We intend to use openrules in an application that will be deployed and used in house by an insurance firm. The application caters to internal users to check whether certain business conditions are met by entities or not and decide the process flow accordingly.

The Openrules license says that it has GPL Licenses for Open Source Projects. Non-GPL Licenses for Commercial Projects.

We are in a dillema as to whether the in house project can be classified as commercial or not. Although in the end it does cater to a business transaction indirectly. It is not directly giving any service to the end consumer / customer, but in spirit it is non commercial. commercial software definition

Can anyone clear up this part before we decide to go forward


OpenRules's licensing page is confusing at best.

In particular, it means that source code of the applications that are based or use OpenRules should be made publicly available

This is not necessarily true. Code using the GPL must be made available to anyone who legitimately obtains a copy of the binary, which allows a lot of uses (particularly as web services) without making the code publicly available.

Non-GPL Licenses for Commercial Projects

It is perfectly possible to use GPL code in commercial projects, you just need to obey the GPL.

The "Powered by OpenRules" logo should be presented on web pages describing products or services that use or are based on the OpenRules software.

This is not enforceable for the GPL code. I know it's phrased as "should" rather than "must" but it's at best misleading.

The question you need to be asking is not "is the project commercial?" but "am I willing to distribute the project using OpenRules under the GPL?" If the answer is "yes", then you can use the GPL version of the code even if it is a commercial project. If you're not willing to distribute the project under the GPL, then you need the "commercial" license even if you're doing something which is not commercial in any way.

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    This is good answer, but could be made even stronger by mentioning that the OP's intended use probably will not even involve distribution at all. – apsillers Feb 8 '19 at 0:34
  • @apsillers in a company there is always some distribution (“anyone who legitimately obtains a copy of the binary”). No contract prohibiting an employee from using there GPL rights is valid. – ctrl-alt-delor Feb 11 '19 at 9:14
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    @ctrl-alt-delor apsillers is right here, private distribution within an organisation does not count as distribution for the purposes of the GPL. – Philip Kendall Feb 11 '19 at 9:18
  • @PhilipKendall Interesting, can you point to evidence for this? – ctrl-alt-delor Feb 11 '19 at 9:35
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    @ctrl-alt-delor That GPL FAQ item is indeed the link I would point to. This isn't inherent to the GPL; it's embedded in a jurisdiction's understanding of distribution. Distribution is an interaction between legal entities (either natural persons or corporations). When distribution occurs within a company, the natural persons who receive the software do so strictly as agents of the corporation, so no second legal entity is involved in the act of copying the software. (This the FSF's published opinion, anyway.) – apsillers Feb 11 '19 at 12:46

There is sometimes confusion between code being commercial and code being proprietary/closed source. In fact, it's possible to run an enterprise on free/open source software (Red Hat makes a fair chunk of money), and it's possible to use proprietary/closed source software for noncommercial purposes (lots of the games I play, for example).

Also, if you use software under the GPL in your overall product, and it's linked together, the overall product must be under the GPL, so it's automatically an Open Source project (all versions and varieties of the GPL are on the Open Source Initiative's list of Open Source Licenses). In addition, the GPL does not permit restriction to non-commercial use, so you can just use it under the GPL.

You're proposing to use it in house, and that doesn't count as distribution, so the GPL doesn't require you to do any further distribution.


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