At choosealicense.com/licenses I am reading the Apache licensing, and see that under Permitted there stands Commercial Use:

This software and derivatives may be used for commercial purposes.

Meaning, they can use (and modify) my app, in a commercial environment (e.g. Microsoft, Apple). Or, they can commercialize my app? English is not my native language and I am wondering if I am misinterpreting something.


1 Answer 1


Commercial use is any use that is a part of revenue generating activity, that is, making money. It includes all use by for-profit organizations (companies) and use by self-employed natural persons as part of their paid work.

It has nothing to do with the environment. Using Linux to run a web shop is a commercial use and using Windows at home for watching youtube videos is not commercial use.

This is in contrast with licenses that allow free use for some purposes, but require fee for commercial use. Such licenses are not considered open-source and note that the site does not list any license that would not permit "commercial use".

This does not imply that they can derive commercial software, i.e. one where fee is required for use, from your work. However the Apache license does permit that. It is the "sublicense" item, last one in the permitted list.

The "sublicense" in general means that the recipient of the work can further distribute it or derived version under different terms. Which specifically includes requiring fee for use. GPL prohibits this and requires that derived work may only be distributed under the same license while most other open-source licenses permit it.

Note that even GPL-licensed software can be sold, but it's the distribution itself that is paid (e.g. burned CD with Linux can be sold) while the recipient still gets the right to use it for any purpose and most importantly to further distribute it.

  • So do you mean that projects using a GPL-licensed library, cannot be used for commercial purposes and the entire code must be made open?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 10:43
  • @Pacerier: In the sense of this question, “use for commercial purpose” means you use it on your work computer or server. GPL permits that and the linked site clearly says so.
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 12:27
  • 1
    @Pacerier: If you mean making money of the project itself rather than using the project in other money making activity, even GPL leaves you some options. You must only provide source for what is linked to the GPL code and shipped. So you can 1. open it and live off support contract or related services (e.g. open client for paid service), 2. provide software as a service (so you don't ship anything; but watch out for AGPL which binds source distribution with use), 3. put the open and closed code in separate process or 4. use GPL code for build only.
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 12:33
  • Would it be against the law to take the GPL-licensed library and simply sell it unedited? Or perhaps with just a few minimal touch-up changes?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 20:30
  • @Pacerier: You can sell media with a copy; that's what Linux distributors do/did (few people buy CDs any more). What you can't do is sublicense it, so the buyer is still entitled to the source and may freely share it further. And note that it applies to unedited and edited copies alike.
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 20:56

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