Open Source

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n8n (a numeronym for “nodemation”) is a node-based workflow automation tool. The reason for the square quotes around “open source” is because it has a Commons Clause attached to its Apache 2.0 license, which means you can do anything you want with the source code except make money with it. Since n8n itself is built on open source tech such as TypeScript and Vue.js, this is a nice touch by the author in the FAQ:

As n8n itself depends on and uses a lot of other Open Source projects it is only fair and in our interest to also help them. So it is planed to contribute a certain percentage of revenue/profit every month to these projects. How much exactly is not decided yet.

An "open source" alternative to Zapier


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2019-10-09T15:05:09Z ago

Commons Clause does allow packaging the software into a larger product that can be sold.

Jerod Santo

Jerod Santo

Omaha, Nebraska

Jerod co-hosts The Changelog, crashes JS Party, and takes out the trash (his old code) once in awhile.

2019-10-09T15:15:32Z ago

Has that been litigated?

For purposes of the foregoing, “Sell” means practicing any or all of the rights granted to you under the License to provide to third parties, for a fee or other consideration (including without limitation fees for hosting or consulting/ support services related to the Software), a product or service whose value derives, entirely or substantially, from the functionality of the Software.

It seems to me that “entirely or substantially” is open to enough interpretation that it is at the very least a legal gray area and most likely not worth the risk for most orgs.

2019-10-09T15:18:26Z ago

I don’t know if it has been litigated. But the authors of Commons Clause outline this in their FAQ…

May I create, distribute, offer as SaaS, and/or “sell” my products using Commons Clause licensed components?

Commons Clause only forbids you from “selling” the Commons Clause software itself. You may develop on top of Commons Clause licensed software (adding applications, tools, utilities or plug-ins) and you may embed and redistribute Commons Clause software in a larger product, and you may distribute and even “sell” (which includes offering as a commercial SaaS service) your product. You may even provide consulting services (see clarifying discussion here). You just can’t sell a product that consists in substance of the Commons Clause software and does not add value.

Further scenarios are outlined here

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