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Discussion on: free software actually costs something

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald • Edited on

The thing is, the term "Open Source" is a registered and protected trademark of the Open Source Initiative, primarily as a means of ensuring that the popular term can only be applied to OSI-compliant projects.

Last I checked, "Free Software" is also a trademark belonging to the Free Software Foundation, for the same reason.

It's a little like protecting the term "organic," so non-organic food manufacturers can't use it falsely. (Side note, "organic" hasn't been very well regulated on that front, but that's beside the point.)

So, while you can call your project "freeware", "shareware", "donation ware", "source available", you may not use the terms "Open Source" or "Free Software" unless you are complying with the official terms thereof. Otherwise, you can wind up in some mighty hot water legally. (And yes, they have lawyers.)

If you want your own flavor of the concept, apart from the OSI and/or FSF, you're going to have to come up with your own name.

EDIT: I misread something a while back. "Open Source" as it were is not trademarked, although the OSI logo and name are.


Dual-licensing is entirely possible while being OSI and FSF compliant; that's what Qt does! The GPL and LGPL and very well suited to dual-licensing scenarios, as they have the restrictions needed to protect the software from unauthorized proprietary abuse, but keeps it completely open for studying, open source development, and modification.

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andreasjakof profile image
Andreas Jakof

Just call it „disclosed source software“ then 😎

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agc93 profile image
Alistair Chapman

The thing is, the term "Open Source" is a registered and protected trademark of the Open Source Initiative, (...) can only be applied to OSI-compliant projects.

Do you have any reference for this? My understanding was that OSI didn't acquire the trademark to "Open Source" and all the background I've been able to find calls out that there's no applicable trademark (nor likely to be) registered with WIPO.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

Ah, my apologies. I misread something, but you are correct. "Open Source" as it were is not trademarked, although the OSI name and mark are.

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sinewalker profile image
Mike Lockhart

Shareware? That was popular in the 1990s, but also not sustainable as a licensing model. The cost (to the producer) of maintaining and policing the license is not nothing either.

Also, better not include any Open Source projects in your Shareware product, that's as illegal as the people who will delleberately (and accedentally) pirate yours.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald • Edited on

Shareware? That was popular in the 1990s, but also not sustainable as a licensing model.

Never said it was sustainable.

Also, better not include any Open Source projects in your Shareware product, that's as illegal as the people who will delleberately (and accedentally) pirate yours.

Actually, that depends on the license. MIT License, BSD-3, and many others don't have any rules against commercial use of their code. Some require attribution, others don't. So long as you're respecting the license terms, you can absolutely use Open Source code in your shareware product.

Using code licensed under the GPL (or, in some cases, the LGPL) in your shareware product, that's another topic entirely.