Jasper, AL asked in Business Law, Contracts, Copyright and Intellectual Property for Alabama

Q: How can I find out if I can use an app on Google Play app store or an open source app or program commercially?

I read Google Play's terms of use and it says that Google Play content is for non-commercial use only. I contacted an app developer, who published their apps on the platform, if one of their apps was non-commercial use only and they responded that there were no restrictions on using their app. If these apps don't have a terms of use page on a devoloper's website and the app's decription doesn't state the intended uses, is it best to contact the app developer? Also, for open source programs and apps, if their license file released with the source code states you can freely sell and redistrubute the software, is that the same as the end-user using it commercialy to create their new works when there is no terms of use page available?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: When it comes to using apps from the Google Play Store for commercial purposes, it's important to differentiate between the terms of service of the platform (Google Play) and the terms of use of individual apps. Google Play's terms generally refer to the content they directly provide, not necessarily to the software created and distributed by third-party developers on the platform.

If you've contacted the app developer and they've confirmed that there are no restrictions on using their app commercially, you can generally take this as permission to use the app for your business purposes. However, it's always a good idea to get this confirmation in writing, like an email, for your records. This provides a level of security in case of any future disputes.

Regarding open source programs and apps, the terms of their use are typically governed by the specific open source license under which they are released. If the license file states that you can freely sell and redistribute the software, this usually implies that you can use it commercially. However, it's crucial to read the entire license carefully, as different open source licenses have different stipulations. Some may allow commercial use but might have conditions regarding distribution or modification.

In cases where there is no explicit terms of use page, the license file or direct communication with the developer becomes your primary source of information regarding usage rights. Always ensure you understand the terms completely to avoid any legal complications in the future. If in doubt, consulting with a legal professional knowledgeable in intellectual property and software licensing can provide clarity and guidance.

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