Corporate Use Restrictions

There seems to be a growing trend in Open Source software of adding Terms of Use of a download service to exclude use by businesses (usually defining this as some number of employees, some amount of revenue or both), so that the software itself remains free and open source, but making sure that businesses must pay for the privilage of using the product.

These span a wide swath of methods from very obvious paywalls to deeply obfuscated Terms of Use clauses, and they are dangerous for businesses specifically because some programmer who uses one of these technologies at home on an open source project often won’t think twice about installing the same on a business supplied computer to get their job’s work done…

Access to Web Download Services

So RedHat started this trend way back, around 20 years ago, if I recall. Every single thing RedHat ships is Free and Open Source software, meaning that they are obligated to make thier code changes available to their customers AND the maintainers of the original project.

Generally, open source licenses do not stipulate that access to the source code be free to anyone, so RedHat started locking down access to paying customers along with the launch of Fedora and the retirement of the original RedHat distribution (again, I fuzzy recall that RedHat 9 was the last freely available RedHat titled distribution), now there’s Fedora and RedHat Enterprise Linux the second of which requires a paid subscription to access.

Because of the underlying software licenses, there’s nothing RedHat can do to stop Rocky Linux or Alma Linux from making access to the same software free (as long as that software doesn’t include any RedHat tradmarks or logos).

That is, RedHat being a very large and very old distribution, has two separate projects willing to pay the infrastructure money required to replicate the RedHat distribution path. That server space isn’t free, someone is paying real money for it at each of these projects so that both individuals and businesses can use a recent “RedHat compatible” distribution for free.

The Banner License

Docker Desktop is one of the better behaved. Every download page has a clear banner on it to make sure you know that if you are part of a business, you need a paid license. That said, there’s nothing preventing an employee of some company from not seeing that banner and just clicking through and installing it anyway. So many users seem to believe that if it is freely downloadable then it must be free to use.

The Terms of Use Obfuscation

This one feels sneaky. The example here is Anaconda. If you go to, or the license for all of the software appears to be a very free BSD license, however, the software enables access to repositories of Python libraries, and those repositories are subject to a Terms of Use (referenced in the software license) and that terms of use is clear that business use requires a paid license.


If a business is caught using a download site in violation of the broad license (including parts included by reference), then that business can be sued. The penalties can include a large chunk of money as a penalty and an agreement to OVERPAY for all needed licenses or subscriptions now and sometimes several years into the future.

Of course, a business could also try to fight it in court. I honestly don’t know if these click-wrap licenses have been tested in the legal system yet, but I highly suspect they haven’t been. That doesn’t mean most business owners would want to fund that defense.