I was using the project, and I did not know this until I was going to use the software on production, and it showed a warning when it realized it's not development mode.

I found an open-source project, while I was reading the license, I realized there is no "free or open" version of that project.

They only have three different versions which all are commercial, which means you need to pay to use.

While the open-source project has people who not financially benefited as contributors, is this legal? Their license does not have a license code, like MIT or GPD.

The warning says:

expired copy of YYY, please renew your license.

  • 2
    What exactly do you mean by "open-source project"? You say in your last paragraph that the project is not under an open source license. Do you mean that the source code is available to read, but it is not licensed under a FLOSS license? Does the project itself claim it is "open source" or is that a descriptive term you are using?
    – apsillers
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 10:54
  • Also, "cost to acquire" and "kinds of freedoms granted once acquired" are completely independent variables: Can a free software (as in free speech) be not free (as in free beer)? -- but this may be different from your case, since it does not appear to be free-as-in-free-speech, either.
    – apsillers
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 11:16
  • The way you've worded this is very confusing. For example, showing a warning on your screen may have nothing to do with licensing as far as we know. A project can be open source but also commercial. Say what project you are thinking about and what you want to do.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 13:25
  • 3
    @M98 What project is this? When you open the project repository, what license terms and conditions can you find?
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 15:47
  • 2
    @M98 GitHub is only a place for hosting code; the author decides the license. If you think it is 'unjust', your only recourse is not to use that code. Many companies host code on GitHub for marketing purposes, and they are not always really open source; you've got to read the license terms to see if you want to use it.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 11:12

1 Answer 1


If software is distributed to you under terms that do not allow you to run, modify, and redistribute the software, then that distribution does not meet the Open Source Initiative's Open Source Definition nor the Free Software Foundation's four freedoms. The FLOSS ("free, libre, and open source software") community refers to software that has public source code but fails to meet these definitions as "source available" software.

Note that it is entirely possible for a single vendor distribute the same piece of software under FLOSS terms and non-FLOSSss terms simultaneously. (One popular example of this is vendors who offer their software library under a GPL copyleft license and under a proprietary license that allows non-copyleft derivatives.)

A vendor may charge any amount of money to transfer a copy of free/open source software to a recipient, but they cannot restrict the recipient from distributing the software further. (If they did, the terms of that transfer would not be a FLOSS license grant.)

It's also possible for a freely-licensed program to demand payment to perform some functionality, but if the program is under a FLOSS license, then you can simply modify it so that it doesn't demand payment anymore.

When it comes to other people's contributions, what matters is how the contributors licensed their contributions to the person performing distribution. If the contributors allowed their copyrighted work to be used in this way, there's no problem. If they did not allow it, then the distributor may be infringing on the contributors' copyrights by making unauthorized copies.

  • 1
    @M98 By "file a complaint to GitHub" do you mean "file a complaint in this project's issue tracker"? (Complaining to the operators of the github.com website will do nothing: GitHub explicitly allows source-available projects that do not offer FLOSS freedoms like modification or redistribution.) You could complain to the owners of the project and ask that they choose a FLOSS license instead of their current proprietary license, but I'm not optimistic unless you offer a compelling business case for how a FLOSS license could be more profitable than their current licensing scheme.
    – apsillers
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 12:04

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