PROPRIETARY SOFTWARE is computer software for which the software's
publisher or another person retains intellectual property
rights—usually copyright of the source code , but sometimes patent
* 1 Software becoming proprietary
* 2 Legal basis
* 2.1 Limitations
* 3 Exclusive rights
* 3.1 Use of the software
* 3.2 Inspection and modification of source code
* 3.3 Redistribution
* 4 Interoperability with software and hardware
* 4.1 Proprietary file formats and protocols
* 4.2 Proprietary APIs
* 4.4 Software limited to certain hardware configurations
* 5 Abandonment by owners
* 6 Formerly open-source software
* 7 Pricing and economics
* 8 Examples
* 9 See also
* 10 References
SOFTWARE BECOMING PROPRIETARY
Until the late 1960s computers—large and expensive mainframe
computers , machines in specially air-conditioned computer
rooms—were leased to customers rather than sold . Service and all
software available were usually supplied by manufacturers without
separate charge until 1969. Computer vendors usually provided the
source code for installed software to customers. Customers who
developed software often made it available to others without charge.
In 1969, IBM, which had antitrust lawsuits pending against it, led an
industry change by starting to charge separately for mainframe
software and services, by unbundling hardware and software.
Bill Gates ' "
Open Letter to Hobbyists " in 1976 decried computer
hobbyists' rampant copyright infringement of software, particularly
Altair BASIC interpreter, and reminded his audience that
their theft from programmers hindered his ability to produce quality
Brewster Kahle the legal characteristic of software
changed also due to the U.S.
Copyright Act of 1976 .
Starting in February 1983
IBM adopted an "object-code -only" model
for a growing list of their software and stopped shipping source code.
In 1983, binary software became also copyrightable in the United
States by the Apple vs. Franklin law decision, before that only
source code was copyrightable. Additionally, the growing availability
of millions of computers based on the same microprocessor architecture
created for the first time an unfragmented and big enough market for
binary distributed software.
Software law ,
Software copyright , Software
patent , and
End-user license agreement
Most software is covered by copyright which, along with contract law
, patents , and trade secrets , provides legal basis for its owner to
establish exclusive rights.
license agreement (EULA). The user may agree to this contract in
writing, interactively on screen (clickwrap ), or by opening the box
containing the software (shrink wrap licensing ). License agreements
are usually not negotiable . Software patents grant exclusive rights
to algorithms, software features, or other patentable subject matter ,
with coverage varying by jurisdiction. Vendors sometimes grant patent
rights to the user in the license agreement. The source code for a
piece of software is routinely handled as a trade secret .
Occasionally, software is made available with fewer restrictions on
licensing or source-code access; such software is known as "free " or
Because license agreements do not override applicable copyright law
or contract law , provisions in conflict with applicable law are not
enforceable. Some software is specifically licensed and not sold, in
order to avoid limitations of copyright such as the first-sale
The owner of proprietary software exercises certain exclusive rights
over the software. The owner can restrict use, inspection of source
code, modification of source code, and redistribution.
USE OF THE SOFTWARE
Copy protection ,
Damaged good , and Price
Vendors typically limit the number of computers on which software can
be used, and prohibit the user from installing the software on extra
computers. Restricted use is sometimes enforced through a technical
measure, such as product activation , a product key or serial number,
a hardware key , or copy protection .
Vendors may also distribute versions that remove particular features,
or versions which allow only certain fields of endeavor, such as
non-commercial, educational, or non-profit use.
Use restrictions vary by license:
Windows Vista Starter is restricted to running a maximum of three
* The retail edition of
Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 is
limited to non-commercial use on up to three devices in one household.
Windows XP can be installed on one computer, and limits the number
of network file sharing connections to 10. The Home Edition disables
features present in
Windows XP Professional.
* Traditionally Adobe licenses are limited to one user, but allow
the user to install a second copy on a home computer or laptop. This
is no longer true with the switching to Creative Cloud.
* iWork \'09 , Apple's productivity suite, is available in a
five-user family pack, for use on up to five computers in a household.
