I work as developer in my company, and I am reducing the manual tasks of the team members by creating online applications for internal use; just my team is using them. I found some scripts on devexpress which are very useful for my current project.

Like many tools, the scripts are free for non-commercial, but have a license cost for commercial usage.

My application will be used just internally, only for the people in my team and the application will not be sold or used anywhere else. As such, I believe can generally be considered non-commercial usage.

In general, is internal usage considered non-commercial?

  • 25
    As it comes down to the technicalities of licensing, you might also want to ask on Law.SE
    – user81330
    Aug 22, 2018 at 10:06
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Aug 23, 2018 at 3:40
  • Your answer depends on the license, which you have not provided. Usually non-commercial use means it is available without compensation to home users and other open source projects with similar licenses. Open Source Stack Exchange or maybe Law Stack Exchange would probably be a better place to ask.
    – user25792
    Oct 9, 2018 at 9:31

5 Answers 5


You cannot use it: Internal usage is a commercial purpose.

Unfortunately, internal use which improves (or intends to improve) your teams ability to compete in the market - is a commercial purpose. As such, you cannot use non-commercial licenses for internal work at any company that competes in a commercial market.

As an example, from the DevExpress site you are looking at. In their License Agreement:

"Commercial Purpose" is one intended for or that results in commercial advantage or monetary compensation.


You may not use the Work or Derivative Works for Commercial Purposes or Competitive Purposes.

As such, doing internal work that helps your company (or is intended to) in any way, is considered a "Commercial Purpose", due to the "commercial advantage" you gain (advantage to your company versus not using their software).

It is worth noting that every license will be different though, and it's worth examining the specifics of each agreement before using any software.

However, as a rule of thumb, any work you do for a company (even internal) will not be compatible with non-commercial licenses.

  • 5
    However, would there be any advantage if anyone was allowed to use it?
    – Melebius
    Aug 22, 2018 at 13:22
  • 18
    @Melebius Even if anyone can use it, the advantage is for those who do use it. And if anyone does use it, the software company would like to be paid for their work. Aug 22, 2018 at 13:36
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    Apart from your explanation for this specific case, I'd be surprised if any software exists that has a commercial license, but allows a business to use it for free (not considering trials as free here). And there's no reason for a business to use software that would not give an advantage.
    – R. Schmitz
    Aug 22, 2018 at 15:51
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    @NuclearWang I think Melebius' point is that, if "anyone" can use it, then no one can have an advantage over anyone else; you can only intentionally put yourself at a disadvantage by choosing to not use it. (There is a subtle distinction, but it's there.)
    – code_dredd
    Aug 22, 2018 at 16:52
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    @Melebius It's not advantage against a competitor. It's advantage against not using the software.
    – jpmc26
    Aug 22, 2018 at 20:38

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

Generally speaking, if you are using it in ANY sort of commercial context (even if it's just for internal teams), you should get a commercial license. It is still serving a commercial purpose in your company, even if you aren't making an end-product from it.

You might be able to find a free/open source alternative to this if you need.

  • 8
    Exactly. If the asker believes that only things sold to customers have commercial purpose, they should fire all their cleaning staff, for example. Aug 22, 2018 at 13:36

Automating tasks is a work time reduction resulting in savings. So it is a profit for a company. Thus it is a commercial use.

Imagine that you can automate tasks to a level where you need one less person. You fire that person and save their annual salary. Do you see the profit now. It can be the opposite way - the team that spends 70% of their time on sales and 30% on backend tasks with the automation will have the backend labour reduced to 20% of their time. Effectively they will be able to increase their sales by(1) almost 15% so your earnings will also increase by 15%. Do you see this is a company profit?

(1) To increase from 70% to 80%, you need to increase original number by almost 15%. Increasing by 10% would give you just 77%. A nasty math trick ;-)


What's legal use depends entirely on the specific license. So there's no way this question can be answered without looking at that.

If the license isn't something you've encountered before or understand the terms of well, really this isn't a call you should be making. Your employer should have a licensing specialist and/or a lawyer for this exact purpose. You should take the license to them, explain exactly how you want to use the software, and get a decision from them.

This is why its really helpful when software comes with standard well-known licenses. Any time I see something that isn't something common that I know well (CC0, GPL, BSD, Apache, etc.), honestly its easier to just find an alternative that is.

One resource that can help newbies is the GPL License Compatibility list. In general, you are always free to use GPL software for anything you won't distribute outside your company*. If that's the use-case, then this list is really good for showing you what other licenses are compatible with that kind of use, and where they may or may not be problematic. If the license isn't on this list, I'm not sure I'd trust it. Certainly wouldn't without reading and fully understanding it first (and really, that time's usually better spent finding an alternative online).

If the software isn't for internal use, but instead you intend to distribute it outside your company, then pros really need to get involved.

* - Not to imply its impossible to distribute software that uses the GPL. Lots of companies do that. However, your license must also be GPL compatible, which your entire sales strategy really needs to be built around. That's not something most companies are going to be amenable to doing just because you found a nice free tool online.

  • 2
    The GPL says nothing about where you distribute, but how you do. It also says nothing about where you can use the software, only how you can distribute derivatives of it. If you use a GPL bug tracker, you can use that for literally any project, open-source or not, internal or not, commercial or not. If you fork a GPL bug tracker, you have to distribute that fork under the GPL as well. That line gets blurry around software libraries and scripts, but under the GPL that generally counts as making a derivative.
    – anon
    Aug 22, 2018 at 17:41
  • 1
    That's fair and reasonable. I just realized I didn't actually get to my point with my last comment, which was that your sort of situation -- which is, again, reasonable, and probably fairly common -- isn't a direct license term of the GPL, which is what your answer makes it sound like. It's a consequence of what the license allows. I just think you should make that middle step more clear, so people reading this don't misunderstand the GPL.
    – anon
    Aug 22, 2018 at 19:09
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    @NicHartley - I really didn't want to drag this answer off into the weeds with a several-paragraph discussion about the nuances of the GPL. I've added a somewhat lengthy footnote instead. Hopefully that's enough for getting on with, considering the GPL isn't anywhere near the topic the OP cared about.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 22, 2018 at 19:18
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    @NicHartley - The basic insight here is that a lot of the same kinds of things that tend to make licenses GPL-incompatible (eg: Usage restrictions) are the kinds of things that might make it illegal to use in a corporate setting. Even without that, if you understand the GPL, and the license is on that list, you can read a nice short description there about how it differs. If it isn't on the list, you gotta go read and grok the entire damn license. Uck. That's lawyer work.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 22, 2018 at 19:27
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    I'm unsure why this is being downvoted? Most companies have legal teams that analyzes licenses and contracts. The team I'm on recently wanted to use a licensed product that had to go through the legal teams before we could use it. It's reasonable to ask your manager and put it through the proper channels.
    – Dan
    Aug 23, 2018 at 14:47

I have a hard time what you would even see as "commercial use" then. Reselling copies of the software is not "commercial use" but distribution requiring a different license. "I am only using this software in order to efficiently solve problems in the course of our commercial operation" would require a rather strange license text to be considered "non-commercial use".

Naturally, when in doubt, read the license text. Other answers already went to that pain. But common sense already dictates that when your classification of "non-commercial use" does not realistically leave any case of "commercial use" existant, you might be the victim of wishful thinking.

  • 1
    DevExpress makes software 'widgets' to make a desktop or web based applications more attractive. Web applications can be used to sell products and/or services.
    – CramerTV
    Aug 22, 2018 at 22:06

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