Source-available software

Last updated

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.[ citation needed ]


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.[ citation needed ]

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 considerable additional rights as to what the user can do with the available source (including, typically, the right to use said software, with attribution, in derived commercial products). [2]

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.

Non-free licenses

The following source-available software licenses are considered non-free 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. [3]

On August 22, 2018, Redis Labs shifted some Redis Modules from the Affero General Public License [4] [5] to a combination of the Apache License 2.0 and the Commons Clause. [6] [7]

In September 2018, Matthew Garrett criticized Commons Clause calling it "older way of doing things" and said it "doesn't help the commons". [8]

GitLab Enterprise Edition License (EE License)

The GitLab Enterprise Edition License is used exclusively by GitLab's commercial offering. [9] GitLab also releases a Community Edition under the MIT License. [10]

GitLab Inc. openly discloses that the EE License makes their Enterprise Edition product "proprietary, closed source code." [11] 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. [12] 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". [13] 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. [14] [15]

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), [16] the Microsoft Limited Reciprocal License (Ms-LRL), [17] and the Microsoft Reference Source License (Ms-RSL). [18]

Old Scilab License

Prior to version 5, Scilab described itself as "the open source platform for numerical computation" [19] but had a license [20] that forbade commercial redistribution of modified versions. Versions 5 and later are distributed under the GPL-compatible CeCILL license.

Server Side Public License

The Server Side Public License is a modification of the GNU General Public License version 3 created by the MongoDB project. It adds a clause stating that if SSPL-licensed software is incorporated into a "service" offered to other users, the source code for the entirety of the service must be released under the SSPL. [21] The license has been considered non-free by Debian, the Fedora Project, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (with software licensed under it therefore banned from the distributions), as it contains conditions that are unduly discriminatory towards commercial use of the software. [22] [23]

SugarCRM Public License

In 2007 Michael Tiemann, president of OSI, had criticized [24] 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" [25] since it specified a "badge" that must be displayed in the user interface (SugarCRM has since switched to GPLv3). [26]

TrueCrypt License

The TrueCrypt License was used by the TrueCrypt disk encryption utility. [27] When TrueCrypt was discontinued, the VeraCrypt fork switched to the Apache License, but retained the TrueCrypt License for code inherited from TrueCrypt. [28]

The Open Source Initiative rejects the TrueCrypt License, as "it has elements incompatible with the OSD." [29] The Free Software Foundation criticizes the license for restricting who can execute the program, and for enforcing a trademark condition. [30]

BeeGFS End User License Agreement

BeeGFS EULA was the license of the distributed parallel file system BeeGFS, except the client for Linux, which is licensed under GPLv2. [31]

BeeGFS source code is publicly available from their website, [32] and because of this they claiming BeeGFS as "Open-Source" software; [33] it is in fact not because this license prohibits distributing modified versions of the software, or using certain features of the software without authorization. [34]

See also

Related Research Articles

Free software Software licensed to preserve user freedoms

Free software is computer software distributed under terms that allow users to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute it and any adapted versions. Free software is a matter of liberty, not price; all users are legally free to do what they want with their copies of a free software regardless of how much is paid to obtain the program. Computer programs are deemed "free" if they give end-users ultimate control over the software and, subsequently, over their devices.

SugarCRM is a software company based in Cupertino, California. It produces the web application Sugar, a customer relationship management (CRM) system.


GForge is commercial service originally based on the Alexandria software behind Sourceforge, a web-based project management and collaboration system which was licensed under the GPL. Open source versions of the GForge code were released from 2002 to 2009, at which point the company behind GForge focused on their proprietary service offering which provides project hosting, version control, code reviews, ticketing, release management, continuous integration and messaging. The FusionForge project emerged in 2009 to pull together open-source development efforts from the variety of software forks which had sprung up.

A source-code repository is a file archive and web hosting facility for source code of software, documentation, web pages, and other works, accessible either publicly or privately. They are often used by open-source software projects and other multi-developer projects to maintain revision and version history, or version control. Many repositories provide a bug tracking system, and offer release management, mailing lists, and wiki-based project documentation. Software authors generally retain their copyright when software is posted to a code hosting facilities.

Trusted Platform Module

Trusted Platform Module is an international standard for a secure cryptoprocessor, a dedicated microcontroller designed to secure hardware through integrated cryptographic keys.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a customer relationship management software package developed by Microsoft. The product focuses mainly on sales, marketing, and service sectors, but Microsoft has been marketing Dynamics CRM as a CRM platform and has been encouraging partners to use its once proprietary, now Open Source framework to customize it. It is part of the Microsoft Dynamics family of business applications.


