Proprietary software

Proprietary software

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Proprietary software'
Start a new discussion about 'Proprietary software'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Proprietary software is computer software licensed under exclusive legal right of the copyright holder. The licensee
Licensee
A licensee is someone who has been granted a licence.- Tort law :The term is used in the USA law of torts to describe a person who is on the property of another, despite the fact that the property is not open to the general public, because the owner of the property has allowed the licensee to enter...

 is given the right to use the software under certain conditions, while restricted from other uses, such as modification, further distribution, or reverse engineering
Reverse engineering
Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device, object, or system through analysis of its structure, function, and operation...

.

Complementary terms include free software
Free software
Free software, software libre or libre software is software that can be used, studied, and modified without restriction, and which can be copied and redistributed in modified or unmodified form either without restriction, or with restrictions that only ensure that further recipients can also do...

, licensed by the owner under more permissive terms, and public domain software
Public domain software
Public domain software is software that has been placed in the public domain, in other words there is absolutely no ownership of the intellectual property that the software represents....

, which is not subject to copyright and can be used for any purposes. Proponents of free and open source software
Free and open source software
Free and open-source software or free/libre/open-source software is software that is liberally licensed to grant users the right to use, study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code...

 use proprietary or non-free to describe software that is not free or open source.

Software becoming proprietary


Until the late 1960s computers—huge and expensive mainframe
Mainframe computer
Mainframes are powerful computers used primarily by corporate and governmental organizations for critical applications, bulk data processing such as census, industry and consumer statistics, enterprise resource planning, and financial transaction processing.The term originally referred to the...

 machines in specially air-conditioned
Air conditioning
An air conditioner is a home appliance, system, or mechanism designed to dehumidify and extract heat from an area. The cooling is done using a simple refrigeration cycle...

 computer rooms—were usually supplied on a leasing
Leasing
Leasing is a process by which a firm can obtain the use of a certain fixed assets for which it must pay a series of contractual, periodic, tax deductible payments....

 rather than purchase basis. Service and all software available were usually supplied by manufacturers without separate charge until 1969. Software source code was usually provided. Users who developed software often made it available, without charge. Customers who purchased expensive mainframe hardware
Computer hardware
Personal computer hardware are component devices which are typically installed into or peripheral to a computer case to create a personal computer upon which system software is installed including a firmware interface such as a BIOS and an operating system which supports application software that...

 did not pay separately for software.

In 1969 IBM led an industry change by starting to charge separately for (mainframe) software and services, and ceasing to supply source code.

Legal basis


Most software is covered by copyright
Software copyright
Software copyright is the extension of copyright law to machine-readable software. While many of the legal principles and policy debates concerning software copyright have close parallels in other domains of copyright law, there are a number of distinctive issues that arise with software...

 which, along with contract law
Contract
A contract is an agreement entered into by two parties or more with the intention of creating a legal obligation, which may have elements in writing. Contracts can be made orally. The remedy for breach of contract can be "damages" or compensation of money. In equity, the remedy can be specific...

, patents
Software patent
Software patent does not have a universally accepted definition. One definition suggested by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure is that a software patent is a "patent on any performance of a computer realised by means of a computer program".In 2005, the European Patent Office...

, and trade secret
Trade secret
A trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers...

s, provides legal basis for its owner to establish exclusive rights.

A software vendor delineates the specific terms of use in an end-user license agreement (EULA). The user may agree to this contract in writing, interactively, called clickwrap licensing
Clickwrap
A clickwrap agreement is a common type of agreement often used in connection with software licenses. Such forms of agreement are mostly found on the Internet, as part of the installation process of many software packages, or in other circumstances where agreement is sought using electronic media...

, or by opening the box containing the software, called shrink wrap licensing. License agreements are usually not negotiable
Standard form contract
A standard form contract is a contract between two parties where the terms and conditions of the contract are set by one of the parties, and the other party is placed in a "take it or leave it" position with little or no ability to negotiate terms more favorable to it.Examples of standard form...

.