INSPECTION AND MODIFICATION OF SOURCE CODE
Open source and Anti-features
Vendors typically distribute proprietary software in compiled form,
usually the machine language understood by the computer's central
processing unit . They typically retain the source code , or
human-readable version of the software, written in a higher level
programming language . This scheme is often referred to as closed
While most proprietary software is distributed without the source
code, some vendors distribute the source code or otherwise make it
available to customers. For example, users who have purchased a
license for the Internet forum software vBulletin can modify the
source for his or her own site but cannot redistribute it. This is
true for many web applications, which must be in source code form when
being run by a web server. The source code is covered by a
non-disclosure agreement or a license that allows, for example, study
and modification, but not redistribution. The text-based email client
Pine and certain implementations of
Secure Shell are distributed with
proprietary licenses that make the source code available.
Some governments fear that proprietary software may include defects
or malicious features which would compromise sensitive information. In
Microsoft established a Government Security Program (GSP) to
allow governments to view source code and
documentation, of which the Chinese government was an early
participant. The program is part of Microsoft's broader Shared
Source Initiative which provides source code access for some products.
The Reference Source License (Ms-RSL) and Limited Public License
(Ms-LPL) are proprietary software licenses where the source code is
made available .
Governments have also been accused of adding such malware to software
themselves. According to documents released by
Edward Snowden , the
NSA has used covert partnerships with software companies to make
commercial encryption software exploitable to eavesdropping, or to
insert backdoors .
Software vendors sometimes use obfuscated code to impede users who
would reverse engineer the software. This is particularly common with
certain programming languages . For example, the bytecode for programs
written in Java can be easily decompiled to somewhat usable code, and
the source code for programs written in scripting languages such as
Shareware See also: Freely redistributable
Proprietary software vendors can prohibit users from sharing the
software with others. Another unique license is required for another
party to use the software.
In the case of proprietary software with source code available, the
vendor may also prohibit customers from distributing their
modifications to the source code.
Shareware is closed-source software whose owner encourages
redistribution at no cost, but which the user sometimes must pay to
use after a trial period. The fee usually allows use by a single user
or computer. In some cases, software features are restricted during or
after the trial period, a practice sometimes called crippleware .
INTEROPERABILITY WITH SOFTWARE AND HARDWARE
Further information: Interoperability of software
PROPRIETARY FILE FORMATS AND PROTOCOLS
Proprietary format and
Proprietary software often stores some of its data in file formats
which are incompatible with other software, and may also communicate
using protocols which are incompatible. Such formats and protocols may
be restricted as trade secrets or subject to patents .
A proprietary application programming interface (API) is a software
library interface "specific to one device or, more likely to a number
of devices within a particular manufacturer's product range." The
motivation for using a proprietary API can be vendor lock-in or
because standard APIs do not support the device's functionality.
European Commission , in its March 24, 2004 decision on
Microsoft's business practices, quotes, in paragraph 463, Microsoft
general manager for
C++ development Aaron Contorer as stating in a
February 21, 1997 internal
Microsoft memo drafted for
Bill Gates :
Windows API is so broad, so deep, and so functional that most ISVs
would be crazy not to use it. And it is so deeply embedded in the
source code of many Windows apps that there is a huge switching cost
to using a different operating system instead.
Early versions of the iPhone SDK were covered by a non-disclosure
agreement . The agreement forbade independent developers from
discussing the content of the interfaces. Apple discontinued the NDA
in October 2008.
A dependency on the future versions and upgrades for a proprietary
software package can create vendor lock-in, entrenching a monopoly
SOFTWARE LIMITED TO CERTAIN HARDWARE CONFIGURATIONS
Proprietary software may also have licensing terms that limit the
usage of that software to a specific set of hardware. Apple has such a
licensing model for
Mac OS X , an operating system which is limited to
Apple hardware, both by licensing and various design decisions. This
licensing model has been affirmed by the
United States Court of
ABANDONMENT BY OWNERS
Proprietary software which is no longer marketed, supported or sold
by its owner is called abandonware , the digital form of orphaned
works . If the proprietor of a software package should cease to exist,
or decide to cease or limit production or support for a proprietary
software package, recipients and users of the package may have no
recourse if problems are found with the software. Proprietors can fail
to improve and support software because of business problems. Support
for older or existing versions of a software package may be ended to
force users to upgrade and pay for newer versions (planned
obsolescence ). Sometimes another vendor or a software's community
themselves can provide support for the software, or the users can
migrate to either competing systems with longer support life cycles or
to FOSS -based systems.