FreeOTFE is a discontinued open source computer program for on-the-fly disk encryption (OTFE). On Microsoft Windows, and Windows Mobile, it can create a virtual drive within a file or partition, to which anything written is automatically encrypted before being stored on a computer's hard or USB drive. It is similar in function to other disk encryption programs including TrueCrypt and Microsoft's BitLocker.

In the 1950s and 1960s, computer operating software and compilers were delivered as a part of hardware purchases without separate fees. At the time, source code, the human-readable form of software, was generally distributed with the software providing the ability to fix bugs or add new functions. Universities were early adopters of computing technology. Many of the modifications developed by universities were openly shared, in keeping with the academic principles of sharing knowledge, and organizations sprung up to facilitate sharing. As large-scale operating systems matured, fewer organizations allowed modifications to the operating software, and eventually such operating systems were closed to modification. However, utilities and other added-function applications are still shared and new organizations have been formed to promote the sharing of software.

Companies whose business centers on the development of open-source software employ a variety of business models to solve the challenge of how to make money providing software that is by definition licensed free of charge. Each of these business strategies rests on the premise that users of open-source technologies are willing to purchase additional software features under proprietary licenses, or purchase other services or elements of value that complement the open-source software that is core to the business. This additional value can be, but not limited to, enterprise-grade features and up-time guarantees to satisfy business or compliance requirements, performance and efficiency gains by features not yet available in the open source version, legal protection, or professional support/training/consulting that are typical of proprietary software applications.

Process Monitor is a tool from Windows Sysinternals, part of the Microsoft TechNet website. The tool monitors and displays in real-time all file system activity on a Microsoft Windows or Unix-like operating system. It combines two older tools, FileMon and RegMon and is used in system administration, computer forensics, and application debugging.

Proprietary software, also known as non-free software, is computer software for which the software's publisher or another person reserves some rights from licensees to use, modify, share modifications, or share the software. It sometimes includes patent rights.

Redis Open-source in-memory key–value database

Redis is an in-memory data structure store, used as a distributed, in-memory key–value database, cache and message broker, with optional durability. Redis supports different kinds of abstract data structures, such as strings, lists, maps, sets, sorted sets, HyperLogLogs, bitmaps, streams, and spatial indexes. The project is developed and maintained by a project core team and as of 2015 is sponsored by Redis Labs. It is open-source software released under a BSD 3-clause license.

OnlyOffice Office suite developed by Ascensio System SIA

OnlyOffice, stylized as ONLYOFFICE, is a free software office suite developed by Ascensio System SIA, a company headquartered in Riga, Latvia. It features online document editors, platform for document management, corporate communication, mail and project management tools.

Open-core model business model monetizing commercial open-source software

The open-core model is a business model for the monetization of commercially produced open-source software. Coined by Andrew Lampitt in 2008, the open-core model primarily involves offering a "core" or feature-limited version of a software product as free and open-source software, while offering "commercial" versions or add-ons as proprietary software.

Mega (service) Source-available end-to-end encrypted cloud storage service

Mega or is a cloud storage and file hosting service offered by Mega Limited, a company based in Auckland, New Zealand. The service is offered primarily through web-based apps. Mega mobile apps are also available for Android and iOS. Mega is known for its large 50 GB storage allocation for free accounts.

GitLab open-source Git repository host

GitLab is a web-based DevOps lifecycle tool that provides a Git-repository manager providing wiki, issue-tracking and continuous integration and deployment pipeline features, using an open-source license, developed by GitLab Inc. The software was created by Ukrainian developers Dmitriy Zaporozhets and Valery Sizov.

VeraCrypt Free and open-source disk encryption utility

VeraCrypt is a source-available freeware utility used for on-the-fly encryption (OTFE). It can create a virtual encrypted disk within a file or encrypt a partition or the entire storage device with pre-boot authentication.

Visual Studio Code Free source code editor by Microsoft

Visual Studio Code is a freeware source-code editor made by Microsoft for Windows, Linux and macOS. Features include support for debugging, syntax highlighting, intelligent code completion, snippets, code refactoring, and embedded Git. Users can change the theme, keyboard shortcuts, preferences, and install extensions that add additional functionality.


