Commercial and Non-commercial Licenses for RP Software
It is common in the software industry to offer different license types for commercial and non-commercial use. Typically, non-commercial license prices are substantially cheaper – you pay less for getting less, at least in terms of rights. The underlying rules can be quite different, though. In this article, I discuss the rules used for simulation and design software from RP Photonics.
What Exactly is Non-commercial Use?
It is not obvious where exactly one should draw the line between commercial and non-commercial use. First of all, we are definitely talking about the nature of the use of the software, not the nature of the institution using it. This means that research groups at universities, for example, are not automatically assumed to be non-commercial users, since they might engage in cooperations with companies. On the other hand, we always assume commercial use in the case of companies.
We are restricting the use of non-commercial licenses to public research (i.e., publicly funded research the results of which are generally published) and education. For example, there are government laboratories which do not really engage in commercial activities (in the sense of earning money), but in areas outside public research and education – for example, services for the government. In such cases, non-commercial licenses cannot be used.
What's the Difference for the User?
Whether a commercial or non-commercial license for our software is purchased, the delivered software will be the same. Apart from the different prices, the differences for the user are:
- Only commercial licenses give you the right to use the software for essentially any purposes (with only some minor limitations in the license contract). In earlier times, we prohibited the use for services to third parties (e.g. for technical consultancy), but nowadays we are fairly generous. (In case of doubt, please just ask us.)
- The included number of support hours is smaller for non-commercial licenses, e.g. 4 instead of 8 hours – which is not a problem for the vast majority of users.
By the way, there are different license contracts for these cases.
What if the Type of Use Changes?
It can happen that a research group purchases a non-commercial software license, assuming that the software will be used only for research and education, but later on enters a cooperation with the company in which the software is used. In such a case, they can obtain an upgrade to a commercial license, just paying the difference between the license prices. By the way, a university research group could continue to use a non-commercial license if the commercial partner itself has a commercial license for the same software.
If you are a user of a non-commercial license, please occasionally think about whether your software use is still strictly non-commercial – if not, please purchase the mentioned upgrade. That will also double the number of support hours available.
Of course, we could normally not detect such a change of use. To some extent, we have to rely on the honesty of our customers – as any user has to trust us in many ways.
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