📣⚠️📣 Announcing a new home and license (AGPLv3) for Synapse and friends: going forwards Element’s work on Synapse, Dendrite & related server-side projects is going to be released as AGPLv3 rather than Apache.

@element Happy to hear you still chose an open source license.

@element Is the new CLA going to enforce a real names policy?


> The ASF publishes your legal name unless you provide an alternative display name. For example, if your full name is Andrew Bernard Charles Dickens, but you wish to be known as Andrew Dickens, enter the latter as your Display Name.


This. Get rid of the freakin CLA.

@element is the last org I would have expected this sketchy AF move from, but here we are, betrayed once more by someone the community trusted.

@musicmatze @element last org to expect this from, after they partnered with cops? eh.

No seriously. I would actually expect them to colab with corps, there's nothing wrong with that imo.
You can play the business game without betraying your values and beliefs.

@element chose to betray their Userbase, the community and their values.

I really hope they reconsider, otherwise we get another ecosystem split or the project just dies the corporate death.


Well they have tried. I suggest you relief your complains at the companies which don't contribute anything back. This is just the logical result of companies which only use open source for their own good.

@kescher @element


Also, I don't see why they betray anyone. Everything is open source and can be forked any time.

@kescher @element

@element and you didn't care enough to mention the big elephant in the room in here, that you now require CLA


Not sure what you mean. Everything important is mentioned in the announcement. You just need to open it.


@migy @element bold of you to say that everyone will open the announcement, CLA is more important than the license itself, with it they can just take everything to a proprietary source-available license, so AGPL is just a bad disguise

@jeder @migy erm, we could have done that on the Apache license too? and we didn't? :/

@element @migy just because you haven't done that now doesn't mean you won't do that later, and by the inclusion of CLA you have pretty much designated that as a target.

@jeder @migy no, the reason for the CLA is to let us dual-license the project to the commercial forks (a la, and get Element to break-even. It's nothing to do with making Synapse proprietary, *which we could have done under the existing license anyway*.

@jeder @migy @element Essentially, there's something called a Ulysses' Pact (, which irrevocably licensing your code under a #FreeSoftware license with no sneaky backdoors is a form of.

That way, regardless of future incentives or coercion, you *cannot* go back upon your decision and choose to become malicious.

This is what you purposely failed to enter into.

If you want to read more on the topic, @pluralistic provides some good articles about it, like this one:


Should that blog post be written there instead of a few words? I mean context and reasons are important. As you can see even with the current situation a shit storm breaks out. How do you think would it be like if they just mention it like "we require a CLA now"? I imagine even more people would go crazy because they don't open the blog post and read the whole thing. It totally makes sense to me that the very controversial part isn't just mentioned with a few words.


@element Love the AGPL but the CLA and selection of Microsoft's proprietary git-based social network are very large flies in the soup. Shrewd moves all around.

@element but a CLA completely negates any benefit of copyleft, if you can relicense everything as proprietary when you decide so. Again you are not giving me confidence to use matrix. You want too much control.

@f4grx @element Why do you think they still keep control over the protocol instead of standardizing and working with existing standard bodies. Use XMPP, the Internet standard for what Matrix is trying to achieve.

@f4grx the only reason for the CLA is not to relicense but to allow dual-licensing for selling AGPL exceptions.

@element whats the use of an agpl exception? For me that translates to "proprietary code that should be contributed back if covered by the agpl", eg. shit you dont want to show publicly. Police backdoors for example?

You're still trying to look good with a strict copyleft license while doing all you can to circumvent it when convenient.

@f4grx perhaps read the post. the intention is to be able to sell AGPL exceptions to 3rd party commercial forks, in order to fund the underlying dev.

@f4grx @element Qt sells GPL exceptions all the time. It's for companies that balk at the idea of ever possibly having to disclose even a single line of source code to anybody for any reason because they're run by empty suits.

I still don't like that Element's doing this CLA nonsense, but back off the "they're going to decrypt all my messages" trigger for like 5 seconds. (For crying out loud, they have a hard time ensuring messages can be decrypted by the people who are supposed to be able to read them sometimes)

@f4grx @element The tone is harsh, but as an otherwise very happy Element user I would love to see you engage with the concerns. Someone like me who's not very technical don't fully understand the details here, but I can see you're not responding.

