From W3C Software Notice and License:

Permission to copy, modify, and distribute this software and its documentation, with or without modification, for any purpose and without fee or royalty is hereby granted

My app depends on the xml-apis 1.4.01 library that in turn includes W3C software and I need to distribute it along with my non-free app. I am not explicitly charging for the included xml-apis/W3C components. Does the stated license statement exclude such a paid distribution?

Don't answer if you are not aware of the GPL linking exception.

  • 1
    The w3c license is not the same as the GPL. I don't see why the GPL system library exception has anything to do with your question since your application isn't licensed under the GPL.
    – user53019
    Jun 30, 2014 at 15:59

3 Answers 3


This licence does not itself exclude a paid distribution of any kind. It is provided to you without fee or royalty, but imposes no restriction on whether you in turn do or do not charge fees or royalties for your software.

This licence is also unaffected by any other licences that may be in effect for other parts of your software. It is plain, simple and very clear. No court would have trouble with it.

Please note that this is not the same as placing software in the public domain. The entity granting this licence retains copyright, and might provide the same software to others on different terms. You do not gain the right to trade in the software, or to claim that you wrote it. You can only copy modify or distribute it.

Please note also that compatibility with other licences, such as the GPL with or without exclusions, is not guaranteed. While your rights to use this software are certain, the inclusion of this software in a merged work could impair your rights to use other software provided under other terms. If that issue underlay your question, you should edit it to make it clear which other licences you are using and what concerns you may have.


Speaking as a layman, not a lawyer, the answer is that it doesn't forbid that. The key phrase is "for any purpose". This is plain, simple legal english.

Also ... consider the context. Why would the W3C forbid use of their code in commercial software? It is not in their remit to push the "libre source" philosophy. It would be counter-productive to their goals as an organization .... which is the interoperability of web software, irrespective of how it was written or made available to users.

However if (hypothetically) you were to charge customers for the W3C material, you would (IMO) be stepping outside of the rights granted by the license. It grants you the right to copy, modify, distribute etc, without fee or royalty ...

Note: I'm not a lawyer. If you have doubts about this, consult a professional; i.e. a lawyer who understands copyright law ... in the jurisdictions that apply to you.

(Or you could just email the W3C and ask them if you are permitted to do what you want to do.)


According to the FSF's page Various Licenses and Comments about Them:

W3C Software Notice and License

This is a free software license and is GPL compatible.

Futhermore, the W3C license is OSI approved.

As an open source software license, it cannot impose restrictions on field of endeavor, which includes permission to sell the software. This does not guarantee that a license can be redistributed combined with proprietary software, but in this particular case (though I'm not a lawyer), I see nothing to indicate that the W3C license would forbid that.

  • GPL compatibility is not enough. It needs GPL+classpath exception compatibility. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPL_linking_exception Jun 30, 2014 at 14:17
  • The GPL linking exception isn't involved in this case. The W3C software license is a free license as stated in the first half of the quote.
    – user53019
    Jun 30, 2014 at 16:02
  • 1
    @user1050755 The permissions in the license are basically the same as an MIT-style permissive license (which of course permits all manner of redistribution), except for this license's "without fee or royalty" wording. I thought your confusion was that that phrase might mean "the recipient is not allowed to impose a fee or royalty when redistributing" rather than "this software is offered to the recipient without fee or royalty". The fact that this is an OSI-approved license is sufficient to disprove the first interpretation, since OSI licenses cannot impose monetary-cost restrictions.
    – apsillers
    Jun 30, 2014 at 16:46

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