Do we have to buy a Discourse license to use Discourse?

I’m thinking about using Discourse on a number of sites I run - some non-profit, some for-profit. I’m a little confused by the “Buy It” page. Is this saying that for commercial purposes folks will have to buy licenses? Or simply that there will be commercial support options ala Red Hat Linux? Or that there will only be costs if having it hosted rather than utilizing self-hosting?
I’d want to support the Discourse project in whatever ways I can - including financially - but at this juncture all the sites I run are small and I couldn’t really afford it…so before I go implementing, I want to make sure I understand what I’m getting myself into.
Dave Mackey

The “Buy It” page is a little confusing because the categories don’t actually cover every scenario! It only mentions self-hosting in the section about non-profits. But Discourse is GPL and I don’t think anything prevents you from downloading a copy and self-hosting regardless of your situation.

The Enterprise section talks about purchasing licenses if you want to use Discourse in a way that you can’t automatically do with the GPL (like embed in non-free software, I guess?).

Just quoting from the FAQ page:

Discourse is 100% free open source software, now and forever.

We eventually plan to offer one-click paid Discourse hosting here, and
dedicated instance sales to enterprise clients. But for now, if you
want your own Discourse instance, get the code from our GitHub

I understand that. A dedicated instance is more than just the software. It’s hosting, and support, and maybe more.
But on the Buy page, there is something about “licenses”

For enterprises, we plan to sell licenses

And that does not sound like ‘free as in beer’ software.

They’re going to be offering a non-GPL licensed, but otherwise identical, version for sale to enterprises for cases where the GPL is unacceptable.

Can you give an example of such circumstances?

A large number of companies are (unreasonably) terrified of the GPL because of it’s pervasive nature, I don’t have a specific source but it’s fairly well documented if you search around.

There are of course actual license cases like bundling Discourse with other systems. I think the intention of the Discourse team is just to remove as many potential barriers to widespread adoption as possible.

I think the fear usually occurs when a company want to take a GPL system, make modifications to it, and then sell it. Under the GPL they must then open source all of the modified code. Oftentimes companies that create GPL software offer a “commercial license” alternative which allows one to purchase the software, make modifications to it, and sell it without the requirements of open sourcing the code that the GPL requires.

The necessity of redistributing and making openly available modified source code, according to my understanding of the GPL, does not include modifications to the source code which are made only for internal use and are not redistributed or sold.

Not in my experience, many corporates have a no-GPL policy, they simply disallow using any internal systems built with GPL.

Many companies interpret the GPL much more strictly than you would expect.

I can. Most government agencies are not allowed to use any open source, or public domain software unless a support contract is purchased to cover it. Because when something breaks there needs to be someone you can call in for support to help get it resolved. For that reason, we can’t run Fedora linux on our production servers, but we can run Red Hat Linux.

Page 5 paragraph D is the guideline I’ve seen used to drive this requirement, although I’m told as policy it’s not truely a requirement DoD wide - some local agencies / commands are still enforcing that. My employer is one of those unfortunately, so without a support license available we wouldn’t be able to buy / use Discourse.

I understand hosting business models. I understand support business models. I just don’t get the concept of selling a software license of something that is GPL licensed. So that’s why I was asking like “is this really about a software license or just badly phrased”.

People sign CLAs so we ultimately own the code and are able to re-license as we see fit. This gives us flexibility many other projects do not have.

Interestingly, sqlite sell a public domain license … hard to wrap anyones head around that SQLite License

We don’t, we sell the ability to change the license to something else!

Which, if I understand correctly, is something you (and only you) can do because of the CLA’s. Right?

And do anything possible to make more profits (as far as i know)