Commercial Activities using the Anaconda Repository
In April 2020, Anaconda Inc., the company behind our beloved Anaconda distribution, started to change their Terms of Service (ToS) in a way that most commercial usage is no longer for free. Peter Wang explained the reasons for this change in a blog post. There was a bit of turmoil in the Anaconda community, also about the interpretation of the ToS at that time. In October 2020, the ToS was updated and some clarifications were given in an official FAQ by Stephen Nolan.
I am no lawyer, so take my words with a grain of salt. My take-way from the ToS is that whenever you are using the Anaconda repository in commercial activities as a company, you must purchase a licence. This is fair enough since the employees at Anaconda Inc. do a hell of a great job, and they need to make a living of course. Thus, if you use Anaconda, and it helps you as an enterprise, why not just support it? Just do it and stop reading.
That being said, there might be cases, let’s say you are working as a freelancer for another company and want to use conda, the package manager of Anaconda, as part of your usual tool chain. Surely, you are not gonna ask the company to go and buy a license, just because you like to use it in your project. So what legal option do you have besides the obvious one of not using it and resorting to some virtualenv/pip-based approach?
Miniconda Alternative for Commercial Activities
As a heavy conda user, you surely know conda-forge, a community-led collection of recipes, build infrastructure and distributions for the conda package manager. In most cases, you would download & install Miniconda, which uses the Anaconda repository as defaults channel, and add conda-forge as an additional channel in case a package is not in the defaults channel.
What many users of conda-forge don’t know, is that it encompasses not only additional packages but also almost all packages of the Anaconda repository (aka the defaults channel) itself. With this in mind and the fact that conda-forge has no restrictions for commercial activities, you can just remove the defaults channel which uses the Anaconda repository (i.e. anaconda.com) from your conda configuration and use only the conda-forge repository (i.e. anaconda.org) instead to be legally on the safe side! More information can be found in the conda-forge statement about Anaconda’s ToS.
To make the aforementioned channel configuration even easier, the Miniforge project can be used as an drop-in replacement for Miniconda, that automatically has set up everything for you. Nice! And while you are about to make a change to your installation scripts anyway, why not directly try Mambaforge that comes with mamba, a faster alternative to conda, by default.
To sum this up. It’s really not that hard to legally use the power of the conda package manager in commercial activities for free.