Dual Licensing

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An important licensing and business strategy in commercial Open Source Software industry.


"The first license is a GPL-like license, which is free but forces users to disclose the source code of any modified version of the original design. The second is a commercial license, which has a fee but allows buyers to conceal the source code of any modified version." (http://www.osbr.ca/ojs/index.php/osbr/article/view/570/523)


"With a dual-licensing approach, the company is protected by a GPL (or similar) license, because both competitors and potential customers who wish to embed/link with the GPL software must also GPL their own code. Since most competitors/customers don’t wish to do so, they are willing instead to pay for a commercial license. This simple yet subtle point is at the heart of the success of nearly every commercial open source organization." (http://robertogaloppini.net/2007/06/02/open-source-firms-enterprisedb-business-model/)

Adam Beberg:

"One way is to release everything under both a traditional commercial use and an open source license. Users who wish to use the code commercially can provide revenue while providing the benefits of open source to noncommercial and academic users. The other way dual licensing is done is to lead with the current version under a commercial license, and follow later releasing old, obsolete versions under an open source license. Again many paying users will need the most current version; others can wait for the version to be made open source. Dual licensing seems to be more acceptable to the open source community since it has been done for a longer time." (http://www.softpanorama.org/OSS/webliography.shtml)


The EntrepriseDB strategy:

"First, we created a superset of PostgreSQL called EnterpriseDB Advanced Server, and closed-sourced the code. In other words, atop base PostgreSQL, we added deep Oracle-compatibility, dynamic performance tuning, and world-class tools, including replication, debuggers, browsers, and more. Then we closed-sourced the whole package. In this manner, we have crisply defined a set of value-added features for which we charge, much like SugarCRM’s professional edition. If you want the free-and-open-source version version of the software, though, it’s easily available…and it’s called PostgreSQL.

The second — and equally important — part of our business strategy is to be an excellent citizen in the PostgreSQL open source community. We are building a successful company on the shoulders of one of the world’s most successful open source projects, and we have a responsibility to give back to that community to the maximum extent possible, while still protecting our ability to generate revenue. In addition to our ethical responsibility, we also “do well by doing good” because we promote the wider spread of PostgreSQL, the world’s most advanced and enterprise-class open source database (albeit only the second most popular)." (http://robertogaloppini.net/2007/06/02/open-source-firms-enterprisedb-business-model/)

More Information

  1. Open Licenses
  2. Research paper: Dual Licensing in Open Source Software Markets. Stefano Comino and Fabio M. Manenti