Source-available software

Source-available software is software released through a source code distribution model that includes arrangements where the source can be viewed, and in some cases modified, but without necessarily meeting the criteria to be called open-source.[1] The licenses associated with the offerings range from allowing code to be viewed for reference, to allowing code to be modified and redistributed for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.

Distinction from free and open-source software

Any software is source available software as long its source code is distributed along with it, even if the user has no legal rights to use, share, modify or even compile it. It is possible for a software to be both source available software and proprietary software.

In contrast, the definitions of free software and open-source software are much narrower. Free software and/or open-source software is also always source available software, but not all source available software is also free software and/or open-source software. This is because the official definitions of those terms require the software to have their source code available in some form.

Free and open-source licenses

Free software licenses and open-source software licenses are also source-available software licenses, as they both require the source code of the software to be made available.

Proprietary licenses

The following source-available software licenses are proprietary licenses, because they have limitations that prevent them from being open-source according to the Open Source Initiative and free to the Free Software Foundation.

Commons Clause

The Commons Clause, created by Fossa, Inc., is an addendum to an open-source software license that restricts users from selling the software. Under the combined license, the software is source-available, but not open-source.[2]

On August 22, 2018, Redis Labs shifted some Redis Modules from the Affero General Public License[3][4] to a combination of the Apache License 2.0 and the Commons Clause.[5][6]

GitLab Enterprise Edition License (EE License)

The GitLab Enterprise Edition License is used exclusively by GitLab's commercial offering.[7] GitLab also releases a Community Edition under the MIT License.[8]

GitLab Inc. openly discloses that the EE License makes their Enterprise Edition product "proprietary, closed source code."[9] However, the company makes the source code of the Enterprise Edition public, as well as the repository's issue tracker, and allows users to modify the source code.[10] The dual release of the closed-source Enterprise Edition and the open-source Community Edition makes GitLab an open core company.

Mega Limited Code Review Licence

In 2016, Mega Ltd. released the source code of their Mega clients under the Mega Limited Code Review Licence, which only permits usage of the code "for the purposes of review and commentary".[11] The source code was released after former director Kim Dotcom stated that he would "create a Mega competitor that is completely open source and non-profit" following his departure from Mega Ltd.[12][13]

Microsoft Shared Source Initiative

Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative, launched in May 2001, comprises 5 licenses, 2 of which are open-source and 3 of which are restricted. The restricted licenses under this scheme are the Microsoft Limited Public License (Ms-LPL),[14] the Microsoft Limited Reciprocal License (Ms-LRL),[15] and the Microsoft Reference Source License (Ms-RSL).[16]

Old Scilab License

Prior to version 5, Scilab described itself as "the open source platform for numerical computation"[17] but had a license[18] that forbade commercial redistribution of modified versions. Versions 5 and later are distributed under the GPL-compatible CeCILL license.

SugarCRM Public License

In 2007 Michael Tiemann, president of OSI, had criticized[19] companies such as SugarCRM for promoting their software as "open source" when in fact it did not have an OSI-approved license. In SugarCRM's case, it was because the software is so-called "badgeware"[20] since it specified a "badge" that must be displayed in the user interface (SugarCRM has since switched to GPLv3).[21]

TrueCrypt License

The TrueCrypt License was used by the TrueCrypt disk encryption utility.[22] When TrueCrypt was discontinued, the VeraCrypt fork switched to the Apache License, but retained the TrueCrypt License for code inherited from TrueCrypt.[23]

The Open Source Initiative rejects the TrueCrypt License, as "it has elements incompatible with the OSD."[24] The Free Software Foundation criticizes the license for restricting who can execute the program, and for enforcing a trademark condition.[25]

See also


  1. "DoD Open Source Software (OSS) FAQ". Chief Information Officer. U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  2. "Commons Clause License". Commons Clause License. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  3. Shoolman, Yiftach (5 July 2016). "Why Redis Labs' Modules are AGPL". Redis Labs. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  4. Claburn, Thomas. "Redis has a license to kill: Open-source database maker takes some code proprietary". The Register. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  5. "Commons Clause License". Commons Clause License. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  6. Asay, Matt. "Why Redis Labs made a huge mistake when it changed its open source licensing strategy". TechRepublic. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  7. "The GitLab Enterprise Edition (EE) license (the "EE License")". GitLab. GitLab Inc. 16 May 2018. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  8. "GitLab Community Edition LICENSE file". GitLab. GitLab Inc. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  9. Sijbrandij, Sid (20 Jul 2016). "GitLab is open core, GitHub is closed source". GitLab. GitLab Inc. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  10. "GitLab Community Edition". GitLab Inc. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  11. "meganz/MEGAsync". GitHub. 2017-09-07. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  12. "Interviews: Kim Dotcom Answers Your Questions - Slashdot". 2015-07-30. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  13. "Kim Dotcom promises to launch an open-source competitor to Mega (updated)". Engadget. 2015-07-31. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  14. "Microsoft Limited Public License (Ms-LPL)".
  15. "Microsoft Limited Reciprocal License (Ms-LRL)".
  16. "Microsoft Reference Source License". Microsoft. 2016-07-06. Retrieved 2016-07-06. "Reference use" means use of the software within your company as a reference, in read only form, for the sole purposes of debugging your products, maintaining your products, or enhancing the interoperability of your products with the software, and specifically excludes the right to distribute the software outside of your company.
  17. "The open source platform for numerical computation". INRIA. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
  18. "SCILAB License". INRIA. Archived from the original on 2005-12-12. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
  19. Tiemann, Michael (2007-06-21). "Will The Real Open Source CRM Please Stand Up?". Open Source Initiative. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
  20. Berlind, David (21 November 2006). "Are SugarCRM, Socialtext, Zimbra, Scalix and others abusing the term "open source?"". ZDNet. Archived from the original on 1 January 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2008.
  21. Vance, Ashlee (2007-07-25). "SugarCRM trades badgeware for GPL 3". The Register. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  22. "truecrypt-archive/License-v3.1.txt at master · DrWhax/truecrypt-archive". GitHub. 28 Mar 2014. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  23. "root/License.txt". VeraCrypt. TrueCrypt Foundation. 17 Oct 2016. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  24. Phipps, Simon (15 November 2013), TrueCrypt or false? Would-be open source project must clean up its act, InfoWorld, retrieved 20 May 2014
  25. "Various Licenses and Comments about Them". GNU Operating System. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
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