DBeaver is a SQL client software application and a database administration tool. For relational databases it uses the JDBC application programming interface (API) to interact with databases via a JDBC driver. For other databases (NoSQL) it uses proprietary database drivers. It provides an editor that supports code completion and syntax highlighting. It provides a plug-in architecture that allows users to modify much of the application's behavior to provide database-specific functionality or features that are database-independent. This is a desktop application written in Java and based on Eclipse platform.

Microsoft, a technology company known for its opposition to the open source software paradigm, turned to embrace the approach in the 2010s. From the 1970s through 2000s under CEOs Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft viewed the community creation and sharing of communal code, later to be known as free and open source software, as a threat to its business, and both executives spoke negatively against it. In the 2010s, as the industry turned towards cloud, embedded, and mobile computing—technologies powered by open source advances—CEO Satya Nadella led Microsoft towards open source adoption although Microsoft's traditional Windows business continued to grow throughout this period generating revenues of 26.8 billion in the third quarter of 2018, while Microsoft's Azure cloud revenues nearly doubled its revenue.


  1. "DoD Open Source Software (OSS) FAQ". Chief Information Officer. U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  2. "The Open Source Definition | Open Source Initiative".
  3. "Commons Clause License". Commons Clause License. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  4. Shoolman, Yiftach (5 July 2016). "Why Redis Labs' Modules are AGPL". Redis Labs. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  5. Claburn, Thomas. "Redis has a license to kill: Open-source database maker takes some code proprietary". The Register. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  6. "Commons Clause License". Commons Clause License. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  7. Asay, Matt. "Why Redis Labs made a huge mistake when it changed its open source licensing strategy". TechRepublic. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  8. The Commons Clause doesn't help the commons Matthew Garrett's blog
  9. "The GitLab Enterprise Edition (EE) license (the "EE License")". GitLab. GitLab Inc. 16 May 2018. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  10. "GitLab Community Edition LICENSE file". GitLab. GitLab Inc. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  11. Sijbrandij, Sid (20 Jul 2016). "GitLab is open core, GitHub is closed source". GitLab. GitLab Inc. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  12. "GitLab Community Edition". GitLab Inc. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  13. "meganz/MEGAsync". GitHub. 2017-09-07. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  14. "Interviews: Kim Dotcom Answers Your Questions - Slashdot". 2015-07-30. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  15. "Kim Dotcom promises to launch an open-source competitor to Mega (updated)". Engadget. 2015-07-31. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  16. "Microsoft Limited Public License (Ms-LPL)".
  17. "Microsoft Limited Reciprocal License (Ms-LRL)".
  18. "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.
  19. "The open source platform for numerical computation". INRIA . Retrieved 2008-01-04.
  20. "SCILAB License". INRIA. Archived from the original on 2005-12-12. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
  21. Staff, Ars (October 16, 2019). "In 2019, multiple open source companies changed course—is it the right move?". Ars Technica.
  22. Vaughan-Nichols, Steven J. "MongoDB "open-source" Server Side Public License rejected". ZDNet. Archived from the original on January 16, 2019. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  23. "MongoDB's licensing changes led Red Hat to drop the database from the latest version of its server OS". GeekWire. January 16, 2019. Archived from the original on January 17, 2019. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  24. Tiemann, Michael (2007-06-21). "Will The Real Open Source CRM Please Stand Up?". Open Source Initiative . Retrieved 2008-01-04.
  25. 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.
  26. Vance, Ashlee (2007-07-25). "SugarCRM trades badgeware for GPL 3". The Register. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  27. "truecrypt-archive/License-v3.1.txt at master · DrWhax/truecrypt-archive". GitHub. 28 Mar 2014. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  28. "root/License.txt". VeraCrypt. TrueCrypt Foundation. 17 Oct 2016. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  29. Phipps, Simon (15 November 2013), TrueCrypt or false? Would-be open source project must clean up its act, InfoWorld , retrieved 20 May 2014
  30. "Various Licenses and Comments about Them". GNU Operating System. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 23 Jul 2018.
  31. "BeeGFS End User License Agreement - Documentation - BeeGFS". BeeGFS. Retrieved 8 Jun 2020.
  32. "GitLab". BeeGFS. Retrieved 8 Jun 2020.
  33. "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)". BeeGFS Wiki. Retrieved 8 Jun 2020.
  34. "End-User License Agreement" (plain text). 2019-09-10. Retrieved 2021-01-26.