What legal pitfalls should be considered when (re)selling OS bases solutions?

As you can't ask any fee for the Open Source code itself this seems a sensitive area to me.


4 Answers 4


You should follow the license, that's all.

Your question hints at a common misunderstanding. Freedom and price are orthogonal, they are not related. Think about two axes:

  • free <--> proprietary
  • gratis <--> comes with a price tag

You can have any combination of values from both axes, for example:

  • free software with a price tag
  • free software that is distributed gratis
  • proprietary software that is distributed "for free" (but is not free)
  • proprietary software sold for money

The first axis is what Free Sofware and Open Source are about.


This depends on the license of the solution you want to sell, and the obligations it places on you for allowing you to redistribute the solution.

For some of the licenses, you can get a rather comprehensive amount of additional information from the organizations behind them.

For example, the Free Software Foundation got many GNU-GPL-specific topics covered in their Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html

The Open Source Initiative has a less license-specific FAQ section as well: http://opensource.org/faq


First off, you can sell your code. From the Open Source Initatives website:

You can sell services based on the code (i.e., sell your time), sell warranties and other assurances, sell customization and maintenance work, license the trademark, etc. The only kind of profit strategy that is incompatible with Open Source is monopoly-based sales, also known as "royalties". See this article for how to think about business strategies that make money from Open Source.

  • 1
    This quote doesn't say you can sell the code...
    – 7ochem
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 9:08

You should ask a lawyer about the specific solution you wish to re-sell. There should be no pitfalls, since re-selling is allowed in most of the FLOSS licences.

Besides, who said you can't charge for the code itself? It is no etical to do so, but that is a different matter.

  • 're-selling is allowed in most of the FLOSS licences' <- reselling should be allowed in all FLOSS licenses, as the definition of either, free software and open source, demand that this is possible.
    – Mnementh
    Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 10:19

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