Release comercial application's sources as GPL but with restriction in usage

Kevin Bedell kbedell at
Tue Feb 15 00:43:08 UTC 2005

Companies that are successful with dual licensing strategies usually
have products that are embedded in other products and distributed to
end-users. For example, the Berkeley DB is a popular embedded database
and is also licensed by Sleepycat for commercial use.

These dual licensing models generally benefit from the fact that some
important licensing obligations are driven by the need to 'distribute'
code outside your own organization (i.e, "sell it to someone",

Customers of companies using these 'dual license' models generally
license the code to engage in commercial distribution. They are still
*incented* to buy a license (or support) if they only use the code
internally so that they can receive support, upgrades, etc.  Many
times companies buy support even if they don't distribute the product.

If your product has a great deal of commercial value to a customer,
then releasing the product under a strong copyleft license (OSL, GPL,
etc) may still be a viable strategy; however, a business strategy
based on open-sourcing a core product should be thought through

Open sourcing code can accelerate your distribution and allow for
reduced marketing costs to get your product established. However,
you'll likely have to plan on making your money on support of the
product or on customizations. You can't charge a licensing fee for
something licensed under the GPL, for example.

Another alternative is to use a two-tier strategy where you have one
version of your product that's 'Free', and then offer additional
modules under non-Free licensing terms. This is a tough balancing act
to manage, but there are people who are attempting it.

There are a variety of emerging business models for you to explore.
Another list that is more friendly to these types of discussions is
the Free Software Business list located at


Kevin Bedell
Director of Professional Services
Black Duck Software

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