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I don't know where else to ask this.

I have an Android app I want to release on the store, and I want to charge a low fee for it. But if part of my application uses code I did not write (i.e. code I've added as a dependency to my Gradle file, found through a project's Github page) under the Apache 2.0 license, am I not allowed to charge for my app? Do I have to release the source to my entire project? What am I allowed to do and not allowed to do?

  • 4
    Like so many questions like this, the answers are easy to find. 1) The licenses are all in plain english. 2) There are FAQs. 3) There are 3rd part sites that compare / contrast various open source licenses. 4) If you feel that you are not competent / qualified to read / understand these for yourself, then you should not rely on advice on the internet from someone else who may (for all you know) be not competent / qualified either! – Stephen C Apr 17 '16 at 3:23
  • For #2, see apache.org/foundation/license-faq.html – Steven Burnap Apr 17 '16 at 3:44
  • "It forbids you to: redistribute any piece of Apache-originated software without proper attribution;" What does this mean exactly? Isn't including a project in your app a form of redistribution? "It requires you to: include a copy of the license in any redistribution you may make that includes Apache software;" Does this mean just dumping a .txt file in a project folder somewhere? – KaliMa Apr 17 '16 at 3:49
  • The word is "attribution," not "redistribution." See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attribution_(copyright) – Robert Harvey Apr 17 '16 at 4:28
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    Possible duplicate of What does the Apache licensing mean by "Permitted: Commercial Use" – gnat Apr 17 '16 at 7:26
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The Apache License is a permissive license. It basically lets you do pretty much anything you want, as long as you tell people you used the software, and that it was Apache Licensed.

[I]f part of my application uses code I did not write ... under the Apache 2.0 license, am I not allowed to charge for my app?

No, it is perfectly ok to charge for your app. The Apache license does not prevent you from charging for applications that use Apache Licensed code.

From the license:

You may reproduce and distribute copies of the Work or Derivative Works thereof in any medium, with or without modifications, and in Source or Object form, provided that You meet the following conditions:

There is no mention in those conditions about charging or not charging money.

Do I have to release the source to my entire project?

No. The conditions from the license do not mention any requirement to release source.

What am I allowed to do and not allowed to do?

From the conditions:

You must give any other recipients of the Work or Derivative Works a copy of this License; and

I.e. you must include the license file with your application. (For binary applications, most people put this in a "terms of service" menu or some such.)

You must cause any modified files to carry prominent notices stating that You changed the files; and

I.e. if you give someone the source, you must point out explicitly what was changed.

You must retain, in the Source form of any Derivative Works that You distribute, all copyright, patent, trademark, and attribution notices from the Source form of the Work, excluding those notices that do not pertain to any part of the Derivative Works; and

I.e. you cannot delete any license notices from the source package

*If the Work includes a "NOTICE" text file as part of its distribution, then any Derivative Works that You distribute must include a readable copy of the attribution notices contained within such NOTICE file, excluding those notices that do not pertain to any part of the Derivative Works, in at least one of the following places: within a NOTICE text file distributed as part of the Derivative Works; within the Source form or documentation, if provided along with the Derivative Works; or, within a display generated by the Derivative Works, if and wherever such third-party notices normally appear. The contents of the NOTICE file are for informational purposes only and do not modify the License. You may add Your own attribution notices within Derivative Works that You distribute, alongside or as an addendum to the NOTICE text from the Work, provided that such additional attribution notices cannot be construed as modifying the License. *

I.e. if you have your own NOTICE file, you must include all license information from the original.

Other Licenses

Note that this applies to the Apache License. There is another very common license, the MIT license, that is functionally equivalent.

The other most common licenses are the GPL and the LGPL. Both of these licenses also let you charge money for applications generated, but different in that they both require you release source to users who you give binaries to, always for the GPL, under specific conditions for the LGPL.

  • What license file exactly? To use an explicit example let's say I want to include/use github.com/PhilJay/MPAndroidChart in my app. What exactly must I do? I don't see any special files. – KaliMa Apr 17 '16 at 3:04
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    "... always for the GPL" - actually, only if you distribute the software in binary form. If you don't distribute the software at all (e.g. you use it to provide a commercial service) then there is no requirement to release source code. – Stephen C Apr 17 '16 at 3:17
  • @StephenC "in binary form" = in .exe format? – KaliMa Apr 17 '16 at 3:20
  • See the end of the readme: github.com/PhilJay/MPAndroidChart/blob/master/README.md – Steven Burnap Apr 17 '16 at 3:23
  • @StephenC Corrected – Steven Burnap Apr 17 '16 at 3:24
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I don't know where else to ask this.

Like so many questions like this, the answers are easy to find.

  1. The Apache license is written in plain English. A native English speaker should be able to read it (carefully) and understand it. (But you >>do<< need to read it >>carefully<< ... and research any points you are not sure about.)

  2. There are FAQs with plain answers to questions like this.

  3. There are 3rd party sites that compare / contrast various open source licenses.

However, if you feel that you are not competent / qualified to read / understand these for yourself, then you should not rely on advice on the internet from someone else who may (for all you know) be not competent / qualified either. (Would you rely on a random faceless stranger for financial advice?1)

If you are in doubt, and if getting a >>correct<< answer to your questions is important (e.g. it might kill your business if you get it wrong) then get advice from a qualified legal professional.


1 - If the answer to that is "Yes" ... then I have fantastic deal for you! Please just send me your bank account details so that we can get started :-)

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