These distinctions are important to understand in the journey of creation of software.
Given the range of licenses out there, I suppose anything's possible, but I've never seen an open source license that explicitly prohibits per-use end-user cost.
The GNU Public License (GPL) governing LiveCode Community Edition expresses no opinion on costs at all.
Indeed, in the early days of the GPL none other than its inventor, Richard Stallman, used to sell floppies containing his GPL-governed utilities (though it was a modest fee, just enough to cover his material
costs and time).
The "free" described in the GPL and other open source licenses isn't about money ("gratis") but freedom ("libre"). This ambiguity with "free" is among the many limitations of our language, but few speak Latin so
the license was written in English, with descriptions of how "free" applies.
But although there are no licensing constraints on fees one may charge for the distribution of a finished software, those who receive the software do have the right to expect access to the source code at no
And the GPL also grants them the freedom to modify the source code however they like, and to distribute their modified version and its source to whomever they like, at any price they like, which can (and use
does) include zero.
So while there's no copyright constraint on charging for open source works, the restriction is simply pragmatic:
If you build a business model solely on per-user fees, and you choose a license that allows the user to have access to the source and to distribute modified versions of it, you will likely sell exactly one copy, to a user who will exercise those freedoms.
The GPL is an excellent license when your goal is about sharing for users, and proliferation of derivative works by other developers.
More permissive licenses like MIT may be useful for models benefiting from open source process and proprietary consumer deployment.
Proprietary licenses may be needed for other business models.
And with LC, they offer three models:
- Community, governed by GPL, favoring sharing.
- Community Plus, a proprietary license for free-as-in-gratis
deployment to iOS and elsewhere.
- Indy and Business, for proprietary use also allowing per-use
Some bundled components may have their own licensing restrictions, where only some are dual-licensed and others proprietary-only - see license and functionality breakdown here:
- Source: Richard Gaskin, Fourth World Systems Software Design and Development for the Desktop, Mobile, and the Web.