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Cycles Released With Permissive License


This was already mentioned in the last developer meeting notes, but I think it merits its own post: the Blender Foundation has changed the licence for the Cycles rendering engine from GPL to Apache. Other tools can now include Cycles as well, and the BF believes that this will help it grow.

Brecht van Lommel writes:

As of today the Cycles source code license has been changed from GNU GPL to the Apache License version 2.0. This is a permissive license that allows Cycles to be linked and used with any program, including commercial software and in-house software at studios.

The design and purpose of Cycles always has been to work as an independent and reusable rendering engine. When Cycles was added to Blender two years ago, we decided to release it under GNU GPL first, specifically to ensure it would develop into a well integrated production rendering system for Blender. With that target to be established well, it’s now time to find out how Cycles could work outside of Blender too.

We hope this move would help Cycles grow as a project in the long term, as the project could attract more contributors and might be easier to use for studios under the new license. With the release of various libraries by movie studios like OpenEXR, Open Shading Language, OpenSubdiv, PTex and OpenVDB, which we use or plan to use in Blender, we also think it would be

nice to contribute something back under a similar permissive license. As Cycles is reasonably stand alone and integrates many of these libraries already, it’s a good candidate to share similarly with everyone.

Read the full announcement on the blog.

  • SaphireS

    "Note that Blender Foundation and Blender Institute remain committed to further developing Cycles as a render engine for Blender."

    No worries guys :)

  • RendGen

    Sorry, but I don't understand. Is Cycles will be plug to 3ds max, Maya, Sketchup, Rhino and to other graphic softwares? Thanks.

    • Brian Lockett

      Cycles will be open for other software outside Blender to incorporate and potentially to see further development of the rendering engine. There are no specific targets specified here, as the software is just being released under a license that better allows other software--free or commercial--to incorporate. They're not releasing Cycles as a plug-in for any specific program--they're releasing the code to Cycles under a new license that allows for better sharing of the rendering engine. If some developer wants the software to be incorporated to their software natively or developed as a plug-in, it'll be up to that developer to do so with Cycles.

  • Elia

    It only seems like yesterday Cycles was put into trunk!

  • Brian Lockett

    Here's hoping Cycles will see growth from this. I'm optimistic about it, but I also know that, realistically, most commercial third-party software solutions will remain with V-Ray, Maxwell, or Keyshot. I'm thinking most in-house companies will stick with their own developments, since they often have their own internal intricacies and nuances to deal with.

    Whereas OpenVBD and Ptex are entirely new solutions altogether and their adaptations are becoming new additions to industry standards,, there already exists several complete and stronger solutions over Cycles, so I guess we'll see how this goes in terms of seeing other major developers taking Cycles.

    Though, if there be an active group of community developers with software like 3ds Max and Maya, we might see some of them adapt Cycles with more features and thus help contribute to Cycles features to be adapted to Blender. It's similar to how some 3ds Max developers have adapted LuxRender to their needs, which might've contributed to LuxRender's development overall.

    I personally hope this will cause Cycles to grow for Blender, since Blender has the most to gain from Cycles' growth, though, I guess overall, nothing's really lost with a license change either.

  • BigPilot

    I personally fail to see the advantage for Cycles and Blender by allowing external parties to modify the Cycles source code without giving anything back.

    • vidrazor2

      Is that actually the case with this licensing change? I myself don't see why this licensing change would make it any more attractive to anyone else that the original one.

    • Marc Driftmeyer

      I personally fail to see how world class plugins which will never be surpassed in Blender are somehow a problem. In short, if you want Blender to break through into Hollywood you better believe this Apache license is a must.

      If you want it to remain a hobby living on vapor to survive as a project, keep swillin' down the GPL only approach.

      • JeroenM

        Only Cycles is released under the Apache licence. Not Blender. Blender remains GPL.
        To copy-paste Ton:
        GPL protection for Blender is essential. But we already use plenty of permissive modules in Blender too. Most of these wouldn’t have been so good if released under GPL.

        Generalizing – permissive licensing works good for libraries, strict licensing works good for end-user software.

    • Andreas_Walsh

      If they modify Cycles source code by improving it or removing bugs, they ARE giving something back.

      • BigPilot

        Even if we never get to see the code for these 'improvements'? I beg to differ.

  • RNS

    The only thing that will be give back is a commercial plugin features Cycle ,I'm skeptical-Well seeing is believing

  • Lawrence D’Oliveiro

    Another option could have been LGPL. That would allow redistribution of unchanged code linked into proprietary software, but any changes would have to be made available in source form.

    • ronbravo

      Exactly. People are putting their faith in commercial companies hoping that those companies will contribute back, and opens the door to "community" version and "proffesion" versions of the software. This is a bad decision in my opinion and contray to my understanding as to the major motivations for Blender. Not really about distribution or product penetration, but having a freedom based type of 3d software alternative. But I guess that doesn't really count since the Blender Foundation keeps saying Cycles is a seperate product. We shall see how this all develops in the future.

    • YAFU

      I agree. I do not understand why so many people are happy with this change.
      From what I can see in this thread:

      users of other software that are not Blender seem to be most happy.

  • Ralmon

    Hmm. I'm really doubtful about this. This move may bring more attention to Cycles rendering engine but I really doubt that it would bring the needed help in the development department. I guess it would bring more monetary help from the additional attention acquired, but that still is not promised.

    I can't say I'm happy and hopeful with this change, Cycles isn't really unique, groundbreaking, or even have the advantage of age and maturity. When I first try it I was quite happy that Blender have such kind of renderer but quite not wowed by it in any way. There are many renderers out there that surpasses it in many ways even if they have such big $$$ for their names. It doesn't really have anything eye catching compared to other renderers.

    Essentially I don't see it falling into a niche that would give it such a boost in contributions. Still, I might be wrong and it would be exciting to see how this goes.

  • dncnmckn

    I think this is a good thing. It means that Ton has been talking to industry people at Siggraph and this is the way he believes will bring best value to the development of Cycles in the greater 3D / VFX community.

  • Chaos

    I'm really worried about this. I think it would be much better to change the license to LGPL, to ensure the new code is keeping inside Cycles, and not in a lost in-house server of nowhere.
    And I don't think it would be good to see Cycles sold in a closed product in the future. With Apache, companies are not forced to share the code with the binaries. LGPL is better to get contributions back to de community.