I am developing a web application based on a proprietary (but free) JavaScript API. My company is considering releasing our application as "Open Source", but we are unsure of the different licensing options and how they will work considering we are using a third-party proprietary API.

Can anyone help me with the following questions?

  1. If we cannot release the third-party API as open source, can we release the code that we have written as open source?
  2. Are we, as the original developers, held to the same license that we release our code with? For instance, if we release our code under a "copy-left" license like GPL, would that restrict us from building on the original code base and releasing it in another product that is not open source?
  3. What is the best resource for learning the difference among all the different license types? I looked at opensource.org, which listed all the licenses, but I have trouble understanding all the legalese of the licenses themselves.

1 Answer 1


First of: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, consult a real lawyer before proceeding.

  1. That would depend on the license of the third-party code. Also, you will have to choose a license that allows linking to a proprietary libs. Consult the company from which you got the library - and a lawyer.

  2. You can release your code under as many different licenses as you want, provided you own the copyright. Basically, your company can release the code it has written e.g. both licensed as GPL and using a proprietary license and charge for the proprietary license. However, if you accept contributions from the community without demanding copyright assignment, those contributions will have to be dealt with according to the license under which the contributor submitted them to you. Keeping this straight and legally above reproach entails a lot of bookkeeping. Consult a lawyer.

  3. Opensource.org is a good starting point, then look at the webpages of the respective authors, they often provide a "plain english" explanation of the license. To get a definitive answer, consult a lawyer.

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