Subscription/Service Fees

David Davies ddavies at
Tue Mar 27 08:16:23 UTC 2001

It appears that the Open Source definition would not specifically limit a
license from requiring users to pay a subscription fee or month service fee
for using the software.  Perhaps I am missing something?

I refer essentially to Shareware style licensing where distribution is free
yet the license clearly requires a payment to be made to the creator or
copyright holder for the continued use of the software.  
We know from the original Netscape example that when a product is compelling
enough many users are willing (perhaps even happy) to pay a license fee even
after they have downloaded it for free in the first place.

Is there a popular example of such shareware distributed under an Open
Source approved license or an Open Source license which includes any payment
requirement to the creator?

Is it the case that whilst not specifically excluded in the Open Source
Definition, such a condition cannot be included due to deeper implications
of the other clauses?

Is this a practice that is intended to be prohibited?
What is the standpoint of the Open Source community in regards to such a

A potential injustice of this practice when applied to Open Source
developments is obviously that the original creator receives ongoing
registration fees whilst other contributors to the code base might not.
There may be solutions.

One area that may hold back Open source is that certain types of projects
seem to require a chunk of work up front.  Generally a semi-functional
product with a good architecture is required before the collaborative
development model can really take over effectively.
Open Source seems to excel AFTER there is a basic architecture and it is
easy to envision a product and see what needs to be done next, but it is
usually up to one or a few individuals to take that first step.  

What appears to be the case is that complex projects only rarely get started
because of the limitation of what can be originated by a single individual
or small group.  There may therefore be a natural limitation to the
complexity of projects that can originate as Open Source projects.

An Open Source approved license with Shareware style payment requirement
would perhaps have the potential to draw the investment to fund the design
and initial development stages of more complex projects.  
This may also be a way that companies with waning products can give them a
new life as Open Source without completely giving up the license based
revenue stream.  
Software licensed in this way isn't the ideal (we all want everything to be
free right?) but its surely one better than contributing to the Bill Gates
personal development fund.

David Davies 

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