5

"Non-commercial use" could mean two different things:

  • "Don't use the software in a commercial/business context, but only for personal use (i.e. at home)"

  • "In the case you modify/fork the project, you are not allowed to make a commercial use of it, i.e. sell it"

and it's not very clear how "non-commercial" open-source licenses (such as CC BY-SA-NC) deal with this.

Are there licenses that allow the use in a commercial/business context (ex: you can use BetterExcel++ for your business) but disallow to sell copies of the software or modified versions (you can't sell your own fork of BetterExcel++) of the software?


Linked topics: Open Source License that prevents re-selling and this closed question.

Note: This question is precisely not a duplicate of this one since the latter uses "non-commercial" as a general term, whereas the very goal of my question is to analyze what "non-commercial" means in popular open-source licenses, and see if "using it for my business" vs. "forking and selling the forked version" can be distinguished.

  • 2
    This question is off-topic here as disallowing the software to be sold makes it not an Open Source license within the agreed scope of this site. – Philip Kendall Nov 23 '20 at 8:58
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – MadHatter Dec 14 '20 at 11:43
14

There are no open-source licenses that forbid selling copies of the software, because that kind of restriction is not allowed in a license that is recognized as an open-source license by the community/FSF/OSI.

However, there are open-source licenses that make the business model of selling copies of the software very unattractive. These licenses are strong copyleft licenses, like the GPL. These license have the condition that any (re-)distribution of either the original or a modified software must be done under the same license and that gives each recipient the right to distribute the software further at whatever price they want to ask. That means your customers are also your competitors who can easily sell under your price.

  • 3
    "not allowed in a license that is recognized as open source..." not recognized by whom? – StayOnTarget Nov 23 '20 at 17:40
  • 1
    @UuDdLrLrSs The Free Software Foundation. And I agree that that's something that should be included, as that's not something that's generally true. – David Mulder Nov 23 '20 at 17:48
  • 3
    @DavidMulder FSF doesn't use the term "Open Source"—that's the OSI. – lights0123 Nov 23 '20 at 20:59
  • 1
    Strong copyleft licences also make using them in FOSS context very unattractive, though ☺ – mirabilos Nov 23 '20 at 22:31
  • 1
    @mirabilos couldn't agree less! – MadHatter Nov 24 '20 at 9:19
-1

As explained by @BartvanIngenSchenau in his answer, it seems that the answer is no, under the OSI/FSF definition of open-source.

Also, the license described in this answer (BSD license + additional clause) fits the requirements.

Or the following license which is technically open-source or "source available", while not being OSI/FSF open-source. It is based on the MIT license, modified with a free-of-charge-redistribution-only clause:

Copyright (c) <year> <copyright holders>

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of
this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to use, copy, *
modify, publish, distribute free of charge, incorporate in a free of charge      *
package, copies of the Software or a modified version thereof, either in source  *
or binary form, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do    *
so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all
copies or substantial portions of the Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR
IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS
FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR
COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER
IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN
CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE
SOFTWARE.

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