@malte @element this is not a user level question. Of course users dont care about software licenses. But they should.

It's a question of ethics. Free software ensures long term access even after the company providing a service has disappeared. As a user I dont want to be captive of the commercial interests of a corporation that has de facto control with who I can communicate. I dont mean message contents. I mean availability of the platform.

@f4grx I'm a user and I care about software licenses. I don't fully understand them. I do want to take part in the broader debate.

I'd like to ask you slow down a bit. My request above was directed toward @element and I regret I didn't make that clearer. I'd like that element engage more with your concerns, in spite of your style of dialogue. Do you understand my comment above better now?

@malte @element now it is, but you replied directly to me, not to element :) no worries.

@element The relicensing decision is very clear. Can you explain the CLA decision better? Why is it needed?

@astrojuanlu the CLA is there to let Element sell AGPL exceptions to proprietary forks to try to fund dev. It is not there to allow for relicensing in future.


Don't get me wrong. I don't like that either, but their reasons make sense to me. They want to offer enterprise services themselves and thus might have their own downstream fork, but they also need to be able to relicense contributions in case of an organization doesn't want to publish their code.

That could be some source of income for improving Matrix. If they go that path, I think everyone will profit. If not, everyone is free to create their own fork.


@element there's nothing in the AGPL that would stop you from making a commercial offering. Why *exactly* do you need a CLA then?

@claudius We need to be able to provide alternative licenses to commercial forks (as per; this is the whole reason for the license shift.

@element @claudius so the commercial forks don't have to contribute back? Why? That's just stupid.

So you just want to make proprietary forks? Keep it agpl for now to make the community happy, but keep the option to just make it proprietary (without allowing the community to do the same)?

@element AGPL, honestly, means very little when a CLA is combined with it. Also, where exactly can I find the text of *your* CLA? because the announcement links to Apache and their ICLA / OCLA which would transfer ownership to the literal Apache Foundation. - I don't think that's what you want?

How do you respond to the problem, that Element could change the license *away* from AGPLv3 on a whim?

@claudius @element It almost seems like the Element CLA hasn't been written yet. Some opportunity to make it clear what contributions will mean. Hopefully a bit more substantial than ICLA's "the Foundation shall not use Your Contributions in a way that is contrary to the public benefit [..]", since public benefit is relative.

@element i am not good at this licence stuffs. Does this agpl forks allows you to have internal proprietary/private forks that u might offer as a paid offering to 3rd parties? Or whatever u work in future on top of this agpl forks, will still have to be published?

@joelselvaraj if you've made proprietary changes to Synapse, then you'll need to either open source them to your users or contact us for an alternative license which acts as an exception to AGPLv3.

@element hmm. I understand if i make properitary version, i need to publish/get special license from you. My doubt is can you give urself a special license to develop a internal proprietary version for urself?

@joelselvaraj @element
With AGPL, connection to server are a form of distribution triggering the necessity to give the code to people asking. That's the primary goal of AGPL.
That it's a company or just one person who did the change does not matter.

@element AGPL: Great. CLA: Required to be able to relicense for specific customers, understandable. But allows you to "go closed source".

Not sure if it is possible to codify in legal terms that Element is indefinitely required to distribute a version of the software under the AGPL, maybe the one hosted at That would nerf the CLA by preventing you to fully go closed and in turn preserve trust in the community.

#Matrix #license #CLA #Element

@mynacol this sounds like a really interesting approach, given we have zero intention to relicense further. we're looking into it.

@fourstepper @element That doesn't quite catch what Element is trying to do. They want to sell Matrix server software to customers with specific needs. For example the German Bundeswehr (Military) uses Matrix, but for sure requires some adaptions for its need. Under the AGPL they would have to publish their changes to Synapse, full stop. Which they'd prefer not to.
The "solution" is to give Element all the copyright rights so they can sell customized versions of Synapse not under the AGPL.

@fourstepper @element Alongside a public version under AGPL.

Changing from Apache to AGPL prevents random companies from taking Synapse and modifying at will, so either those companies have to publish their changes or buy Synapse under a separate license from Element. It's about business and capturing income from businesses, but leaving the door open for open source usage and contribution.

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