Open source software license management

A Guide to Open Source Software License Management (WordPress Plugin)

Developing software takes a lot of time and energy. No software engineer wants to spend their precious time on licensing management, and you don’t have to. There are several ways you can manage your software’s licensing affairs without wasting your time.

However, if you build software for open-source platforms like WordPress, it becomes increasingly harder to enforce licensing. There are quite a few licensing managers available for WordPress.

In this guide, we’ll learn open source software license management, especially for WordPress plugins and themes.

What Is Open Source Software License Management?

Open source software license management

Software developed for open-source platforms like WordPress are often taken for granted as a free solution. But making plugins or themes is not an easy ride. So often developers decide to protect the key features and earn money by selling premium versions of their software.

Open-source software license management deals with this process and enables developers of open-source platforms to earn money by selling the pro version of the software.

Open Source License Management: How does it Work?

WordPress plugins or themes usually released under GPL license, which usually looks like this in your plugin head –

/*{Plugin Name} is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modifyit under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published bythe Free Software Foundation, either version 2 of the License, orany later version.

{Plugin Name} is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public Licensealong with {Plugin Name}. If not, see {URI to Plugin License}.*/

But most of the developer needs to earn money by selling software. So they try to enforce premium licensing on their software. There are two ways to manage licensing of a WordPress based software by which you can restrict the use without buying it.

  1. Looking after license management by yourself, which takes a lot of time.
  2. Leave license management to third-party platforms that can take care of it, but it cost some money.

While looking after licensing management by yourself sounds like a good idea, it is actually a very painstaking task to do. So, most of the time plugin or theme developers opt for third-party licensing management platforms to help them out. Besides third party licensing management software usually have some extra features that make the whole process seamless and easy.

What to Consider before Choosing a License Manager?

If you search online, you will find that there are quite a few plugins and services that handle WordPress plugin/themes licensing. These license managers work in different ways. But like any other service, there are good software license managers, and there are comparatively bad license managers. If you haven’t yet tried any one of them, below are the things that you need to consider before choosing to use any of them.

Licensing Management

Ease of use

It’s undeniable that software licensing is a complex process. That is why most of the plugins/services that are available for managing your software licenses do not have an intuitive process. But there are services that are relatively easy to use and some other with an extremely simple process of managing your license. To avoid the hassle, it’s better to choose an easy to use licensing service.

Licensing Support for Multiple Platform

Introducing all appsero integrations

This should be your top priority while choosing a license management service. A licensing manager that can generate and check license key by itself or connect your already used service like EDD, Envato, or Woocommerce surely works better than some that don’t, right?

Automatic Update Deployment

You might use any Git solutions to push your new builds. So it’s better if your licensing manager can automatically roll out updates to all your users, no matter what git solution you use. It should also allow users to update only if they already bought the plugin or theme.

Analytics & Usage Tracking

Product launch checklist

This is not a mandatory feature, but a useful one to have. Getting to know stats like new activation, deactivation, or which version of WordPress your users are using the most help you take decision on what to prioritize while building your software.

Deactivation Data Capture

Ever happened that you suddenly see people are deactivating your plugins more since the last update? What if you could know the reason behind that? It’s a very handy feature for a licensing service. Whenever a user deactivates, a popup asking for deactivation reason can even help you fix a bug that you didn’t even know existed!


It all comes down to this in the end, right? A license manager that can get you by, but comes with a lower price is the one everyone usually buys. Even then, you should choose a service that is lower price but doesn’t compromise on many.

Top 5 Open Source Software License Management Platform

Not all license management platform are equally good. And this is the list of Top 5 Open Source Software Licensing Management Platform.



Appsero stands among the best open-source software licensing management platform. It gives you a smooth experience overall in terms of plugin management, licensing, and analytics. It’s feature includes.

  • Able to work effortlessly with your existing license manager.
  • Can generate and check the license key on its own.
  • Automatic update deployment to all users no matter what Git platform you use.
  • Deactivation data capturing.
  • Unlimited plugin management.