Some closed-source software is released by their owner at end-of-life
as open-source or source available software, often to prevent the
software from becoming unsupported and unavailable abandonware . 3D
Realms and id Software are famous for the practice of releasing closed
source software into the open source. Some of those kinds are
free-of-charge downloads (freeware ), some are still commercially sold
Arx Fatalis ). More examples of formerly closed-source software
List of commercial software with available source code and List
of commercial video games with available source code .
FORMERLY OPEN-SOURCE SOFTWARE
List of formerly proprietary software
Some formerly open-source software was made proprietary later.
Sometimes for commercialization reasons , sometimes as security or
anti-cheat measurement (
Security through obscurity ). A famous example
of such is the
Doom source port
ZDaemon which was prone to aimbot
PRICING AND ECONOMICS
Proprietary software is not synonymous with commercial software ,
although the two terms are sometimes used synonymously in articles
about free software.
Proprietary software can be distributed at no
cost or for a fee, and free software can be distributed at no cost or
for a fee. The difference is that whether or not proprietary software
can be distributed, and what the fee would be, is at the proprietor's
discretion. With free software, anyone who has a copy can decide
whether, and how much, to charge for a copy or related services.
Proprietary software that comes for no cost is called freeware .
Proponents of commercial proprietary software argue that requiring
users to pay for software as a product increases funding or time
available for the research and development of software. For example,
Microsoft says that per-copy fees maximise the profitability of
Proprietary software generally creates greater commercial activity
over free software, especially in regard to market revenues.
Examples of proprietary software include
Microsoft Windows , Adobe
Flash Player , PS3 OS , iTunes ,
Adobe Photoshop ,
Google Earth , Mac
OS X ,
WinRAR , Oracle's version of Java and some versions of
Software distributions considered as proprietary may in fact
incorporate a "mixed source" model including both free and non-free
software in the same distribution. Most if not all so-called
UNIX distributions are mixed source software, bundling
open-source components like
X Window System ,
and others along with a purely proprietary kernel and system
Some free software packages are also simultaneously available under
proprietary terms. Examples include
Sendmail and ssh. The
original copyright holders for a work of free software, even copyleft
free software, can use dual-licensing to allow themselves or others to
redistribute proprietary versions. Non-copyleft free software (i.e.
software distributed under a permissive free software license or
released to the public domain) allows anyone to make proprietary
Free software that depends on proprietary software
is considered "trapped" by the Free Software Foundation. This includes
software written only for
Microsoft Windows, or software that could
only run on Java , before it became free software.
In India, one and a half million laptops were pre-loaded with screen
savers of political minister
Mulayam Singh Yadav
Mulayam Singh Yadav . The author of
software developed for these laptops included a malicious feature that
would "crash " the device if the laptop's owner attempted to change,
remove, or modify this feature.
Look up PROPRIETARY or SOFTWARE in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Comparison of open-source and closed-source software
List of proprietary software for Linux
* ^ Saraswati Experts. "2.5.3". COMPUTER SCIENCE WITH C++.
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Inc. p. 51. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
* ^ Ceruzzi, Paul E. (2003). A History of Modern Computing.
MIT Press . p. 128. ISBN 0-262-53203-4 . Although IBM
agreed to sell its machines as part of a Consent Decree effective
January 1956, leasing continued to be its preferred way of doing
* ^ "The History of Equipment Leasing",
Lease Genie, n.d., archived
from the original on April 11, 2008, retrieved November 12, 2010, In
IBM and Xerox recognized that substantial sums could be
made from the financing of their equipment. The leasing of computer
and office equipment that occurred then was a significant contribution
to leasings growth, since many companies were exposed to equipment
leasing for the first time when they leased such equipment.
