The Motif License
by Richard Stallman
A couple of weeks ago, the Open Group changed the license of Motif,
inviting free software developers to use it. However, the new Motif
license does not fit either the definition of free software, or the
looser definition of open source software.
Their announcement says they have released Motif to “the open
source community”, but this is true only in an unnatural
interpretation of the words. They have not made Motif available
within the free software community; instead, they have invited the
people in the free software community to leave the community by using
I've written to the Open Group about this, asking them to change the
license. We can hope they will, but we can't assume it. In the
present circumstances, we have to treat Motif the same way we treated
it before: not available for us. Motif still cannot be part of a free
operating system, and combining or linking someone else's GPL-covered
code with Motif is still a violation of the GPL except in very special
Fortunately there is a free software alternative to Motif, called
LessTif. Most programs that were written for Motif can use LessTif
with no changes. Please support the free software community by using
LessTif rather than Motif. Some finishing work still needs to be done
on LessTif; to volunteer, contact
Here are some of the problems of the Motif license:
- It claims that you accept the license merely by
“using” Motif. Only a shrink-wrap license or
something similar can do that, and shrink-wrap licenses are a
- The license is restricted to use on certain operating systems,
those which fit a category they call “open source”.
Both the free software movement and the open source camp
consider use restrictions unacceptable.
- Their definition of the term “open source” is very
different from the one used by the open source camp, thus
In the free software movement, we disagree with the philosophy and
values of open source. (For more explanation, see
But even though we do not support open source or advocate what it
stands for, we think people should not misrepresent what it stands
for. The facts of the situation are complex enough; confusing the
issue is not welcome.
Motif was released under the GNU Lesser General Public
License, version 2.1.