Playing Well with Others - Does Drupal's Licensing Help or Hinder Getting Off The Island?

The Drupal project recently made the first real change to our licensing policies since the project started.  This change allows non-code assets like fonts and images with licenses other than GPL-2.0 and GPL-3.0 to be committed to projects or packaged with distributions.  The licenses we now allow are reviewed by the Licensing Working Group to ensure that they have similar protections of the 4 Essential Freedoms and include licenses like Creative Commons Share-A-Like or SIL Open Font License. 

WordPress made this change several years ago. There are currently 4,500 themes for the current version of WordPress.  There are less than 250 themes for Drupal 8.  Strict licensing requirements is the only reason for the lack of quality Drupal themes, but requiring the user take additional steps to use something like Font Awesome didn’t help.

Only time will tell if the changes to the licensing policies will increase contributions, but the discussions about this change have made it very clear that the licensing landscape has over the last 17 years. 

Several large organizations including Google and Mozilla have standardized on Apache-2.0 for all their open source projects.  GitHub promotes 3 licenses when creating new projects.  Developers starting new projects are pushed towards MIT, Apache-2.0 or GPL-3.0.  Of those, only MIT is compatible with Drupal’s current GPL-2.0 and GPL-3.0 policy.  While Composer makes adding dependencies much easier and the Software Package Data Exchange (SPDX) has standardized licensing information, SPDX considers GPL-2.0+ (the license added to all projects on a deprecated license.

Most of us learned to share in kindergarten.  Developers involved in open source believe that sharing is good, but exactly how we share our work and how we combine it with other “off island” projects can get very complicated.

This session will cover:

  • Short history of Drupal licensing in projects and distributions
  • What does GPL-2.0+ really mean?
  • 4 Essential Freedoms
  • Overview of the licensing landscape in 2018 and licensing trends
  • Isn’t GPL-3.0 just a better version of GPL-2.0?
  • Pros and cons of distributing projects from as GPL-3.0

Session Track

Core Conversations

Experience level


Drupal Version

Drupal 8 (future)