Why We're Relicensing Directus

Frequently Asked Questions

Directus began as an Open Source project over a decade ago. Since then, we have strived to remain as transparent and vocal as possible, with our amazing community supporting us all these years.

We are passionate supporters of the Open Source movement; it is ingrained in every member of our team and is the driving ethos behind our company. Though, as we shared on GitHub, the financial support we receive from GitHub Sponsors (our primary OSS funding source) is only about 1% of what it costs to actually maintain the project at its current scale. So we’ve had to focus on generating revenue from things beyond the core platform to ensure maintaining Directus is sustainable.

After deep discussions with our community and an immense amount of research, we are implementing the first ever change to our software’s licensing. Our goal is to have the core platform generate enough revenue to support its own stability and growth… while holding true to our beliefs regarding community and open-source.

Today Directus is adopting an extremely permissive version of BSL 1.1 — with some custom “usage grants” to keep the platform open and available, so nearly all of our community will be unaffected.

We know licenses can be intimidating, so we’ve prepared this FAQ page to help users understand what is changing… or, more importantly, what is not changing. If you have any questions not covered here, we encourage you to reach out to us to discuss.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is happening? TL;DR (No Change For Most)

To ensure the sustainable development of Directus, we’re changing its license from GPLv3 to BSL 1.1. Aligning with the principles of Open Source, we’ve added several “usage grants” to this license so that the vast majority of our users are completely unaffected.

In short, nothing changes for our users who have Total Finances under $5,000,000. For those over that threshold and using Directus for non-production… still, nothing changes. In either case, our entire codebase is still available on GitHub to download, contribute, or fork.

For well-established companies with over $5,000,000 per year in total finances, who are also using Directus in production, simply reach out to our Enterprise Team to discuss a commercial license. Just like on our Cloud service, pricing is fair and based solely on your project’s scale.

Based on the above, if you don’t need a commercial license you can safely skip the rest of these FAQs if you’d like!

Why are you changing licenses?

The Directus project has been growing rapidly in the last couple years, and has reached a point where Open Source contributions alone are no longer able to sustain the core project. To guarantee the longevity of the project, we have to ensure that there’s a reliable revenue stream to allow the project to be self-sufficient and sustainable in the long-term. We’re aiming to achieve this by changing our core code licensing from GPL to BSL.

What is BSL?

BSL is a software license created by MariaDB which includes many of the things that make Open Source great, while putting restrictions in place on production use. MariaDB themselves explain it very well on their website:

“BSL is a new alternative to closed source or open core licensing models. Under BSL, the source code is always publicly available. Non-production use of the code is always free, and the licensor can also make an Additional Use Grant allowing limited production use. Source code is guaranteed to become Open Source at a certain point in time. On the Change Date, or the fourth anniversary of the first publicly available distribution of the code under the BSL, whichever comes first, the code automatically becomes available under the Change License. The Change License is mandated to be GPL Version 2.0 or later, or a compatible license (i.e., the Change License is always an Open Source license that enables use of the software in a GPL project).”

What is your “Additional Use Grant”, “Change Date”, and “Change License”?

To ensure that Directus remains as open and available as possible, we’ve added an Additional Use Grant that allows any individual or company to use Directus in production free of charge, as long as their total finances do not exceed $5,000,000. This will allow most individuals, small businesses, and growing companies to keep using Directus the same way they always have. We’ve also reduced the change date from the default 4 years to a more reasonable 3 years. This means that 3 years after a release, that release reverts back to the Change License — and we’ve chosen to stick with our previous GPL3 as that Change License.

What are “Total Finances”?

Inspired by Unity’s software license, we’ve defined total finances as the largest of your aggregate gross revenues, entire budget, and/or funding (no matter the source) — each calculated based on the most recent 12-month period.

How does this affect me?

If your Total Finances are under $5,000,000 USD, this change doesn’t affect you. If you’re using Directus in non-production, this change doesn’t affect you. If your total finances are over $5,000,000 and you’re using Directus in production, you will have to purchase a commercial license. For example:

  • Individual developer making a non-commercial hobby project — No cost
  • Small business with total finances under $5,000,000 — No cost
  • Large enterprise non-production use — No cost
  • Large enterprise production use — Commercial license required
  • Small agency building projects for others — Depends on your client

What is “production” use?

We understand production as any use other than the “development of (including evaluation of the Licensed Work), debugging, or testing your offerings.”

In addition to that, we made sure to add some language to explicitly allow platform-as-a-service and one-click-installation type offerings by treating “Making the Licensed Work available standalone in unmodified object code form.” as non-production use. However, it’s worth noting that the license still applies to any and all end-users.

Why BSL1.1 instead of XYZ?

There are many software licenses available for a wide variety of (specialty) use cases. We felt that BSL1.1 came the closest to keeping the spirit of Open Source intact while allowing us to make sure it’s financially sustainable. We also noticed that many of our favorite projects, like Sentry, CockroachDB, and Couchbase all have successfully adopted BSL as their license.

How do I license extensions?

As long as you don’t modify the Directus source code itself, you can make your extension whatever license you deem appropriate.

Does this mean Directus is no longer Open Source?

As with everything tech, the answer is it depends. We strongly believe Directus is still an Open Source project: the source code is still freely available, you can still fork & modify, issues and discussions still control the ongoing development, the code will still be accessible through GitHub, etc. As a matter of fact, in the development process of the platform, nothing changes at all!

However, we are cognizant and respectful of the fact that BSL is not a license that’s approved by the Open Source Initiative. However, the BSL has been reviewed and endorsed by Bruce Perens, one of the co-founders of the Open Source Initiative, so depending on your exact definition of “open source”, the answer is it depends.

What’s next?

Directus 10 has been released as a major version bump to signal this license change. We invite you to read through the full license, and reach out through the BSL-form if you have any questions that weren’t addressed yet!