Software patent
Software patent
Software patent does not have a universally accepted definition. One definition suggested by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure is that a software patent is a "patent on any performance of a computer realised by means of a computer program".In 2005, the European Patent Office...

s grant exclusive rights to algorithms, software features, or other patentable subject matter
Patentable subject matter
Patentable, statutory or patent-eligible subject matter is subject matter which is susceptible of patent protection. The laws or patent practices of many countries suggest that certain subject matter is or is not something for which a patent should be granted.Together with novelty, inventive step...

. Laws on software patents vary by jurisdiction and are a matter of ongoing debate
Software patent debate
The software patent debate is the argument dealing with the extent to which it should be possible to patent software and computer-implemented inventions as a matter of public policy. Policy debate on software patents has been active for years. The opponents to software patents have gained more...

. Vendors sometimes grant patent rights to the user in the license agreement.
For example, the algorithm
Algorithm
In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning...

 for creating, or encoding, MP3
MP3
MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III, more commonly referred to as MP3, is a patented digital audio encoding format using a form of lossy data compression...

s is patented; LAME
LAME
LAME is a free software codec used to encode/compress audio into the lossy MP3 file format.-History:The name LAME is a recursive acronym for "LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder". Around mid-1998, Mike Cheng created LAME 1.0 as a set of modifications against the "8Hz-MP3" encoder source code...

 is an MP3 encoder which is open source but illegal to use without obtaining a license for the algorithm it contains.

Proprietary software vendors usually regard source code as a trade secret
Trade secret
A trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers...

.

Limitations


License agreements do not override applicable copyright law
Copyright
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

 or contract law
Contract
A contract is an agreement entered into by two parties or more with the intention of creating a legal obligation, which may have elements in writing. Contracts can be made orally. The remedy for breach of contract can be "damages" or compensation of money. In equity, the remedy can be specific...

. Provisions that conflict may not be enforceable.

Some vendors say that software licensing is not a sale, and that limitations of copyright like the first-sale doctrine
First-sale doctrine
The first-sale doctrine is a limitation on copyright that was recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1908 and subsequently codified in the Copyright Act of 1976,...

 do not apply. The EULA for Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

 states that the software is licensed, not sold.

Exclusive rights


The owner of proprietary software exercises certain exclusive right
Exclusive right
In Anglo-Saxon law, an exclusive right is a de facto, non-tangible prerogative existing in law to perform an action or acquire a benefit and to permit or deny others the right to perform the same action or to acquire the same benefit. A "prerogative" is in effect an exclusive right...

s over the software. Commonly, the owner restricts use, inspection of source code, modification of source code, and redistribution.

Use of the software


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
Product activation
Product activation is a license validation procedure required by some proprietary computer software programs. In one form, product activation refers to a method invented by Ric Richardson and patented by Uniloc where a software application hashes hardware serial numbers and an ID number specific...

, a product key or serial number, a hardware key
Dongle
A software protection dongle is a small piece of hardware that plugs into an electrical connector on a computer and serves as an electronic "key" for a piece of software; the program will only run when the dongle is plugged in...

, or copy protection
Copy protection
Copy protection, also known as content protection, copy obstruction, copy prevention and copy restriction, refer to techniques used for preventing the reproduction of software, films, music, and other media, usually for copyright reasons.- Terminology :Media corporations have always used the term...

.

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 concurrent applications.
  • The retail edition of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 is limited to non-commercial use on up three devices in one household.
  • Windows XP
    Windows XP
    Windows XP is an operating system produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops and media centers. First released to computer manufacturers on August 24, 2001, it is the second most popular version of Windows, based on installed user base...

     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.
  • Many Adobe
    Adobe
    Adobe is a natural building material made from sand, clay, water, and some kind of fibrous or organic material , which the builders shape into bricks using frames and dry in the sun. Adobe buildings are similar to cob and mudbrick buildings. Adobe structures are extremely durable, and account for...

     licenses are limited to one user, but allow the user to install a second copy on a home computer or laptop.
  • iWork '09
    IWork
    iWork is an office suite of desktop applications created by Apple for the Mac OS X and iOS operating systems. The first version of iWork, iWork '05, was released in 2005. The suite originally bundled Keynote, a presentation program which had previously been sold as a standalone application, and...

