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Institute for Legal Questions on Free and Open Source Software

May open source software be commercial?

Yes!  The freedom of use granted by open-source licenses also allows open source software to be sold or leased.  It is therefore a widespread misconception that open source software and commercial software are contrasting opposites (→ What is "proprietary software" or "closed source software?"). Open source software can be free, but not necessarily.

However, license fees may not be charged for open source software.  License fees are a reimbursement for being granted rights of use.  For this reason, remuneration can be charged for the sale of software (that is, the data carrier with the software or the option to download the software), but not for the license.  Practically speaking, the difference lies in a three-person relationship.  The licensee may copy and distribute the copies of the open source software that was either purchased or acquired for free without having to pay the licensor anything.  The licensor cannot make the use of the software dependent on a fee.
Next FAQ: How can I use open source software?  What rights of use do I acquire?
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