Is it legal to install an old version of a software that was free but not anymore?

Version 1 was free, I use it for a year. Version 2 is not free anymore. Can I install (into a new environment) the version 1 or is it illegal?

Example: Firefox is free, but tomorrow (not true) they change to software with commercial license. You still have the old version of the EXE for installing the version when it was free It looks legal as long as you do not update to the last version. Am I right?

  • 2
    To be clear: you are using "free" here to mean free-as-in-freedom, not free-as-in-free-beer, correct? (If you really do only mean free of charge, this is off-topic and should probably be asked on law.stackexchange.com -- though if you change the intent of the question to the other meaning of "free", the answer is very similar.) If you mean free-as-in-freedom, this is very close to Does the license of a released product / artifact change with the content of a webpage? (but certainly not a duplicate)
    – apsillers
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 17:41
  • I'm not sure what you mean by "free-as-in-free-beer". I mean free like software (no-source) free to use as personal or commercial. I put an example in the question.
    – forX
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 18:46
  • your link look seems to prove that I can use the software but if something happened, I will need to prove that I use the free version even if the provider/creator doesn't provide this version anymore.
    – forX
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 18:49
  • 1
    From your recent edit, it's now clear to me you're talking about software freedom and not about money. Thanks!
    – apsillers
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 18:50
  • Another example can be BitTorrent 5.3 which was released under GPL/GNU license, then they've closed the source, removed the code from the website and commercialized the product.
    – kenorb
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 16:15

1 Answer 1


If you were given software under some Foo License, you may copy, distribute, and modify the software under the terms of the Foo License.

If the distributor of that software stops giving out new copies under the Foo License, that does not change the fact that you did receive a copy of it under the Foo License. As long as the licensor does not actively revoke your copy of the license, you cannot lose the rights granted to you. (Furthermore, many FOSS licenses are explicitly irrevocable. Furthermore still, there is legal precedent that simply making a work available under a FOSS license may often grant the licencor economic consideration, which would also make the license irrecoverable, or maybe at least not revocable without some kind payment to you, the licensee.)

You may need to take pains to prove that distribution did truly and legitimately happen under that original license, but you are legally in the right to continue operating under the specific license that was originally offered to you.

In your case, it's probably even simpler. If the author is still distributing Version 1 somewhere (e.g., in a "Releases History" page), then you don't even need to take pains to prove anything: if anyone complains about your continued redistribution of Version 1, you can very easily point to the place where Version 1 is still publicly available under the free Foo License.

  • Good answer. I recommend when you get an app you like, make an APK of it, or download multiple versions of it to a flash drive. It's helped me a bunch. It also helps if you have a few old phones laying around. Alot of the more recent android versions don't support api's under a certain number. Think it's at the 30s now.
    – amakeus
    Commented Jun 14 at 19:02

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