Elastic for redistribution.
For Open Source projects, we are happy to support your project and provide redistribution rights free of charge. Please reach out to us at email@example.com and we will provide a license addendum providing the right to redistribute.
For commercial applications, you have a few options. To redistribute our default distribution under the Elastic License, reach out to our team to discuss. You may also consider building Elasticsearch and Kibana from source, and in this case, you will need to evaluate whether the terms of the Elastic License or SSPL will work for your use case going forward. We’re happy to help if you have any questions: reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your particular situation.
How does dual licensing work?
The Apache 2.0-licensed source code of Elasticsearch and Kibana will be changed to be dual licensed under the Elastic License and SSPL. This means that when using the source code, you can choose which set of terms and conditions will best meet your needs. Our default distribution will continue to be published under the Elastic License as it has been for nearly the last three years, so if you are not using the source code directly, this does not affect you. We have also simplified the Elastic License to be as permissive as possible.
Why are you offering a dual license strategy?
Most of our users and customers already use Elastic as part of the default distribution, which has followed the Elastic License for almost three years. However, we wanted to make every effort to be as open and permissive as possible while preventing public cloud providers from offering a hosted service without investing back in the community. For users that are already using the Elastic License, if you prefer, keep doing so! This has no impact on you. In fact, we have made the Elastic License even more permissive with the Elastic License 2.0 update. We chose to also make SSPL an option because we know that it is familiar to millions of users and companies, thanks to its use by MongoDB, its creator, and it provides the kind of freedoms that we deeply value.
What is SSPL and how does it work?
We dual licensed Elasticsearch and Kibana under the Elastic License and SSPL to offer users a choice. SSPL is a source-available license originally created by MongoDB, who set out to craft a license that embodied the ideals of open source, allowing free and unrestricted use, modification, and redistribution, with the simple requirement that if you provide the product as a service to others, you must also publicly release any modifications as well as the source code of your management layers under SSPL.
SSPL is based on GPLv3, and is considered a copyleft license. This means that if you use the source code and create derivative works, those derivative works must also be licensed under SSPL and released publicly. For more information, MongoDB has a good FAQ.
Note that SSPL has not been approved by the OSI, so to avoid confusion we do not refer to it as an Open Source license.
SSPL is familiar to millions of MongoDB users and we provided this option so that those users would not have to review a new license. For more information, MongoDB has a good FAQ. Also, we have seen much misinformation around SSPL. We found and thought it would be helpful to share the following blogs written by lawyers:
What kind of use constitutes “offering the product as a service” under SSPL?
To be clear, our distributions starting with 7.11 will be provided only under the Elastic License 2.0, which does not have any copyleft aspects and allows free use, modification, and redistribution, with only 3 simple limitations to protect our products and brand, as outlined above.
If you are building Elasticsearch and/or Kibana from source, you may choose between SSPL and the Elastic License to govern your use of the source code. The clause in question only applies if you build from source, choose SSPL as your governing license, and you are providing Elasticsearch and Kibana as a paid service to others. In this case, it applies only if you are “providing Elasticsearch and Kibana as a Managed Service” as the primary offering, or a major part of it.
I build a SaaS application using Elasticsearch as the backend, how does this affect me?
This source code license change should not affect you - you can use our default distribution or develop applications on top of it for free, under the Elastic License. This source-available license does not contain any copyleft provisions and the default functionality is free of charge. For a specific example, you can see our response to a question around this for the Magento project.
What versions does this change apply to?
This change only affects the source code — our releases will continue to be free and open under the Elastic License. This change will apply to all maintained branches of our software — 6.8, 7.x and master/8.0, and will take place before the 7.11 release is generally available.
Will there be license changes to products other than Elasticsearch and Kibana?
No, we are only making this licensing change to Elasticsearch and Kibana — no other products will be impacted. We have always wanted to make our data collection and shipping components as free and easily accessible as possible. By protecting our investments in Elasticsearch and Kibana, this change allows us to make our other products even more open. We will consider migrating even more features of Beats, the Elastic Agent, and Logstash to be licensed under Apache 2.0. If we decide to make any additional changes, we will communicate them separately.
Does this mean that Elasticsearch and Kibana are no longer Open Source?
Yes. Neither the Elastic License nor SSPL have been approved by the OSI, so to prevent confusion, we no longer refer to Elasticsearch or Kibana as open source. We updated our website and our messaging to refer to these products as “Free & Open,” and when talking about the licenses directly, we describe them as “source-available.” If you notice an area we missed, please let us know, so we can correct it.
While we have chosen to avoid confusion by not using the term open source to refer to these products, we will continue to use the word “Open” and “Free and Open.” These are simple ways to describe the fact that the product is free to use, the source code is available, and also applies to our open and collaborative engagement model in GitHub. We remain committed to the principles of open source - transparency, collaboration, and community.
