Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can you resell Free/Open Source Software Products ?

Free/Open Source Product Software has always been a boon for Startups/Freelance Developers. Availability of quality code (for reuse or reference) acts aopen_source_solds a catalyst in  providing much needed agility that small enterprises need. This not only saved time to  market but also saved lots of moolah that would ,otherwise, be spent on buying costly licensed products.  However, “can you monetize freely available source code?”, is a question I am trying to analyze ?

What is a free software ?

GNU philosophy of free software explains this very well. Here is the gist:

  • When you think free software, think as in free speech, not as in free beer.
  • Users can exercise following freedom with the free software :
    • Freedom to run/execute the program for any purpose.
    • Freedom to study how the program works and adapt it to your needs.
    • Freedom to redistribute copies with friends, colleagues and community.
    • Freedom to enhance/improve the product code and release it for commercial use.
  • Free software does not mean non-commercial. A free program must be available for commercial use, commercial development, and commercial distribution.

What is an Open Source software ?

Almost all open source software is a free software and vice-versa. Like free software, open source software providers ensures that source code is available for the users to run/execute, study,redistribute, enhance and improve the software.

So where is the difference ?

Free software license (most commonly GNU GPL) ensures that any redistribution, enhancement or improvement to the source code is available (mandatory) along with the commercially available executables built out of modified code. This ensures passing all the benefits to the community no matter how the original software was used.

On the contrary, Open Source license (most commonly SUN CDDL) advocates redistribution of software on similar lines as GPL except that it does not make it mandatory to release the enhanced/improved code along with executables built out of modified code. This, to some extent, may stem the community contribution making source code more viable for repackaging into a commercially available proprietary products.

Thus, both Free and Open Source software can be sold and monetized as long as you abide by license agreement under which they exist.

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