* ^ "Overview of the GNU System". GNU Operating System. Free
Software Foundation. 16 June 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
* ^ Pugh, Emerson W. (2002). Origins of Software Bundling. IEEE
Annals of the History of Computing . 24. pp. 57–58.
* ^ Hamilton, Thomas W. (1969). IBM's Unbundling Decision:
Consequences for Users and the Industry. Programming Sciences
IBM (n.d.). "Chronological History of IBM: 1960s". Retrieved
May 28, 2016. Rather than offer hardware, services and software
exclusively in packages, marketers \'UNBUNDLED\' the components and
offered them for sale individually. Unbundling gave birth to the
multibillion-dollar software and services industries, of which
today a world leader.
* ^ Gates, Bill (February 3, 1976). "An Open Letter to Hobbyists".
Retrieved May 28, 2016.
* ^ Robert X. Cringely\'s interview with Brewster Kahle, 46th
* ^ Cantrill, Bryan (2014-09-17). "Corporate Open Source
Anti-patterns" (video). youtube.com. Retrieved 2015-12-26.
* ^ Gallant, John (1985-03-18). "
IBM policy draws fire - Users say
source code rules hamper change".
Computerworld . Retrieved
2015-12-27. While IBM's policy of withholding source code for selected
software products has already marked its second anniversary, users are
only now beginning to cope with the impact of that decision. But
whether or not the advent of object-code-only products has affected
their day-to-day DP operations, some users remain angry about IBM's
decision. Announced in February 1983, IBM's object-code-only policy
has been applied to a growing list of Big Blue system software
* ^ Impact of Apple vs. Franklin Decision
* ^ A B Landley, Rob (2009-05-23). "23-05-2009". landley.net.
Retrieved 2015-12-02. So if open source used to be the norm back in
the 1960's and 70's, how did this _change_? Where did proprietary
software come from, and when, and how? How did Richard Stallman's
little utopia at the MIT AI lab crumble and force him out into the
wilderness to try to rebuild it? Two things changed in the early 80's:
the exponentially growing installed base of microcomputer hardware
reached critical mass around 1980, and a legal decision altered
copyright law to cover binaries in 1983. Increasing volume: The
microprocessor creates millions of identical computers
* ^ Liberman, Michael (1995). "Overreaching Provisions in Software
Richmond Journal of Law and Technology . 1: 4.
Retrieved November 29, 2011.
* ^ Limitations and Exceptions to
Copyright and Neighbouring Rights
in the Digital Environment: An International Library Perspective
(2004). IFLA (2013-01-22). Retrieved on 2013-06-16.
* ^ Daniel A. Tysver (2008-11-23). "Why Protect Software Through
Patents". Bitlaw.com. Retrieved 2009-06-03. In connection with
software, an issued patent may prevent others from utilizing a certain
algorithm (such as the GIF image compression algorithm) without
permission, or may prevent others from creating software programs that
perform a function in a certain way. In connection with computer
software, copyright law can be used to prevent the total duplication
of a software program, as well as the copying of a portion of software
* ^ Donovan, S. (1994). "Patent, copyright and trade secret
protection for software". Potentials, IEEE. 13 (3): 20. doi
:10.1109/45.310923 . Essentially there are only three ways to protect
computer software under the law: patent it, register a copyright for
it, or keep it as a trade secret.
* ^ Eben Moglen (2005-02-12). "Why the FSF gets copyright
assignments from contributors". Retrieved 2009-06-26. Under US
copyright law, which is the law under which most free software
programs have historically been first published, only the copyright
holder or someone having assignment of the copyright can enforce the
* ^ White, Aoife (2012-07-03). "Oracle Can\'t Stop Software License
Resales, EU Court Says". Bloomberg.
Microsoft Corporation (2005-04-01). "End-User License Agreement
Windows XP Professional Edition
Service Pack 2" (PDF). p. Page 3. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
Microsoft Corporation (2005-04-01). "End-User License Agreement
Windows XP Professional Edition
Service Pack 2" (PDF). p. Page 1. Retrieved 2009-04-29. You may
install, use, access, display and run one copy of the Software on a
single computer, such as a workstation, terminal or other device
(“Workstation Computer”). The Software may not be used by more
than two (2) processors at any one time on any single Workstation
Computer. ... You may permit a maximum of ten (10) computers or other
electronic devices (each a 'Device') to connect to the Workstation
Computer to utilize one or more of the following services of the
File Services, Print Services, Internet Information
Services, Internet Connection Sharing and telephony services.
