We created the NuPIC open source environment with the desire to build a broad community to work on these algorithms, to advance the science, and to build applications that can integrate the technology into people’s lives. We imagined academic work as well as commercial work, both open source and proprietary. We chose the GPLv3 license as a way to achieve these goals. In our GPLv3 license, you do not have to pay any license fee to get started. If you create something that you’d like to distribute, then you are required to make this source code available. This is a great option for academics and members of the open source community, but in some cases will not be appropriate for a commercial application. In the cases where a developer has created something that they would like to keep proprietary, we are willing to enter into a commercial license at that time. The good news is that one can start on the GPLv3 license, then transition to a commercial license later. *
So, here is how our licensing impacts you if your goal is commercial deployment:
You can get going today at no cost. You can experiment all you want. You can create an application.
As you get ready to launch your application, you will have two choices. First, you can distribute it under the GPL, which requires that you release source code. This option can work for commercial deployments if you have other value-added products or services that you can charge for, such as support or integration services, or product modules that are not based on the open source. Alternatively, you can request a commercial license from us, which would allow you to create a proprietary product. *
I realize you might want to know the terms of that commercial license now, rather than wait. But, the truth is, we don’t have such a commercial license today. We are committed to creating one, but it must be driven by the needs of the developers, rather than created as an abstract thought process. Once we have a real deployment to consider, then we can craft a license that is appropriate.
You might ask, but can’t we just require something unreasonable at that time? How can you trust us? Well, all I can say about this is that it is in our best interests to negotiate a reasonable license. It does us no good to license people who fail. We want to license people who succeed. As such, our interests are entirely aligned. Once you know what product you’re creating, the target market, the price point, the potential volumes, etc., we can work with you to put together a license that makes sense for both of us.
I feel this structure can work well for the independent developer. You have no out-of-pocket up-front costs or commitments, so you can work on your ideas with little risk. Once you have something that you think is exciting, you have the freedom to explore multiple business models. If at that point, the proprietary business model is best for your goals, you will have enough info to share with us so that together we can create an appropriate license.
* Since this original blog post, we have updated our license to the AGPL Version 3.0.
Back to Blog