    , 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


Vendors typically distribute proprietary software in compiled
Compiler
A compiler is a computer program that transforms source code written in a programming language into another computer language...

 form, usually the machine language
Machine code
Machine code or machine language is a system of impartible instructions executed directly by a computer's central processing unit. Each instruction performs a very specific task, typically either an operation on a unit of data Machine code or machine language is a system of impartible instructions...

 understood by the computer's central processing unit
Central processing unit
The central processing unit is the portion of a computer system that carries out the instructions of a computer program, to perform the basic arithmetical, logical, and input/output operations of the system. The CPU plays a role somewhat analogous to the brain in the computer. The term has been in...

. They typically retain the source code
Source code
In computer science, source code is text written using the format and syntax of the programming language that it is being written in. Such a language is specially designed to facilitate the work of computer programmers, who specify the actions to be performed by a computer mostly by writing source...

, or human-readable version of the software, written in a higher level programming language
High-level programming language
A high-level programming language is a programming language with strong abstraction from the details of the computer. In comparison to low-level programming languages, it may use natural language elements, be easier to use, or be from the specification of the program, making the process of...

. This scheme is often referred to as closed source.

By withholding source code, the software producer prevents the user from understanding how the software works and from changing how it works. This practice is denounced by some critics, who argue that users should be able to study and change the software they use, for example, to remove secret or malicious features, or look for security vulnerabilities. Richard Stallman says that proprietary software commonly contains "malicious features, such as spying on the users, restricting the users, back doors, and imposed upgrades." Some proprietary software vendors say that retaining the source code makes their software more secure, because the widely available code for open-source software makes it easier to identify security vulnerabilities
Vulnerability (computing)
In computer security, a vulnerability is a weakness which allows an attacker to reduce a system's information assurance.Vulnerability is the intersection of three elements: a system susceptibility or flaw, attacker access to the flaw, and attacker capability to exploit the flaw...

. Open source proponents pejoratively call this security through obscurity
Security through obscurity
Security through obscurity is a pejorative referring to a principle in security engineering, which attempts to use secrecy of design or implementation to provide security...

, and say that wide availability results in increased scrutiny of the source code, making open source software more secure.

While most proprietary software is closed-source, some vendors distribute the source code or otherwise make it available to customers. The source code is covered by a non-disclosure agreement
Non-disclosure agreement
A non-disclosure agreement , also known as a confidentiality agreement , confidential disclosure agreement , proprietary information agreement , or secrecy agreement, is a legal contract between at least two parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge, or information that the parties...

 or a license that allows, for example, study and modification, but not redistribution. The text-based email client Pine
Pine (e-mail client)
Pine is a freeware, text-based email client developed at the University of Washington. The first version of this client was written in 1989. Source code was available for only the Unix version under a license written by the University of Washington...

 and certain implementations of Secure Shell
Secure Shell
Secure Shell is a network protocol for secure data communication, remote shell services or command execution and other secure network services between two networked computers that it connects via a secure channel over an insecure network: a server and a client...

 are distributed with proprietary licenses that make the source code available.

Some governments fear that proprietary software may include defects
Software bug
A software bug is the common term used to describe an error, flaw, mistake, failure, or fault in a computer program or system that produces an incorrect or unexpected result, or causes it to behave in unintended ways. Most bugs arise from mistakes and errors made by people in either a program's...

 or malicious features
Malware
Malware, short for malicious software, consists of programming that is designed to disrupt or deny operation, gather information that leads to loss of privacy or exploitation, or gain unauthorized access to system resources, or that otherwise exhibits abusive behavior...

 which would compromise sensitive information. In 2003 Microsoft established a Government Security Program (GSP) to allow governments to view source code and Microsoft security documentation, of which the Chinese government
Government of the People's Republic of China
All power within the government of the People's Republic of China is divided among three bodies: the People's Republic of China, State Council, and the People's Liberation Army . This article is concerned with the formal structure of the state, its departments and their responsibilities...

 was an early participant. The program is part of Microsoft's broader Shared Source Initiative
Shared source
Shared source is an umbrella term covering some of Microsoft's legal mechanisms for software source code distribution. Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative, launched in May 2001, includes a spectrum of technologies and licenses...

