Some time ago I became a university student and with that I got an access to serveral programming tools, such as Jetbrains' products, for free. The licences I got are of course only for academic purposes, which got me wondering: How do they enforce these types of licenses? When you load a .cpp/.h/etc files in for example notepad you can't tell in which program they were typed before, so how do they know if that commercial code was written in a program with non-suited license for a such usage?

Another thing I thought about is: How do you "free" your code from the license of the program you wrote it in? For example, if I copy the contents of my file written in editor XYZ (with license only for academic purposes) to an open source editor, can I still not distribute it? What if I wrote my source code in XYZ program, but futher changes occured in the open source program? Is that "old" part of the code is still under that program license?

  • 3
    I think this question needs to be answered by looking at the exact wording of the license conditions.
    – Philipp
    Sep 30, 2018 at 14:28
  • I would agree with @Philipp. FWIW, I've never heard of a dispute in licensing where an application's development lifecycle was examined over time to inspect which tools were used at what time to see if any licensing was in violation. I'm pretty sure that companies that tolerate academic licensing do so in good faith that eventually the person using it will work for a company that uses a paid licensing model.
    – Sn3akyP3t3
    Sep 30, 2018 at 16:00
  • 1
    The JetBrains educational license does not purport to restrict your ability to profit from software you have created in violation of the license, nor even to specify a financial penalty for doing so. It simply allows them to terminate the license. So it's not clear that the premise of the question is correct: there may be nothing from which the code needs to be freed.
    – phoog
    Sep 30, 2018 at 16:14
  • If you write something in editor XYZ, it's yours. You may be violating the license of XYZ if you use the file for purposes that conflict with the license, but what you have created is yours. The only exception would be if there was something in the file that was specific to the XYZ editor, and you could remove that. Oct 1, 2018 at 19:43
  • Educational licenses are quite a common thing in software, but their intention is significantly less to restrict educational organizations from developing commercial applications than it is to restrict commercial entities from buying cheaper licenses. You wont find software companies going after edu orgs (unless there is some blatant violations going on), but you may find them going after obviously commercial entities that have nothing to do with education that either have no licenses or have suspiciously bought cheap educational licenses. It also stops edu orgs from reselling licences.
    – user4210
    Apr 30, 2019 at 3:17

1 Answer 1


If you create something with someone else's software, what you've created is yours. The only exception would be if the software tool in question embedded a significant amount of its own code or data into the produced file, and that isn't going to happen with a text editor. (One case where it would happen is a parser generator, which is a program to produce a computer language parser. The parser generator would normally provide the parsing code, which would remain copyrighted by whoever had the copyright to the parser generator, and a large data table.)

As you point out, it would probably be impossible to establish that a file was created using a JetBrains software tool. Students are notoriously unprofitable to sue, anyway, so I really doubt JetBrains would pay any attention. In addition, the purpose of student licenses is usually to get students used to working with their software, so they'll want it when they get jobs out of school, so JetBrains wouldn't want to seem unfriendly.

It's also not clear what they could do to you if you used a student version of their software for commercial purposes. They'd need some basis to sue you for damages, and it would be hard to prove any beyond the retail cost of the software.

So, you're in the clear. If your commercial venture makes enough money to be worthwhile, you'll be able to afford retail versions of the JetBrains products.

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