Obsidian Licencing

I’ll post it here because I can’t seem to find a contact link on the webpage.

I have experimented with Obsidian, I’ve fallen in love with the daily page feature in combination with todo items. It’s the perfect all in one replacement for my todo list DND and side project brainstorming and note taking combination. Which I previously used to do in sublime text.

Today I went to the store to buy the software. However, to my horror your definition of personal versus commercial is whether or not the software is used for commercial purposes… In my case this is not so simple. These are my notes, which I personally use. They relate to things around the house, book ideas. Projects. And work related todo lists + occasional work related brain storming.

I have one laptop for all areas. I have one Intellij for all areas. One sublime text for all areas. They give me good licenses so I can afford to pay for the software personally. Intellij is steep, but considering the company behind it and the mammoth amount of software it gives you it’s still a good price.

I simply can’t afford to pay 50$ per year for software that I can replace with sublime and even with intellij. I’ll gladly pay up to 80$ for the privilege of having a version I can use forever even if that means that in two years if I want to version up I’ll have to invest more. Remember I can use your software for free if I simply don’t use it for my daily work todo. I’ve toyed with the idea of just doing the 25$ version and pretending we’re all okay with me occasionally using it for work. But I’m a developer too. Let’s play fair…

Please consider changing your license to indicate that commercial means it’s purchased by a company for it’s employees. And personal means it’s purchased for an individual for his own use… For whatever goal he intends to use the software.

Apologies for the rant. And congratulations on having built a product which inspires such a rant. :slight_smile:


Thanks for the feedback!

That’s a bit surprising to me – what do you expect instead? Commercial license being the one required by companies instead of individuals, I’m assuming?

Understood. Although honestly I think you’re not using Obsidian as intended if you could achieve the same result with Sublime or IntelliJ. It doesn’t make financial license either, since you already purchased them.

$50 is not meant to be paid by you out of pocket though, which is why solo entrepreneurs, bloggers, or freelancers are not required to have a commercial license by our EULA. If you get enough value out of it, you should ask your company to pay for it.

Some workshops have a letter template that they can send to their employer to explain what value the workshop would provide – maybe that would be of help here?

Thanks again for the feedback. We’ll consider it.


That’s a bit surprising to me – what do you expect instead? Commercial license being the one required by companies instead of individuals, I’m assuming?

This. It’s the model that is used by JetBrains. I’m an individual making the decision to buy the software. I’m paying. Treat me as an individual please. Also you can look at sublime text, give me a licence for the current version and the next, Then if you go up two versions I’ll have to pay to get upgrades. They’re doing a very decent job not abusing this.

A lot of small companies including mine (5 people) tell their employees, this is the job, this is your salary. Go…

Basically I’m not going to get anywhere asking them to buy the software for me. The first question is can you do this with other tools we already have? The answer would be yes. Besides I’d be using it for over 50% for personal reasons. I love the software I’m willing to pay for it out of my own pocket. Sublime cost me 80$ I think obsidian is worth the same price. But being treated as a company because part of what I plan to do with it is work related is a deal breaker for me.

I’ve been using sublime for 5 years now, at your licensing model that would cost me 250$, this is excessive. The only other option available to me is to swallow my tears and use it for personal projects only. This is free for me and you’re missing out too.

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This approach is rather puzzling. If somebody needs a tool to get a job done in a commercial environment, especially if a company can employ 5 people, it would be the company’s place to provide it. Small publishing and design houses do not expect their employees to pay for their own Creative Cloud subscriptions, and they’re way beyond 50$ / year.

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I understand that difference companies work in different ways, and I must admit your company is not the type the one we had in mind when designing the commercial license. In my mind (and my experience working in companies), if a piece of software is important to an employee’s productivity, $50/year is reasonable if not trivial.

I want to point out an important difference between IntelliJ/Sublime Text and Obsidian though. Although I know you can evaluate Sublime Text indefinitely, it’s technically illegal to use them for personal use for free (unless you use IntelliJ as a student, or if you use the community version). They charge for the software anyway, so it’s easier for them to say “let’s give individuals a discount and let companies pay more”.

We want to provide Obsidian for free for personal use, so we charged for a different kind of use (commercial use). The commercial license basically extracts commercial value created by Obsidian, which is why we deliberately do not require commercial license for non-profits, schools, and solo business owners. I imagine it would be confusing to have “Business Commercial License” vs “Personal Commercial License”, since our pricing is already a bit complex.

Again, if you can replace Obsidian with Sublime, I agree $250 over 5 years is unnecessarily expensive. You can look into Foam or Dendron to see if they fit your needs better (they are free and open source).


Thank you for your thoughts and inspirations. I understand your dilemma. I also applaud your choice to offer it for free to individual users. And I understand your reasoning that supporting my case would muddy things up in your licensing models.

On my side it’s a business case situation. If the software increases productivity it would lower my cost per unit of work. Then they’d give me the software. But considering the alternatives already in place. I develop software and manage a team. Sublime/markdown and a file folder can handle that just fine, have been doing so for years. The business case just isn’t there.

Which boils down to exorbitant prices from my personal pocket considering at least an expected 5 year use or only use it for private projects. My mind doesn’t really cope well with the private/commercial split.

I’m bummed that I have to look elsewhere whilst Obsidian is such a good piece of software. But I do understand your motives, and it’s your call to make. Thank you for listening, for thinking along and for suggesting alternatives.


I concur. As a rule of thumb, I don’t rent software - I buy it… I would have bought Obsidian today - but only if I have an option to keep the rights to use (at least) the currently available version perpetually, without additional costs in the future.

I get that many software companies are moving into this model, but it is not for me.

Especially, as it seems to conflict with one of your funding principles - “your data, forever” - but then, why not the software?

I hope that “personal” licence could be introduced, that would cover using it for work. For many reasons, as a developer myself, I often buy software on my own dime, if I find it useful. There are tons of scenarios, when passing it as a cost onto a company simply isn’t an option (and for many different reasons)

(EDIT: …maybe “Catalyst”, at “Supporter”+ levels, could be enhanced with that?)


Completely agree, however, as companies grow larger, it becomes less about the trivial cost and more about the management of the growing number of licenses and compliance they need to track, so there’s a bunch red tape put in place to manage this. They tend to look for “good enough” software that can be a one-size fits all solution in a particular category. For these companies, when trying to get a knowledge management tool approved simply gets shot down with “but we already have (Confluence|SharePoint|etc…)” or personal note taking = One-Note, GoogleKeep, etc. That gets closed out without really any true evaluation of the value proposition. The odds of getting this through the red tape in the really large organizations I’ve worked for is next to nil.

To make inroads into that sort of organization, it would need to be grassroots and typically a bring your own license movement until you have sizeable numbers showing the value it’s providing just to even get on the radar of possible approval. (A successful approach I’ve seen often with JetBrains model of providing the personal commercial vs. business commercial option.)

To bushi’s point:

I think that’s a different option that could be very appealing and in the spirit of “future proofing”. It makes a lot of sense for a company to pay annual licenses as they simply rotate individuals into that license seat as they can. But for those of us that won’t get through the approval red tape and have to decide whether to pay from our own pocket there’s a huge incentive knowing that if I can’t keep that in my personal budget every year, at least I can continue on the version I purchased without the upgrades.