Adobe Systems , Adobe Software License Agreement (PDF),
* ^ iWork \'09 Family Pack Specs (complete package) - Presentation
- CNET Reviews. Reviews.cnet.com. Retrieved on 2013-06-16.
* ^ Heffan, Ira V. (1997). "Copyleft: Licensing Collaborative Works
in the Digital Age" (PDF). Stanford Law Review. 49: 1490. Under the
proprietary software model, most software developers withhold their
source code from users.
* ^ David A. Wheeler (2009-02-03). "Free-Libre / Open Source
Software (FLOSS) is Commercial Software". Retrieved 2009-06-03.
* ^ Shankland, Stephen. "Governments to see Windows code". CNET.
* ^ Gao, Ken. "China to view Windows code". CNET.
* ^ James Ball, Julian Borger and Glenn Greenwald (2013-09-06). "US
and UK spy agencies defeat privacy and security on the internet". The
* ^ Bruce Schneier (2013-09-06). "How to remain secure against NSA
surveillance". The Guardian.
* ^ Tony Patton (2008-11-21). "Protect your
obfuscation". Retrieved 2009-06-12. While the Web promotes the sharing
of such code, there are times when you or a client may not want to
of data within the code, proprietary calculations, or any other
* ^ A B APIs: What they are, and what they\'re for - Feature -
Techworld.com. Features.techworld.com. Retrieved on 2013-06-16.
* ^ "Commission Decision of 24.03.2004 relating to a proceeding
under Article 82 of the EC Treaty (Case COMP/C-3/37.792 Microsoft)"
European Commission . March 24, 2004. Archived from the
original (PDF) on October 28, 2008. Retrieved June 17, 2009.
* ^ Wilson, Ben (2008-10-01). "Apple Drops NDA for Released iPhone
Software". CNET Reviews. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
* ^ The Linux Information Project (2006-04-29). "Vendor Lock-in
Definition". Retrieved 2009-06-11. Vendor lock-in, or just lock-in, is
the situation in which customers are dependent on a single
manufacturer or supplier for some product This dependency is
typically a result of standards that are controlled by the vendor It
can grant the vendor some extent of monopoly power The best way for
an organization to avoid becoming a victim of vendor lock-in is to use
products that conform to free, industry-wide standards. Free standards
are those that can be used by anyone and are not controlled by a
single company. In the case of computers, this can usually be
accomplished by using free software rather than proprietary software
(i.e., commercial software).
* ^ Apple wins key battle against Psystar over Mac clones
(2011-09-29). "Apple court victory over Pystar". Retrieved 2011-09-30.
* ^ "What happens when a proprietary software company dies?".
NewsForge. October 2003. Retrieved 2007-03-05.
* ^ "
Microsoft Turns Up The Heat On Windows 2000 Users".
InformationWeek. December 2006. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
* ^ Cassia, Fernando (March 28, 2007). "Open Source, the only
weapon against \'planned obsolescence\'".
The Inquirer . Retrieved
August 2, 2012.
* ^ Bell, John (October 1, 2009). "Opening the Source of Art".
Technology Innovation Management Review. Archived from the original on
March 30, 2014. Retrieved December 30, 2012. that no further patches
to the title would be forthcoming. The community was predictably
upset. Instead of giving up on the game, users decided that if
Activision wasn't going to fix the bugs, they would. They wanted to
save the game by getting Activision to open the source so it could be
kept alive beyond the point where Activision lost interest. With some
help from members of the development team that were active on fan
forums, they were eventually able to convince Activision to release
Call to Power II's source code in October of 2003.
* ^ Wen, Howard (June 10, 2004). "Keeping the Myths Alive".
linuxdevcenter.com. Archived from the original on April 6, 2013.