 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.

Software vendors sometimes use obfuscated code
Obfuscated code
Obfuscated code is source or machine code that has been made difficult to understand for humans. Programmers may deliberately obfuscate code to conceal its purpose or its logic to prevent tampering, deter reverse engineering, or as a puzzle or recreational challenge for someone reading the source...

 to impede users who would reverse engineer the software. This is particularly common with certain programming language
Programming language
A programming language is an artificial language designed to communicate instructions to a machine, particularly a computer. Programming languages can be used to create programs that control the behavior of a machine and/or to express algorithms precisely....

s. For example, the bytecode
Java bytecode
Java bytecode is the form of instructions that the Java virtual machine executes. Each bytecode opcode is one byte in length, although some require parameters, resulting in some multi-byte instructions. Not all of the possible 256 opcodes are used. 51 are reserved for future use...

 for programs written in Java
Java (programming language)
Java is a programming language originally developed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems and released in 1995 as a core component of Sun Microsystems' Java platform. The language derives much of its syntax from C and C++ but has a simpler object model and fewer low-level facilities...

 can be easily decompiled
Decompiler
A decompiler is the name given to a computer program that performs, as far as possible, the reverse operation to that of a compiler. That is, it translates a file containing information at a relatively low level of abstraction into a form having a higher level of abstraction...

 to somewhat usable code, and the source code for programs written in scripting language
Scripting language
A scripting language, script language, or extension language is a programming language that allows control of one or more applications. "Scripts" are distinct from the core code of the application, as they are usually written in a different language and are often created or at least modified by the...

s such as PHP
PHP
PHP is a general-purpose server-side scripting language originally designed for web development to produce dynamic web pages. For this purpose, PHP code is embedded into the HTML source document and interpreted by a web server with a PHP processor module, which generates the web page document...

 or JavaScript
JavaScript
JavaScript is a prototype-based scripting language that is dynamic, weakly typed and has first-class functions. It is a multi-paradigm language, supporting object-oriented, imperative, and functional programming styles....

 is available at run time.

Redistribution


Proprietary software vendors usually 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
Shareware
The term shareware is a proprietary software that is provided to users without payment on a trial basis and is often limited by any combination of functionality, availability, or convenience. Shareware is often offered as a download from an Internet website or as a compact disc included with a...

 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



Proprietary file formats and protocols


Often, proprietary software stores its data using proprietary file formats and communicates using proprietary protocol
Proprietary protocol
In telecommunications, a proprietary protocol is a communications protocol owned by a single organization or individual.-Enforcement:Proprietors may enforce restrictions through patents and by keeping the protocol specification a trade secret...

s controlled by the vendor. Most proprietary formats and protocols are secret and incompatible with other software. Their use may be restricted by trade secret
Trade secret
A trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers...

 or patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

 rights.

Proprietary APIs


A proprietary application programming interface
Application programming interface
An application programming interface is a source code based specification intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other...

 (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
Vendor lock-in
In economics, vendor lock-in, also known as proprietary lock-in or customer lock-in, makes a customer dependent on a vendor for products and services, unable to use another vendor without substantial switching costs...

 or because standard APIs do not support the device's functionality.

The European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

, in its March 24, 2004 decision on Microsoft's business practices, quotes, in paragraph 463, Microsoft general manager for C++
C++
C++ is a statically typed, free-form, multi-paradigm, compiled, general-purpose programming language. It is regarded as an intermediate-level language, as it comprises a combination of both high-level and low-level language features. It was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup starting in 1979 at Bell...

 development Aaron Contorer as stating in a February 21, 1997 internal Microsoft memo drafted for Bill Gates
Bill Gates
William Henry "Bill" Gates III is an American business magnate, investor, philanthropist, and author. Gates is the former CEO and current chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen...

