What license do you use?#
n8n uses the Sustainable Use License.
What source code is covered by the Sustainable Use License?#
What is the Sustainable Use License?#
The Sustainable Use License is a fair-code software license created by n8n in 2022. You can read more about why we did this here. The license allows you the free right to use, modify, create derivative works, and redistribute, with three limitations:
- You may use or modify the software only for your own internal business purposes or for non-commercial or personal use.
- You may distribute the software or provide it to others only if you do so free of charge for non-commercial purposes.
- You may not alter, remove, or obscure any licensing, copyright, or other notices of the licensor in the software. Any use of the licensor's trademarks is subject to applicable law.
We encourage anyone who wants to use the Sustainable Use License. If you are building something out in the open, it makes sense to think about licensing earlier in order to avoid problems later. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to ask any questions about it.
Can you give some examples of what is and isn't allowed under the license in the context of n8n's product?#
Our license restricts use to "internal business purposes". In practice that means all use is allowed unless you are selling a product, service or module in which the value derives entirely or substantially, from n8n functionality. Here are some examples where we would consider that to be the case:
- White-labeling n8n, and offering it to your customers for money.
- Hosting n8n and charging people money to access it.
All of the following examples are allowed under our license:
- Using n8n to sync the data you control as a company, for example from a CRM to an internal database .
- Using n8n workflows to create backend logic for a product.
- Creating an n8n node for your product, or any other integration between your product and n8n.
- Providing consulting services related to n8n, for example building workflows, custom features closely connect to n8n, or code that gets executed by n8n.
- Supporting n8n, for example by setting it up or maintaining it on an internal company server.
What if I want to use n8n for something that is not permitted by the license?#
Why do you not use an open source license?#
n8n's mission is to give everyone who uses a computer technical superpowers. We've decided the best way for us to achieve this mission is to make n8n as widely and freely available as possible for users, while ensuring we can build a sustainable, viable business. By making our product free to use, easy to distribute, and source-available we help everyone access the product. By operating as a business, we can continue to release features, fix bugs and provide reliable software at scale long-term.
Why did you create a license?#
Creating a license was our least favorite option. We only went down this path after reviewing the possible existing licenses, and deciding nothing fit our specific needs. There are two ways in which we try to mitigate the pain and friction of using a proprietary license: (1) by using plain English, and keeping it as short as possible and (2) by promoting fair-code with the goal of making it a well-known umbrella term to describe software models like ours.
Our goals when we created the Sustainable Use License were (1) to be as permissive as possible while (2) safeguarding our ability to build a business, and (3) being as clear as possible what use was permitted or not.
My company has a policy against using code that restricts commercial use – can I still use n8n?#
Provided you are using n8n for internal business purposes, and not making n8n available to your customers for them to connect their accounts and build workflows, you should be able to use n8n. If you are unsure whether the use case you have in mind constitutes an internal business purpose or not, take a look at the examples, and if you're still unclear, email us at email@example.com.
What happens to the code I contribute to n8n in light of the Sustainable Use License?#
n8n asks every contributor to sign our Contributor License Agreement. In addition to the above, this gives n8n the ability to change its license without seeking additional permission. It also means you are not liable for your contributions (e.g. in case they cause damage to someone else's business).
Why did you switch to the Sustainable Use License from your previous license arrangement (Apache 2.0 with Commons Clause)?#
n8n was until 17 March 2022 licensed under Apache 2.0 with Commons Clause. Commons Clause was initiated by various software companies wanting to protect their rights against cloud providers. The concept involved adding a commercial restriction on top of an existing open source license.
We created the Sustainable Use License to be more permissive and more clear about what use is allowed, while continuing to ensure n8n gets the funding needed to build and improve our product.
What are the main differences between the Sustainable Use License and your previous license arrangement (Apache 2.0 with Commons Clause)?#
There are two main differences between the Sustainable Use License and our previous license arrangement. The first is that we have tightened the definition of how you can use the software. Previously the Commons Clause restricted users ability to "sell" the software; we have redefined this to restrict use to internal business purposes. The second difference is that our previous license restricted people's ability to charge fees for consulting or support services related to the software: we have lifted that restriction altogether.
That means you are now free to offer commercial consulting or support services (e.g. building n8n workflows) without the need for a separate license agreement with us. If you are interested in joining our community of n8n experts providing these services, you can learn more here.
Is n8n open source?#
Although n8n's source code is available under the Sustainable Use License, according to the Open Source Initiative (OSI), open source licenses cannot include limitations on use, so we do not call ourselves open source. In practice, n8n offers most users many of the same benefits as OSI-approved open source.
We coined the term 'fair-code' as a way of describing our licensing model, and the model of other companies who are source-available, but restrict commercial use of their source code.
What is fair-code, and how does the Sustainable Use License relate to it?#
Fair-code is not a software license. It describes a software model where software:
- is generally free to use and can be distributed by anybody
- has its source code openly available
- can be extended by anybody in public and private communities
- is commercially restricted by its authors
The Sustainable Use License is a fair-code license. You can read more about it, and see other examples of fair-code licenses here.
We're always excited to talk about software licenses, fair-code and other principles around sharing code with interested parties. To get in touch to chat, email firstname.lastname@example.org.