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The Software Setup:

I am currently planning on creating a new software product. I have never commercially launched an application, nor am I doing this for a company. It's more for fun than anything, but it may bring in some cash too. :P Anyway, there are going to be two "core parts" of the software:

  • Part Number One: This one I am going to release open source. It's basically an installer/launcher/patcher that automatically checks for updates, it can handle error reporting, etc. Blah, blah, blah.
  • Part Number Two: This is going to be the actual software. Closed source, but freeware. It's linked to an account, which can be either free or paid.

The Problem:

So that's all fine above... until I realise my development computer has a lot of "freeware for non-businesses and paid for businesses" software. (Office, antivirus, and who knows what else?) I know I will definitely have to do something about the software for the for-profit part, but how about the open source part? It is free, but the whole intention of developing it is for adding it to a bigger, paid software.

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    Are you using those applications to develop the software? Or do you use those for other stuff, and are just installed because this is your sole, personal PC, etc? – whatsisname Sep 30 '13 at 1:12
  • @whatsisname Nothing's used for development, well except for my anti-virus, however, if need be, that can be swapped out easily. I thought that if it was installed on a computer, you couldn't use that computer for business use, even if you didn't use that specific software. Huh. – Anonymous Penguin Sep 30 '13 at 20:25
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"Commercial use" is a nebulous term that is of little use when it comes to activity that is not actually commerce -- that is, buying and selling goods or services.

You should examine the EULA's of each software package with a "no commercial use" clause for a definition of what exactly "commercial use" means. If you don't find one or if the definition is not clear to you, go to the company's web site and search there. An email or telephone call to their sales or support area would not be inappropriate. A targeted web search would also be appropriate.

If after examining the EULA and searching the company's interpretation thereof you still do not have a clear answer, you should seek the counsel of a legal professional in your jurisdiction. (Bring the details of the prior steps.)

(All that said, if you're using a "home and student" version of Microsoft office suite and Avast antivirus on your PC, I would be astonished if either expected you to pay for "full" versions before you start hiring employees.)

  • For the last paragraph, I am doing work myself, but on that computer. So you think that I will be fine? I probably will still check into the licencing a bit more and maybe send an email or two. – Anonymous Penguin Sep 30 '13 at 20:36
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Arguably you have a moral obligation to pay for the software. It is being used to develop the open source component used to support a commercial product. You may be able to legally establish a case that its not commercial, but that is likely against the spirit and intent of the licenses.

Paying for the software is almost certainly cheaper than hiring a lawyer to find out if you need to pay. If the vendor approaches you after the fact, it could get messy and expensive. If you cannot afford the software, the easiest thing would be to ask the vendor(s) and put your case for using under the free use license. Most likely this will receive favorable response.

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