We recently had a company (netsuite) come by and mentioned how their e-commerce software was open source. When I asked if I could see the source code, they mentioned I had to either:

  1. Get with a training specialist (and not see the source code).
  2. Buy the software to view the source code.

Could you even consider this open source if we have to pay to see the source code? How is netsuite getting away with this? Or is the sales team just misinformed on what open source means?

  • 3
    Is somebody who bought the source code allowed to redistribute it to everybody for free? Feb 10, 2017 at 14:47
  • 5
    The term “open source” is not protected. However, the Open Source Definition lays down common expectations – in particular, that the source must be accessible for no more than a “reasonable” charge. As such, your vendor is using misleading terminology. Instead of asking whether something is “open source”, you should ask what (OSI- or FSF-approved) license they are using. Making source code accessible only under special restrictions is sometimes called a “shared source” model.
    – amon
    Feb 10, 2017 at 14:51
  • They have unique spin on the term open source.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 10, 2017 at 15:34
  • 1
    "Free as in Free Beer or Free as in Speech" ?
    – Machado
    Feb 10, 2017 at 17:17

3 Answers 3


A quick google found this nuget:

"NetSuite’s model isn’t the traditional Open Source model, but it fits with the structure of the business world today. As Cloud becomes more meaningful, we move away from Open Source and toward a model that allows for businesses to build computing capacities in a competitive fashion."

basically, no its not open source at all. They let you write plugins which (i think) you can distribute within their 'community'.

So they get your code, you don't get theirs



As far as I know, the term 'open source' is not controlled by anybody, and there are no limits on its use.

As far as the rest, it depends on the license they attach to their source code. While the GPL requires you to distribute the code if you sell a binary, you are not required to distribute it to somebody who does not pay. (You also can't prevent others from distributing it, once they receive it from you).

From your description, the product might very well be 'open source' and GPL'ed, and still conform to those constraints


It's a much more traditional view of open source. These days people equate open source with 'free as in beer' and less 'free as in speech' though that is still important too. Many also assume that to be 'open source' you have to have an OSI approved licence, which is just good marketing on the OSI's part.

In this case the ability to view the source, to modify it and adapt it for your needs but without any onward resale rights is very much open source - as it is available under licence to all. Certainly when I purchased Minix on a bunch of floppies in the late 90's that was the case - I wish I'd kept those...

The more correct term is FOSS (Free Open Source Software) though it's more common to find FOSS than paid-for open source products these days.

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