Yet another 'What License Is Best For Me?'

Ben Tilly btilly at
Wed Jan 17 14:19:42 UTC 2007

On 1/17/07, David Favro < at> wrote:
> Hello all,
> I am sorry to throw out another "Which License Is Best For Me" question,
> I did review the archives and I can see that the list gets these on a
> very regular basis, but the problem for me, like for most inquirers, is
> that everyone's situation is a little different.

Actually your particular situation is depresssingly common.

> In my case, I am a software developer, very experienced in writing
> custom and proprietary software, having used OSS for nearly two decades,
> but only having contributed small amounts of OSS work.  I am now working
> on a variety of softwares that I would like to release as open-source,
> but under a license that is less than 100% free (I want to deny
> licensees the freedom to sell my software without contributing some of
> the profits to me).  In other words, it would be dual-licensed, at your
> option:

That is also less than 100% open source.  Substantially less.  Check
clause 1 of  If this
conversation follows the last couple, we will now have several rounds
back and forth as you are slowly convinced that this clause means
exactly what it says - attempting to keep others from selling your
software makes it not open source.  You can certainly write such a
license.  But there will be strong objections to your using it and
calling it "open source".

Depending on the software, the closest you can come while using an
open source license is to pick one that people will CHOOSE not to use.
 For instance a number of companies do this with GPL/other relying on
the fact that in certain markets (eg the embedded space) that the GPL
is unpalatable.


> I wrote to the Software Freedom Law Center
> (, but they responded to me that denying
> others the right to sell my software without returning a portion of the
> profits to me makes it non-free software, and they don't help people who
> write non-free software, so they refused to help me, not even to
> recommend other resources that would be of help.  (I personally find
> this a bit of an arbitrary and capricious definition of 'free' since
> even the GPL places some restrictions on what the licensee can and can't
> do with the software, so I don't see how it is so easy to draw a
> black-and-white line that giving one set of rights constitutes granting
> 'freedom' to the licensee while some other set of rights is proprietary.)

You may regard this as arbitrary and capricious, but I don't.  Nor do
many other people.

The term has been in the open source definition since the term "open
source" was defined (the term becomes a decade old this year), was
part of the Debian Free Software Guidelines before that, and has been
part of how the Free Software Foundation has defined free software
since the 80s.  You are far from the first to dislike the condition,
but it is insisted upon for a reason.

> So, I wonder, does anyone here know of such a license, or of a similar
> one that I could easily modify to match my goals?  I must believe that
> someone else also uses this kind of license.

I'm sure that someone does, but not for anything important.  At least
not for anything that I've ever had to care about.


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