:
The 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
Non-disclosure agreement
A non-disclosure agreement , also known as a confidentiality agreement , confidential disclosure agreement , proprietary information agreement , or secrecy agreement, is a legal contract between at least two parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge, or information that the parties...

. The agreement forbade independent developers from discussing the content of the interfaces. Apple discontinued the NDA in October 2008.

Vendor lock-in


A dependency on the future versions and upgrades for a proprietary software package can create vendor lock-in, entrenching a monopoly position.

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
Apple
The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family . It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of genus Malus that are used by humans. Apple grow on small, deciduous trees that blossom in the spring...

 has such a licensing model for Mac OS X
Mac OS X
Mac OS X is a series of Unix-based operating systems and graphical user interfaces developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc. Since 2002, has been included with all new Macintosh computer systems...

, 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 Appeals
United States court of appeals
The United States courts of appeals are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal court system...

.

Legal meanings and licensing


The founder of free software movement, Richard Stallman
Richard Stallman
Richard Matthew Stallman , often shortened to rms,"'Richard Stallman' is just my mundane name; you can call me 'rms'"|last= Stallman|first= Richard|date= N.D.|work=Richard Stallman's homepage...

, sometimes uses the term "user-subjugating software" to describe proprietary software, while Eben Moglen
Eben Moglen
Eben Moglen is a professor of law and legal history at Columbia University, and is the founder, Director-Counsel and Chairman of Software Freedom Law Center, whose client list includes numerous pro bono clients, such as the Free Software Foundation....

 sometimes talks of "unfree software". The term "non-free" is often used by Debian
Debian
Debian is a computer operating system composed of software packages released as free and open source software primarily under the GNU General Public License along with other free software licenses. Debian GNU/Linux, which includes the GNU OS tools and Linux kernel, is a popular and influential...

 developers to describe any software whose license does not comply with Debian Free Software Guidelines
Debian Free Software Guidelines
The Debian Free Software Guidelines is a set of guidelines that the Debian Project uses to determine whether a software license is a free software license, which in turn is used to determine whether a piece of software can be included in Debian...

, and they use "proprietary software" specifically for non-free software that provides no source code. The Open Source Initiative
Open Source Initiative
The Open Source Initiative is an organization dedicated to promoting open source software.The organization was founded in February 1998, by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond, prompted by Netscape Communications Corporation publishing the source code for its flagship Netscape Communicator product...

 uses the terms "proprietary software" and "closed source software" interchangeably.
Semi-free software, as defined by the Free Software Foundation
Free Software Foundation
The Free Software Foundation is a non-profit corporation founded by Richard Stallman on 4 October 1985 to support the free software movement, a copyleft-based movement which aims to promote the universal freedom to create, distribute and modify computer software...

, is software that is not free software
Free software
Free software, software libre or libre software is software that can be used, studied, and modified without restriction, and which can be copied and redistributed in modified or unmodified form either without restriction, or with restrictions that only ensure that further recipients can also do...

, but comes with permission for individuals to use, copy, distribute, and modify either for non-profit purposes only or with the prohibition to redistribute modified copies or derived works. Such software is also rejected by the Open Source Initiative
Open Source Initiative
The Open Source Initiative is an organization dedicated to promoting open source software.The organization was founded in February 1998, by Bruce Perens and Eric S. Raymond, prompted by Netscape Communications Corporation publishing the source code for its flagship Netscape Communicator product...

 and Debian
Debian
Debian is a computer operating system composed of software packages released as free and open source software primarily under the GNU General Public License along with other free software licenses. Debian GNU/Linux, which includes the GNU OS tools and Linux kernel, is a popular and influential...

