I'd like to know how a licence can both allow commercial use and be share-alike.

My reasoning is as follow :

If we use it in a product (which is authorized by the "commercial use" part), we have to release it with the same licence, since we're creating from "the material of the original work". Therefore, our product must also be free of charge to use.

  • 1
    Can you clarify what, precisely, you mean by "free to use"? Note that the term "free" can have two very different meanings in English, and it is important for us to answer this question that you make 100% clear which meaning you are talking about. Are you talking about "free" as in "freedom", or "free" as in "free beer", i.e. are you talking about not restricting usage or not charging money? Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 15:06
  • I'm talking about not charging money. Would you have any idea of how I could change the sentence to make it clearer please ? (I tried to think of an edit, but didn't find how I could reformulate.) Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 8:34
  • I generally use the word "gratis" or the term "free of charge". The phrase "free as in beer" will also be understood within the FLOSS community, since it is one half of a famous quote explaining exactly the difference I am talking about. In some languages, this ambiguity does not arise, i.e. most Romance languages will have words like French "gratuit" and "libre". In fact, "libre" is often used even in international contexts as a synonym for "free as in speech" since it will be understood by speakers of Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese as well as English (think "liberty"). Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


The term "commercial use" is very vague and there is no widespread agreement on what it means. The definitions range from "use by a company" to "making money by selling copies" and just about anything in between.

One of the corner stones of open source licensing (which most licenses with a share-alike or copyleft nature fall under) is that the license can not exclude groups of people and that includes the group of people that tries to make money off your product.
In this way, share-alike doesn't mean you have to share your work in exactly the same way, including the price asked for it, but it means that you must give the recipients of your work the same rights for modification and re-distribution that you received.

Because you must give the recipients of your work the right to distribute it further (with or without modification), a share-alike license doesn't work well with a business model of selling copies of your work (every customer could become a competitor who can charge less than you do for the same product). But other business models, like selling support contracts, are entirely possible with a product that has a share-alike or copyleft license.

  • Well first of all, I don't think the project I'm using is open source, and the project for which I intend to use it won't be open source either I think. (Sorry, I might have been migrated to the wrong site...). Therefore, if the goal was simply to prevent people from using it to make money, they could have simply denied the commercial right without thinking any further (unless they have some more constraints I am unaware of). Still, your answer perfectly explains how the commercial can play with a share alike licence, with a different business model than the one I thought of. Thank you. Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 8:43
  • Actually, even without additional support, service, or maintenance contracts, or an open core / closed extensions model, dual licensing, or anything like that, some people just like paying money for software. In some cases, because that's how it's always been done and they don't trust something that is gratis. Sometimes, it is because suing someone whom you have a contract with and have given money to is easier than suing a GitHub username, and companies like having an actual person with an actual bank account to sue. Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 22:31

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