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I'm a high schooler and I am competing in an open source software development competition. It must be a desktop application that runs on either Windows or Linux. I have a great idea for the open source desktop app, and I wanted to know if I could take it farther and port it to the iPhone or Android platform and make money (preferably through $.99 cost, not ads)

I read somewhere that certain open source licenses allow me to do this... am I correct?

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If it's such a great idea then why not sit on it until you're out of any situation where the school would own the IP, and submit something else for the competition? –  Alan B Nov 1 '12 at 12:17

3 Answers 3

It will entirely depend on the competition rules. There is nothing stopping me releasing my software under open source rules and also selling it (QT is a good example) under a commercial license. If I own the rights to it, I determine who by, where and when it can be used.

The rules of the competition will (should) clearly state who owns the rights to the source after the competition ends - is it the author or the competition organizers (The cynic in me says look out for someone looking for some cheap IP).

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Very true, this isn't about the license, it's about the copyright assignment. Who owns the copyright? Hopefully still the author. In which case, he/she can do with it anything they want. –  Scott Whitlock Nov 1 '12 at 15:30

There are open-source licenses that allow you to sell, and there are ways to license your open-source project for non-commercial use. mattnz's question about the competition rules is an important one. The question about who owns the rights to the submitted source code is important. You also need to be aware if there is a specific open-source license the competition requires you to use. Some will make it hard for you to sell that code later.

If this is your first attempt at deploying a commercial product, I advise you to keep it as separate as possible from your open source work. There are many surprises ahead of you in creating and releasing a product on a mobile platform. You don't want extra surprises around your licensing.

I would suggest deciding on a different project for the open source competition. If you can use any open-source license, choose a related project that allows you to develop an underlying library you can use later. License it with something like BSD. That will allow you to make use of your library code later. Be careful though. If you have to use GPL, you may not be able to use that library later on, and you will be better off choosing an unrelated project. Also, if you lose ownership rights to the code, definitely do not submit something you want to build on later.

You can always open-source something at any time. You can't usually undo that.

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I really like this answer... haha too bad I can't vote up because I dont have enough rep... you're right. I think I should focus on this competition first, then build a mobile app for some money, because this is my first attempt at... well, its my first software development project that I've ever even seriously attempted! –  user92356 Nov 2 '12 at 1:53

This is an app you are creating, correct? If so, you can port it to whatever OS you'd like.

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I haven't downvoted the answer, but still note that it is not unusual that the IP belongs to the school (or the competition organizer if the competition is outside the school), not to the student, in which case your answer is incorrect. –  MainMa Nov 1 '12 at 11:40
In college, maybe, but it'd be pretty unusual at the high school level. Guess it depends on who is hosting the competition. imo, any competition that claims the IP for the entries is a scam, not a competition. –  GrandmasterB Nov 1 '12 at 15:14
@GrandmasterB You're right, I highly doubt that Technology Students Association will claim IP for my project, 1) because, like, you said, it's a high school competition, and 2) because it's a nationwide association in which there are many different competitions, not just open source software development. –  user92356 Nov 2 '12 at 1:49
And the reality is, if you are writing a desktop app, to make it a mobile app you'll likely need to do a major re-write, if not a full re-write anyways. So that actual IP of the first project wouldnt necessarily even be used. –  GrandmasterB Nov 2 '12 at 3:45

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