. PGP
Pretty Good Privacy
Pretty Good Privacy is a data encryption and decryption computer program that provides cryptographic privacy and authentication for data communication. PGP is often used for signing, encrypting and decrypting texts, E-mails, files, directories and whole disk partitions to increase the security...

 and the video game Angband are examples of semi-free programs. The Free Software Foundation classifies semi-free software as non-free software, but draws a distinction between semi-free software and proprietary software.

Free software licence
Free software licence
A free software licence is a software licence which grants recipients rights to modify and redistribute the software, which would otherwise be prohibited by copyright law. A free software licence grants, to the recipients, freedoms in the form of permissions to modify or distribute copyrighted work...

s use the same laws used by proprietary software, but to preserve the rights to use, copy and modify the software. This technique is used with copyleft
Copyleft
Copyleft is a play on the word copyright to describe the practice of using copyright law to offer the right to distribute copies and modified versions of a work and requiring that the same rights be preserved in modified versions of the work...

, but with other software as well. Free software companies and projects are also joining into patent pool
Patent pool
In patent law, a patent pool is a consortium of at least two companies agreeing to cross-license patents relating to a particular technology. The creation of a patent pool can save patentees and licensees time and money, and, in case of blocking patents, it may also be the only reasonable method...

s like the Patent Commons
Patent Commons
The Patent Commons Project was launched on November 15, 2005 by the Open Source Development Labs . The core of the project is an online patent commons reference library aggregating and documenting information about patent-related pledges and other legal solutions directed at the open-source...

 and the Open Invention Network
Open Invention Network
The Open Invention Network is a company that acquires patents and licenses them royalty free to entities which, in turn, agree not to assert their own patents against Linux and Linux-related systems and applications.-History:...

. See software patents and free software
Software patents and free software
Opposition to software patents is widespread in the free software community. In response, various mechanisms have been tried to defuse the perceived problem.-Positions from the community:...

.

"Proprietary software" is not synonymous with "commercial software", though the industry commonly confuses the term,

as does the free software community
Free software community
The free-software community is an informal term that refers to the users and developers of free software as well as supporters of the free-software movement. The movement is sometimes referred to as the open-source software community or a subset thereof...

.

Proprietary software can be distributed at no cost or for a fee, and free software
Free software
Free software, software libre or libre software is software that can be used, studied, and modified without restriction, and which can be copied and redistributed in modified or unmodified form either without restriction, or with restrictions that only ensure that further recipients can also do...

 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.

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
Research and development
The phrase research and development , according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, refers to "creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of...

 of software. For example, Microsoft
Microsoft
Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions...

 says that per-copy fees maximise the profitability of software development.

Proprietary software is said to create greater commercial activity over free software, especially in regard to market revenues.

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. When no other vendor can provide support for the software, the ending of support for older or existing versions of a software package may be done to force users to upgrade and pay for newer versions; or migrate to either competing systems with longer support life cycles or to FOSS
Free and open source software
Free and open-source software or free/libre/open-source software is software that is liberally licensed to grant users the right to use, study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code...

-based systems.

Examples


Well known examples of proprietary software include Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

, Adobe Flash Player
Adobe Flash Player
The Adobe Flash Player is software for viewing multimedia, Rich Internet Applications and streaming video and audio, on a computer web browser or on supported mobile devices. Flash Player runs SWF files that can be created by the Adobe Flash authoring tool, by Adobe Flex or by a number of other...

, PS3
PlayStation 3
The is the third home video game console produced by Sony Computer Entertainment and the successor to the PlayStation 2 as part of the PlayStation series. The PlayStation 3 competes with Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii as part of the seventh generation of video game consoles...

 OS, iTunes
ITunes
iTunes is a media player computer program, used for playing, downloading, and organizing digital music and video files on desktop computers. It can also manage contents on iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad....

, Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Photoshop is a graphics editing program developed and published by Adobe Systems Incorporated.Adobe's 2003 "Creative Suite" rebranding led to Adobe Photoshop 8's renaming to Adobe Photoshop CS. Thus, Adobe Photoshop CS5 is the 12th major release of Adobe Photoshop...

