Everything You Need to Know about Proprietary Software. With Examples


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Praise Iwuh

May 02, 2023

Everything You Need to Know about Proprietary Software.  With Examples

Proprietary software is any application or software that belongs exclusively to a creator and has restrictions on its use and dissemination. The vendor or creator puts these restrictions in place and explicitly states that the software is the owner's property and may only be used under restricted circumstances. End users are also required to buy a license before usage. Although, despite the license, the user cannot modify or sell the software.

Proprietary software is often expensive, and since its users have limited control over it, it is not always the preferred choice of most people. Instead, most developers prefer to develop their software.

If you want to get started on Proprietary software, this article will serve as a guide because it contains the basics of proprietary software. It will explain the definition of proprietary software in simple terms, its features, disadvantages and disadvantages, types, examples of proprietary software licenses, and the primary difference between open source software and proprietary software.

Let's get started!


Proprietary software definition  

Features of Proprietary software  

The Rights of Proprietary Software Owners  

Advantages of proprietary software  

Disadvantages of proprietary software  

Types of Proprietary Software  

Examples of standard proprietary software  

Proprietary software license example  

Open source software  

Differences between open-source software and proprietary software  


Proprietary Software Definition  

Wikipedia defines Proprietary software as any software that the free and open-source software community considers to be non-free because its creator, publisher, or other rightsholder or rightsholder partner exercises a legal monopoly under contemporary copyright and intellectual property law to prevent the recipient from freely sharing or altering the software, and—in some cases, as is the case with some patent-encumbered and EULA-bound software—from using the software on their own, thereby restricting the recipient's freedom.

This definition may not be easy for a non-specialist to understand. So let's break this definition of proprietary software in simple terms.

In simple words, proprietary software is software that belongs exclusively to a creator and has restrictions on its use and dissemination because the publisher or creator has the legal copyright and intellectual property law preventing anyone from using the software as they like.


Such recipients of the software cannot modify or sell the software. They only get to buy a license (a prerequisite before usage) and use it under predefined conditions. The ownership right of the software still belongs to the creator. They also have the right to revoke your license if you do not comply with their usage rules. You also cannot resell or modify the software because you do not own it.

Proprietary software can otherwise be known as Commercial source software, Closed source software, or Non-free software.

Read: 8 Key Roles in Software Development: Strengths & Responsibilities

Features of Proprietary Software  

Every proprietary software has certain restrictions that limit the freedom of its users. Some of these restrictions include:

1. The program's building blocks are its source code. It is software created in a higher-level programming language so that humans can read it. The source code explains how the software operates and how programmers can instruct a computer to carry out various tasks when developers or coders examine it.

2. You must have a license before you can use it.

3. Users cannot continue circulating the software.

4. A certain amount of people can only use the software.

5. There is a limitation to the system or environment the software needs.

6. In some cases, the conditions of proprietary licenses may include provisions requiring arbitration for disputes and enforcing them under contract law.


The Rights of Proprietary Software Owners  

Every owner or creator of proprietary software has certain exclusive rights that they enjoy. These rights include:

1. Software Usage

Owners of commercial source software have total control over how users of their software incorporate it after purchasing a proprietary license. As a result, the software developer has the freedom to limit the usefulness of the software or prohibit specific uses from being made of it.

Software developers often restrict recipients' usage through a serial number, product key, product activation, or any other means they deem fit.

2. Software distribution and transferring

Users of proprietary software are frequently prohibited from redistributing, sharing, or moving the license. Even if users decide they no longer need their proprietary license, they cannot transfer it. Additionally, it prohibits you from making a duplicate of the program and selling or distributing it.

3. Source code modification

The source code is the building block of the software. As such, users cannot inspect or modify it. Owners or Creators are also not required to provide the software's source code.

4. Software compatibility

The compatibility of any proprietary software with other programs and operating systems is entirely under the authority of its creators. As a result, businesses that must ensure their proprietary software is compatible with other programs may encounter problems without compatibility.

5. Hardware compatibility

License agreements for non-free software frequently limit integrating those programs with hardware. Hence, it can be challenging for businesses that need to use proprietary software with particular kinds of hardware because such programs might not operate or function properly when used with those devices.

An excellent example is the macOS which can only run on Apple devices.

Advantages of Proprietary Software  

Proprietary software has many benefits that make it appealing to use. Some of its significant benefits include:

1. Excellent user Interface

All proprietary software owners rely on customers to buy their software without gaining complete control. Hence, they must ensure that the software has an excellent user interface to convince users to buy their software instead of open-source software.

2. Personalised user support

Businesses frequently opt for proprietary software because some programs are made with a particular industry in mind. The developers of these software packages modify the features to the requirements of the companies, and they provide technical assistance as needed.

3. Product Stability

Closed-source software owners generally take their time to guarantee their software is stable and functions properly before making any changes. However, this is not entirely the same case with open-source software owners prone to frequently changing their programs.

Hence, end users will gain a lot from using proprietary software because they can rely on it to work as designed.

