I am releasing an application at no cost, but I am not granting users the right to modify or redistribute the code. How should I call this?

I initially used the term "free license", but on second thoughts I find this confusing because free can have several meanings, and in people's mind it is often associated with open source. Is there a better terminology for my case?

  • Jeff Atwood at one time [provided a comparison of licenses] (codinghorror.com/blog/2007/04/pick-a-license-any-license.html). I would think based on his list that D: none of the above which maps to the first item in his list would be the correct answer. – JustinC Jun 20 '13 at 20:38
  • @JustinC the first item in his list is "no license", which doen't allow anybody to even use the application. – Christophe Jun 20 '13 at 20:52
  • Not exactly. It means that to use the software, they have to receive an explicit grant to use it. How you provide that explicit grant can be as simple or as complex as you want. It may be that they have to email for permission, or it may be that they agree to a terms of use (EULA), through exercise of website function, like a particular button click. – JustinC Jun 20 '13 at 21:02
  • Can you clarify - when you say "redistribute" do you explicitly mean "redistribute modified code", not "redistribute the application"? – Maximus Minimus Jun 20 '13 at 22:15
  • @mh01 in my case they are only allowed to use it, nothing else is allowed. – Christophe Jun 21 '13 at 5:05

The term "freeware" (rather than the ambiguous "free software") is often used to indicate software that is free of charge but not necessarily supplied with other freedoms. However, freeware usually often carries the connotation of "free to distribute".

The adjective "gratis" is used by the FSF to unambiguously indicate "zero monetary cost". However, people not familiar with software licensing might find that wording unfamiliar, so it would be best to accompany it with an explicit description that your software is available "free of charge".


You haven't said what form you are distributing it, but as long as you are distributing as a binary, it's pretty easy - don't give them the source code. The number of people who can be bothered to modify a binary is pretty small, and the number of those who would care what your license said anyway is probably close enough to zero that you don't care.

  • 1
    This is JavaScript, so no binary (just minified). I perfectly understand that people might not follow the rules, but still I want to be clear on my side. I need to know the volume of regular users to plan support. – Christophe Jun 20 '13 at 20:07

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