, Google Earth
Google Earth
Google Earth is a virtual globe, map and geographical information program that was originally called EarthViewer 3D, and was created by Keyhole, Inc, a Central Intelligence Agency funded company acquired by Google in 2004 . It maps the Earth by the superimposition of images obtained from satellite...

, Mac OS X
Mac OS X
Mac OS X is a series of Unix-based operating systems and graphical user interfaces developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc. Since 2002, has been included with all new Macintosh computer systems...

, Skype
Skype
Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice and video calls and chat over the Internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free, while calls to both traditional landline telephones and mobile phones can be made for a fee using a debit-based user account system...

, WinRAR
WinRAR
WinRAR is a shareware file archiver and data compression utility developed by Eugene Roshal, and first released in autumn of 1993. It is one of the few applications that is able to create RAR archives natively, because the encoding method is held to be proprietary.-Developer:The current developer...

, and some versions of Unix
Unix
Unix is a multitasking, multi-user computer operating system originally developed in 1969 by a group of AT&T employees at Bell Labs, including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, Douglas McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna...

.

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 proprietary UNIX
Unix
Unix is a multitasking, multi-user computer operating system originally developed in 1969 by a group of AT&T employees at Bell Labs, including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, Douglas McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna...

 distributions are mixed source software, bundling open source components like BIND
BIND
BIND , or named , is the most widely used DNS software on the Internet.On Unix-like operating systems it is the de facto standard.Originally written by four graduate students at the Computer Systems Research Group at the University of California, Berkeley , the name originates as an acronym from...

, Sendmail
Sendmail
Sendmail is a general purpose internetwork email routing facility that supports many kinds of mail-transfer and -delivery methods, including the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol used for email transport over the Internet....

, X Window System
X Window System
The X window system is a computer software system and network protocol that provides a basis for graphical user interfaces and rich input device capability for networked computers...

, DHCP, and others along with a purely proprietary kernel and system utilities.

Some free software packages are also simultaneously available under proprietary terms. Examples include MySQL
MySQL
MySQL officially, but also commonly "My Sequel") is a relational database management system that runs as a server providing multi-user access to a number of databases. It is named after developer Michael Widenius' daughter, My...

, Sendmail
Sendmail
Sendmail is a general purpose internetwork email routing facility that supports many kinds of mail-transfer and -delivery methods, including the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol used for email transport over the Internet....

 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 redistributions. 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
Java (programming language)
Java is a programming language originally developed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems and released in 1995 as a core component of Sun Microsystems' Java platform. The language derives much of its syntax from C and C++ but has a simpler object model and fewer low-level facilities...

, before it became free software.

Proprietary software that comes for no cost is called freeware
Freeware
Freeware is computer software that is available for use at no cost or for an optional fee, but usually with one or more restricted usage rights. Freeware is in contrast to commercial software, which is typically sold for profit, but might be distributed for a business or commercial purpose in the...

. Proprietary software which is no longer marketed by its owner and is used without permission by users is called abandonware
Abandonware
Abandonware are discontinued products for which no product support is available, or whose copyright ownership may be unclear for various reasons...

 and may include source code. Some abandonware has the source code released to the public domain either by its author or copyright holder and is therefore free software, and no longer proprietary software.

According to Jonathan Zittrain
Jonathan Zittrain
Jonathan L. Zittrain is a US professor of Internet law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School, a professor of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a faculty co-director of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society...

, the emergence of "closed devices" and online applications, like the iPhone
IPhone
The iPhone is a line of Internet and multimedia-enabled smartphones marketed by Apple Inc. The first iPhone was unveiled by Steve Jobs, then CEO of Apple, on January 9, 2007, and released on June 29, 2007...

, Facebook
Facebook
Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. , Facebook has more than 800 million active users. Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as...

 and Google apps
Google Apps
Google Apps is a service from Google providing independently customizable versions of several Google products under a custom domain name. It features several Web applications with similar functionality to traditional office suites, including: Gmail, Google Groups, Google Calendar, Talk, Docs and...

, have made the Internet become far more proprietary than early versions of Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

.

See also