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Software license and use of end-product

March 19, 2010

In one of his buzz, Cédric Bonhomme drew my attention on the Highcharts javascript library. This library can produce beautiful charts of various types with some Ajax interaction. The only negative point imho is that it is dual-licensed and all cases deprive you from your freedom:

  • there is a first Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License: you can use the library for your non-profit website (see details on the licensing page) ;
  • there is a commercial license for any other website.

Now what if we only need the end-product, i.e. the resulting chart, in a commercial environment? What is covered by the license is just the re-use of the javascript library in a website, not the resulting chart. If a company choose to use Highcharts internally to render some beautiful charts and just publish (*) the resulting image, I guess they can just download the library and use it (* by “publishing”, I mean: publish a scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal, not publishing on its website). On the other hand, no one ever questioned the fact commercial companies have licenses for all the proprietary software they use to produce anything else, from charts to statistical data, just because they publish results with these software as tools. So the “trick” here would be that, by changing the medium on which you display end-results (from website to paper, even if it’s in PDF on the journal website), you can use the free-to-download license, even in a commercial environment, for an article from a commercial company. I’m not sure this was the original intention of Highslide Software.

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