4. Exceptional customer service

closed-source companies depend on their paying clients for revenue. It is, therefore, in their best interests to give you top-notch customer care and support in case something goes wrong. They can assist you through a dedicated technical support consultant or a general helpline. You will get customised support and response much more quickly than if you seek support in an open-source forum.

5. Clear development roadmap

Proprietary software creators have a detailed development plan for their products. In addition, they plan out upcoming modifications and updates to their software.

Additionally, their software is constantly compatible with any additional programs that customers may be running because they work in private and take their time to create a high-quality product without being in a race to find a solution before their competitors.


Disadvantages of Proprietary Software  

1. Users have restrictions on what they can do with the product.

2. It encourages user dependency on the software owner.

3. It has high development and maintenance costs

4. License fees can be costly

5. Closed-source products tend to be heavy on the system.


Popular Examples of Proprietary Software  

Many of the most widely used software applications are proprietary software. However, we have limited this list to the top famous proprietary software examples based on usage. They include:

1. Password Software. Examples include LastPass, Keeper Password Manager and, Digital Vault, NordPass.

2. Antivirus Software. Examples include McAfee, Norton, and Bitdefender.

3. Remote Working Software. Examples comprise of ZohoAssist, Remote PC

4. Asset Management Software. Examples include AssetCloud, AssetManage

5. Business tools Software. Examples are Insightly, Templafy, LiquidPlanner


Here are ten other general examples of proprietary software without any specifics of its intended usage

1. Microsoft Windows

2. Google Earth

3. MacOS

4. Microsoft Office Productivity Suite

5. WinRAR

6. Adobe Photoshop

7. Skype

8. PS 3 OS

9. PowerPoint

10. iTunes


Some well-known proprietary software creators include:

1. Microsoft

2. Adobe

3. Borland

4. Oracle

5. IBM

6. Sun Microsystems

7. Macromedia


Proprietary software license  

The actual cost of proprietary software is in the licensing process. In addition to paying for the software, a firm must buy licenses for each installed computer. So if proprietary software is installed throughout a company's whole network, license fees might be exceedingly expensive.

Another distinguishing feature of proprietary software licensing is that while the end-user license agreement (EULA) permits the usage of one or more copies of the software, the publisher retains ownership of those copies. (hence the use of the term "proprietary").

The exclusivity feature of proprietary software licenses also denotes that the software publisher has retained certain rights to the product. Therefore, it is common practice for EULAs to include clauses that specify how the program may be used, such as the number of permitted installations or the terms of distribution.

The real consequence of this type of licensing is that the end-user must agree to the software license if the software publisher retains ownership of the product. In other words, the end-user cannot use the product if they do not accept the license. The Microsoft Windows license is an excellent example of this proprietary software license.

As is customary with proprietary software licenses, the license also contains a long list of prohibited actions, including reverse engineering, using the software concurrently by many users, and publishing benchmarks or performance tests.

There are various licensing models, ranging from essential perpetual and floating licenses (commonly referred to as concurrent licenses) to more complex models like the metered license. The most common licensing configurations involve a single user (user, client, or node) or a user at a sufficient quantity discount level, while some manufacturers gather existing licenses.

Licensing for software frequently involves maintenance as well. This is either included or optional, usually with a one-year term, but frequently needs to be purchased along with the software.

The licensee may be granted access to minor upgrades (V.1.1 => 1.2), as well as occasionally substantial updates (V.1.2 => 2.0), according to the maintenance agreement (contract) provision.

Update insurance or upgrade assurance are common names for this choice. If the maintenance contract does not cover it, the customer must purchase an upgrade for a big update. In addition, some manufacturers charge a reinstatement (reinstallation) cost retrospectively every month for a maintenance renewal in the scenario that the current maintenance has ended.

Technical help can occasionally also be part of maintenance. When it does, the levels of technical support, which are typically referred to as gold, silver, and bronze, can differ based on the communication channel (for example, email versus telephone assistance), availability (for instance, 5x8, five days a week, 8 hours a day), and response time. (e.g. three hours). As an incident pack, support is also licensed on a per-incident basis. (e.g. five support incidents per year)

Open Source Software  

Open Source Software is any software with openly accessible source code that anyone may review, alter, and improve.

As discussed earlier, source code is the building block of a program. It refers to that section of software most users do not see and which allows programmers to edit or alter how their application or program works. They often do this by adding features or fixing components that do not always function properly.

Some examples of Open Source Software include MySQL, Linux, Android, and Apache Server.

Differences between Open-Source Software and Proprietary Software  

The primary difference between Open-Source Software and Proprietary software is that in open-source, the source code is freely downloadable because it comes with the software and can be modified by users to provide new features and functionalities. While in Closed Source software, the source code is not publicly available, and only the software creators have the right to modify the application.

Also, Open- source can be set up on any computer. However, closed-source software requires a valid licence before usage.



Proprietary software is the best option if you desire a third-party program. This is because it is more data secured and is often built with specific consideration for all end users.

Also, although proprietary software may be more expensive upfront, it usually saves you money, time and resources in the long run because every software is trustworthy, well-tested,  and capable of performing the required task.


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