The Artifex case and dual licensing

The initial court ruling in the Artifex v. Hancom case suggests a point in favor of using a dual licensing plan for open source software. Artifex offers a commercial license for its Ghrostscript product for customers who wish to use Ghostscript in their own commercial products. There is a license fee for a commercial license. Artifex also offers use under the Affero GPL for those who do not want to pay for a commercial license.

Artifex’s allegations against Hancom included a breach of contract claim. One of the key factors in the court’s decision to allow this claim to go forward was Artifex’s dual licensing plan. The allegations regarding Artifex’s dual licensing structure (including the fee for the commercial license) were, according to the court, sufficient to plead damages for Artifex’s breach of contract claim.

This ruling means that a dual licensing plan (a commercial license for a fee along with a no-fee open source license) could be helpful in proving damages in the event a breach of contract claim is filed against a commercial user who improperly relies on a no-fee open source license as authorization for using another party’s open source software when a commercial license is available.