Retrieved December 22, 2012. fans of the Myth trilogy have taken this
idea a step further: they have official access to the source code for
the Myth games. Organized under the name MythDevelopers, this
all-volunteer group of programmers, artists, and other talented people
devote their time to improving and supporting further development of
the Myth game series.
* ^ Largent, Andy (October 8, 2003). "Homeworld Source Code
Released". www.insidemacgames.com. Archived from the original on
October 12, 2013. Retrieved November 24, 2012. With the release of
Homeworld 2 for the PC, Relic Entertainment has decided to give back
to their impressive fan community by releasing the source code to the
ZDaemon Starting with the 1.07 release in July 2005, the
ZDaemon project does not make the source code available anymore and
has remained closed source from that point forward
* ^ Rosen, Lawrence (2004). Open Source Licensing. Upper Saddle
River: Prentice Hall. pp. 52, 255, 259. ISBN 978-0-13-148787-1 .
* ^ Havoc Pennington (2008-03-02). "Debian Tutorial". Retrieved
2009-06-04. It is important to distinguish commercial software from
Proprietary software is non-free software, while
commercial software is software sold for money.
* ^ Russell McOrmond (2000-01-04). "What is "Commercial
Software"?". Retrieved 2009-05-02.
* ^ Michael K. Johnson (1996-09-01). "Licenses and Copyright".
Retrieved 2009-06-16. If you program for Linux, you do need to
understand licensing, no matter if you are writing free software or
* ^ Eric S. Raymond (2003-12-29). "Proprietary, Jargon File".
Proprietary software should be distinguished
from commercial software. It is possible for software to be commercial
without being proprietary. The reverse is also possible, for example
in binary-only freeware.
Free Software Foundation (2008-12-31). "Selling Free Software".
* ^ "The Commercial Software Model".
Microsoft . May 2001.
* ^ "Open Source Versus Commercial Software: Why Proprietary
Software is Here to Stay". Sams Publishing. October 2005. Retrieved
* ^ Engelfriet, Arnoud (August–September 2006). "The best of both
worlds". Intellectual Asset Management (IAM). New Hibernia House,
Winchester Walk, London Bridge, London SE1 9AG, United Kingdom: Gavin
Stewart (19). Retrieved 2008-05-19.
* ^ Loftus, Jack (2007-02-19). "LinuxWorld: Managing mixed source
software stacks". SearchEnterpriseLinux.com.
* ^ Tan, Aaron (2006-12-28). "Novell: We\'re a \'mixed-source\'
company". CNET Networks, Inc.
* ^ Rosenberg, Donald (2000). Open Source: The Unauthorized White
Papers. Foster City: IDG. p. 109. ISBN 0-7645-4660-0 .
* ^ "Categories of Free and Non-Free Software - Free Software
Free Software Foundation (2009-05-05). "Frequently Asked
Questions about the GNU Licenses". Retrieved 2009-06-25.
* ^ Richard Stallman (2004-04-12). "Free But Shackled - The Java
Trap". Retrieved 2009-06-25.
* ^ Nelson, David (15 Mar 2013). "Indian laptops that crash if
users try to remove pictures of minister". Telegraph. London.
* Free and open-source
* Freely redistributable
Pay what you want
Software as a service
DECEPTIVE AND/OR ILLICIT
Unwanted software bundling
* Trojan horse
SOFTWARE RELEASE LIFE CYCLE
Digital rights management
Digital rights management
Software protection dongle
Free and open-source software
Alternative terms for free software
Comparison of open-source and closed-source software
Comparison of source code hosting facilities
Free software project directories
Gratis versus libre
Open-source software development
* Configuration management
* Device drivers
* Operating systems
* Programming languages
* Video games
* Web applications
* Content management systems
* Word processors
* Android apps
* iOS apps
* Formerly proprietary
Free software movement
Open-source software movement
* GNU GPL
* GNU LGPL
* Python Software Foundation
Comparison of free and open-source software licenses
Contributor License Agreement
Debian Free Software Guidelines
Definition of Free Cultural Works
Definition of Free Cultural Works
The Free Software Definition
The Open Source Definition
Permissive software licence
Digital rights management
Digital rights management