These features combined make Appsero a commendable plugin for managing open source software licensing.


Appsero has 5 different pricing tier with the lowest one starting from $25 for up to 500 licenses. It adopted a fixed-payment pricing policy that can save you a lot of money compared to those that use the revenue sharing pricing model.



Freemius is a SaaS platform just like Appsero. It is a quite good platform to handle your licensing affair. However, there are some features that are missing in Freemius. Unlike Appsero, you can’t integrate Freemius with Themeforest or any other licensing platform. However, with Freemius you will get the following features –

  • Can generate and check the license.
  • Automatic update deployment.
  • User analytics.
  • Deactivation feedback capture.

Freemius is a popular plugin and used by a lot of developers for handling WordPress licensing.


Freemius adopted a revenue-sharing model, with pricing that goes as high as 27% of your total revenue.

Easy Digital Downloads


Easy Digital Downloads is a popular licensing management service for WordPress. It actually creates an online digital shop on your WordPress website, from where you can sell your digital products. So, unfortunately, you cannot manage a license from another platform with it. It’s features include –

  • It helps to create a digital product shop of your own to sell your software.
  • WordPress dashboard for user analytics (premium).


Easy Digital Downloads is one of the most costly ways to handle licensing. It starts at $199/year and can get to as high as $1900/year.


WooCommerce Software Add-on

WooCommerce, the world-famous eCommerce solution can also help you with licensing. It comes as an add-on, so you’re bound to be limited with fewer features compared to other solutions.

  • Supports automatic deployment of updates.
  • Self-hosted licensing platform.


Price of WooCommerce Software add on starts from $129/year.



Themeforest is one of the top platforms to sell digital products. You can also sell WordPress plugins and themes on their platform. They generate a license for your products when you upload them onto their platform for selling purposes. Their feature includes –

  • A comprehensive licensing of your plugin/themes.
  • Opportunity to sell on their marketplace.


Themeforest’s commission percentage is pretty high compared to any other. For every plugin/theme you sell, you will be deducted somewhere between 30-70% of the total selling price.

What Sets Appsero Apart

As we can see from the feature review of the top 5 licensing services, Appsero clearly has an edge over any other. Appsero charges the least amount for a subscription. Also, Appsero is created especially for open-source software of the WordPress platform, while some of the services cater to a broader customer base meaning Appsero can provide tailor-made services for just open-source software.

Basic Comparison of Appsero Feature

Appsero also goes way ahead in terms of basic facilities and features, as you see from the pictures above and below respectively.

Appsero Feature Comparison

Furthermore, you can also integrate Appsero to many other licensing platforms making it an unparalleled for licensing management.

Appsero vs Other Licensing Software Integration

Apart from the features, Appsero is affordable and rather easy too. All you need to do register yourself on Appsero. After logging into your account, you will be able to add your plugin directly from your personal dashboard. If you are already using any other platforms for licensing, you connect that to your Appsero account or you can leave that for Appsero to manage. You can also choose between FastSpring, WooCommerce, or Easy Digital Downloads to sell your item. The whole process is intuitive and it takes just a few minutes to get it up and running!

All these features and ease of use make Appsero perfect for selling opensource software of the WordPress platform.

Final Thoughts

Developing and licensing software are two integral parts that always go together. In order to earn money from a software, licensing is a necessity. Yet there are very few resources on software licensing, especially when a developer is developing software for an opensource platform like WordPress.

So, we wanted to help our fellow developers by answering questions that we often get from them on opensource software licensing. We hope this article will help anyone who is trying to decide which is the right service to manage a WordPress Plugin license. Afterall leaving licensing to a third-party means that they can concentrate more on developing rather than just managing!

Our feature review and comparison clearly dictate that Appsero is by far the most capable licensing management platform for WordPress products. If you are interested in using Appsero as your licensing partner, we have added the link below.


Faisal is a tech blogger who loves to help people by sharing useful information. Apart from that, he likes to travel and read books of all genres in his leisure time.