Commercial Software

Sam Liddicott sam at
Tue Mar 15 10:51:50 UTC 2011

On 15/03/11 10:34, Matthias Kirschner wrote:
> * Alex Hudson<home at>  [2011-03-15 09:07:50 +0000]:
>> On Tue, 2011-03-15 at 09:36 +0100, Matthias Kirschner wrote:
>>> * Alex Hudson<home at>  [2011-03-15 08:02:02 +0000]:
>>>> I would struggle to label most free software as commercial on that
>>>> basis. RHEL would be an example I suppose, but I wouldn't call Ubuntu
>>>> commercial.
>>> How do you argue when you explain that Ubuntu is not commercial?
>> To be honest it's never come up. I've never met anyone who thought that
>> it was. I don't see that the 10% or whatever polish the Ubuntu community
>> add to Debian as making it amazingly different to Debian, and I
>> certainly don't see Debian as commercial software.
> (Still not satisfied with the answers, so I will continue to ask stupid
> questions.)
> Cannonical is doing buisiness with Ubuntu. So why isn't Ubuntu
> commercial? Same if I use Debian to implement a solution with my company
> for another company (like some of
> do). This solution includes software. If I sell the solution, why
> wouldn't the software be commercial software?

By your definition if I use some non-commercial software and then 
someone else starts selling it, then all of a sudden I am using 
commercial software.

That means it is impossible to know if I am not using commercial 
software or not unless I know that no-one else in the world is selling 
it (or undertaking some qualifying commercial activity).

If it is impossible to know if I am not using commercial software, then 
it becomes a useless definition in normal life.

> About the 10%: If a company sells distilled water is this not a
> commercial product? Because it is less than 10% what they change?

Perhaps the argument is about the meaning of the word "software". You 
can point to a bottle of water and perhaps get some agreement on that 
particular bottle of water. But when we say "software" it is hard to 
tell if it means "specific installation of software on that computer" or 

>> If you say software is commercial if at any point some group of people
>> are poised to make money out of it or services surrounding it, or are
>> paid to contribute to it, then basically all software is commercial,
>> sure. But that seems to me just another version of the One True
>> Scotsman fallacy.
> Why would that be a version of the true scotman? A lot of software is
> commercial software (be it non-free or Free Software). But I am sure we
> can find some examples of software which was developed by people who
> never got money for it. Several Free Software programs started as
> non-commercial software, but than turned into commercial software.

And what if someone else turned it into commercial software (whatever 
that means) but the author/rights-holder did not? Is that possible under 
your meaning of commercial software?

>> For me, software is commercial software if you enter into a transaction
>> to obtain/use it. "Commercial" is the adjective applied to the noun
>> "software", not the developers, the financiers, or anyone else.
> So in your view software can only be commercial if a) you have to pay
> for license fees or b) the software is bundled with hardware for which
> you pay (e.g. Free Software on your mobile, your dsl router, your PC)?
> Than the whole Ubuntu distribution consists of commercial software,
> because my parents once bought a PC with it preinstalled. And all the
> software from Debian, too because I friend of mine bought a laptop with
> Debian GNU/Linux preinstalled.

But much of that software is available also non-commercially - I think 
so far we hinge on the use of the word "software" to mean specific 
installation or abstract package that is developed and available to be 


[FSF Associate Member #2325] 

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