Will Elastic continue to develop open source software?
Our commitments to the principles of open source have not changed at all over the past decade — we always have and always will value transparency, collaboration, and community. Many of our products and projects continue to be under Apache 2.0, including our client libraries, Beats, Logstash, as well as standards like Elastic Common Schema. We will also continue to contribute to other open source projects, like Apache Lucene and other projects as we have always done.
I’m using Elasticsearch as a service from a cloud provider, how does this change affect me?
Public cloud providers will need to comply with the Elastic License or SSPL if they wish to provide a version of Elasticsearch and Kibana that is released from 7.11 onwards.
I'm using Elasticsearch via APIs, how does this change affect me?
This change does not affect how you use client libraries to access Elasticsearch. Our client libraries remain licensed under Apache 2.0, with the exception of our Java High Level Rest Client (Java HLRC).
The Java HLRC has dependencies on the core of Elasticsearch, and as a result this client library will be licensed under the Elastic License. Over time, we will eliminate this dependency and move the Java HLRC to be licensed under Apache 2.0. Until that time, for the avoidance of doubt, we do not consider using the Java HLRC as a client library in development of an application or library used to access Elasticsearch to constitute a derivative work under the Elastic License, and this will not have any impact on how you license the source code of your application using this client library or how you distribute it.
Update: The Java HLRC has been deprecated in 7.15.0 in favor of the Java API Client. The Java API Client is licensed under Apache 2.0.
If you have any questions, please reach out to us at email@example.com
I’m building plugins for Elasticsearch or Kibana, how does this change affect me?
This change does not affect how you build or license plugins to Elasticsearch or Kibana. For the avoidance of doubt, building a plugin to be used in Elasticsearch or Kibana does not constitute a derivative work, and will not have any impact on how you license the source code of your plugin.
If you have any questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
How does this change impact your partnerships with Microsoft, Google, Alibaba, and Tencent?
It doesn’t. We have strong commercial relationships with these public cloud providers, and will continue to partner with them going forward. Elastic Cloud is available on Microsoft, Google, and AWS, and in all three cases, we are part of their marketplace ecosystems. We have a partnership with Alibaba and Tencent that allows them to offer Elasticsearch as a service. These relationships are not impacted by the license change announcement.
How does this change impact your relationship with AWS?
As mentioned above, broadly we are aiming to collaborate with public cloud providers that take our products and provide them as a service. We have built strong relationships with Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Alibaba Cloud, and Tencent Cloud. We also partner with AWS with our listing of Elastic Cloud in the AWS Marketplace, and continue to invest in that relationship to make Elastic Cloud the best hosted Elasticsearch and Kibana experience on AWS. However, we do not have a commercial relationship with AWS on the Amazon Elasticsearch Service. We do not actively support that service, and no longer want our investments in our software to directly benefit that service.For transparency, we also have ongoing litigation with AWS, discussed here and here.
Why call the blog “Doubling down on open: Part II”, how does this make you more open?
Our intent in the name of our blog post was to continue the transition that we started three years ago, when we first announced the opening up of X-pack with the Elastic License. We very intentionally chose to focus on “open,” and not “open source,” in our messaging. We apologize for any confusion or ambiguity this may have caused. The first sentence of the blog does make the change very clear.
The primary reason for this change is to protect our investments by not allowing cloud providers to take our products and provide them directly as a service without collaborating with us and our community. We are making the effort to stay as free and open as possible while doing so.
I’m using EUI or Elastic Charts in my application outside of Kibana, how does this affect me?
If your application is not a hosted or managed service, you may not be affected at all. If you would like clarification or have additional questions, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
I’m using EUI or Elastic Charts in my Kibana plugin, how does this affect me?
We want to encourage folks to make plugins for Kibana. You can continue to build plugins for Kibana that use EUI or Elastic Charts. If you have additional questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- December 21, 2021: Updated details on new Java API Client
- June 7, 2021: Added two questions on EUI and Elastic Charts licensing
- February 2, 2021: Several changes throughout to reflect updates to the Elastic License v2 (ELv2).
- January 26, 2021: Expand response to "What is SSPL and how does it work?" for additional clarity.
- January 18, 2021: Merge "I embed a modified version of Elasticsearch and/or Kibana …" and "I build an application that embeds and redistributes Elasticsearch …" questions to clarify and drive consistency.
- January 17, 2021: Publish "I build an application that embeds and redistributes Elasticsearch …" question for additional context. Publish "What kind of use constitutes "offering the product as a service" under SSPL?" question and response.
- January 15, 2021: Publish "Why are you offering a dual license strategy?", "I build a SaaS application using Elasticsearch as the backend…", and "How does this change impact your relationship with AWS?" questions and responses.