[License-discuss] Does Non-Profit Open Software License fulfill the open source definition?

Vaclav Petras wenzeslaus at gmail.com
Tue Jun 28 15:07:30 UTC 2016

Thank you, this clarifies a lot.

On Tue, Jun 28, 2016 at 12:19 AM, John Cowan <cowan at mercury.ccil.org> wrote:
> > the Non-Profit Open Software License [1] has non-profit amendment which
> > discriminates against for-profit, i.e. commercial use.
> Actually it simply forbids redistribution by commercial entities, not use.

I see. My confusion was from 17a) "Licensor ...declares that it is a
not-for-profit organization" which I interpreted as the basic requirement
with the additional requirement "derives no revenue... from the

> > It seems to me that this clear violates the Open Source Definition
> > [2] because it discriminates against a specific field of endeavor. Can
> > somebody please explain to me why OSI lists the license as open source
> > [3]? Is there something I'm missing?
> It's because everything licensed under the NPOSL is automatically licensed
> under the OSL as well, which unquestionably is an open-source license.

This was not clear to me but now I see it from the "otherwise" sentence in
17d) "Otherwise, You shall distribute... under the OSL..."

> So if a commercial entity wishes to redistribute code (modified or
> not) that it receives under the NPOSL, it may do so under the OSL.

This was unknown concept to me in open source licensing. Now I see, also
from Rosen's document [4], that the point of NPOSL are the different
warranties for non-profit organizations.

> This does not quite violate OSD #3, because the license is not pure

Good point, I didn't caught that.

> But it's a marginal case, and perhaps it wouldn't
> be approved today.

Certainly the confusion would be one reason. How I got to this was that I
wanted to write somewhere that if the license is on OSI list, the software
can be used commercially. Just to check myself, I went to the page with the
list and I see "Non-Profit... License" which I haven't noticed before.

Thanks again,

[4] http://rosenlaw.com/OSL3.0-explained.htm
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