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[bioontology-support] Ontoportal licensing confusion

John Graybeal jgraybeal at
Sun Jun 28 18:52:29 PDT 2020


Thanks much for your email (and straightforward "I'm not a lawyer" language!).

The license is in fact for downloading and running the distribution of the prebuilt Virtual Appliances, as you suggest.

Building the VA yourself is entirely acceptable and does not require a license, since the code is open source. You're right the license mechanism is built into the open source code, but since that's BSD too, if you took that out for your own use we would have nothing legalistic to say about that.

While we don't intentionally obfuscate anything, the scripts to build the system have evolved over time, so we just try to make clear building the VA yourself is not for the faint of heart. And our private repository necessarily includes our BioPortal 'secrets' in the configuration file; you can of course substitute your own secrets. I can't remember if we have a generic configuration file that's public, but if not we would provide one if asked.

So far so good, I hope. Really we are not trying to game anyone, just trying to provide (a) a path toward sustainability, and (b) an understanding of who uses the system.

Toward that end, and with your preference to not violate the open-source spirit of the OntoPortal project, we should talk directly about other options. You are not the only company who is interested in using and even contributing to OntoPortal, and there are different paths by which we might find an acceptable agreement that could help the sustainability of OntoPortal, and probably be a better option for you.

I'll email you directly and we can see what's possible.


On Jun 28, 2020, at 7:41 AM, David P Lutz <dlutz at<mailto:dlutz at>> wrote:

We’re doing an evaluation of ontology and vocabulary management systems as part of a larger project. OntoPortal is (by a large margin) the preferred system. Our intended use doesn’t involve public access nor interacting with other Bio/OntoPortals (we’re not in the bio-med space) . We have spun up an AWS AMI of the Virtual Appliance (with trial license) and are very excited by its capabilities.
However, the requirement for a license from<> (a license beyond the open source license of the code itself) has raised some questions and may prevent us from considering OntoPortal. Is the license from<>strictly a license for the prebuilt Virtual Appliances (VMWare and AWS AMI)? A license to be part of the network of Bio/OntoPortal appliances? The documentation on GitHub hints that building the VA ourselves is difficult/impossible and it wasn’t clear whether that would also require an<> license (since the licensing mechanism is built into the code). (You can imagine a lawyer’s reaction to any plan that includes “and we then disable the licensing mechanism”). Beyond the letter of the license, we would also prefer not to violate the open-source spirit of the OntoPortal project.
Any information even of the I’m-not-a-lawyer kind, would be greatly appreciated.
          Dave Lutz

bioontology-support mailing list
bioontology-support at<mailto:bioontology-support at>

John Graybeal
Technical Program Manager
Center for Expanded Data Annotation and Retrieval /+/ NCBO BioPortal
Stanford Center for Biomedical Informatics Research
650-736-1632  | ORCID  0000-0001-6875-5360

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