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I have some trouble with picking the right license for my works.

I have a few requirements:

  • Not copyleft like the GNU (L)GPL and allows for redistribution under other licenses
  • Allows other people to redistribute your (modified) work but prevents that other people freely make money off my work (they need to ask/buy a commercial license if they want to)
  • Compatible with the GNU (L)GPL
  • Not responsible for any damage caused by my work

Now, I wrote my own little license based on the BSD and CC Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 licenses, but I am not sure if it will hold in court.

Copyright <year> <copyright holder>. All rights reserved.

Redistribution of this work, with or without modification, are permitted
provided that the following conditions are met:

   1. All redistributions must attribute <copyright holder> as the original
      author or licensor of this work (but not in any way that suggests that
      they endorse you or your use of the work).
   2. All redistributions must be for non-commercial purposes and free of charge
      unless specific written permission by <copyright holder> is given.

This work is provided by <copyright holder> "as is" and any express or implied
warranties are disclaimed. <copyright holder> is not liable for any damage
arising in any way out of the use of this work.

Now, you could help me by either:

  • Point me to an existing license which is satisfies my requirements
  • Confirm that my license has no major flaws and most likely would hold in court

Edit: Can you define "compatible with the GNU (L)GPL"?

"compatible with the GNU (L)GPL" means that all code licensed under it is able to be imported in a GNU (L)GPL project, but not (necessarily) vice-versa.

I used the wording "non-commercial" but I mean it should be illegal to ask for money for a (modified) redistribution unless you bought the "commercial" license.

EDIT

So basicly I'm asking something impossible. In order of importance for me:

  1. Not copyleft like the GNU (L)GPL and allows for redistribution under other licenses
  2. Compatible with the GNU (L)GPL
  3. Allows other people to redistribute your (modified) work but prevents that other people freely make money off my work (they need to ask/buy a commercial license if they want to)

The first and second are perfectly compatible, but the last is not compatible with the second, and going open-source is not compatible with the first. RAAH!

This is the new license I'll be using. 10 lines, quick to the point and tight (from a IANAL view).

Copyright <year> <copyright holder>. All rights reserved.

Redistribution of this work, with or without modification, is permitted if
<copyright holder> is attributed as the original author or licensor of
this work, but not in any way that suggests that <copyright holder> endorses
you or your use of the work.

This work is provided by <copyright holder> "as is" and any express or implied
warranties are disclaimed. <copyright holder> is not liable for any damage
arising in any way out of the use of this work.
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5  
Point 2 will definitely make it incompatible with the GPL. –  Wooble Jan 6 '11 at 15:42
    
Why? Is it because of the "written permission" clause? –  nightcracker Jan 6 '11 at 15:44
    
Can you define "compatible with the GNU (L)GPL"? Compatible in which regards? –  Jon Hopkins Jan 6 '11 at 15:59
    
@Wooble I thought the GPL is preventing other people to make money of it because it requires all modifications to be published. Am I wrong? And it may only be included in products which are also open source? –  Marcel Feb 1 '13 at 9:34
    
@Marcel: depends on the commercial use, really. Selling a lot of copies of something might be difficult if you have to include the source, since the people buying the source should be free to redistribute it (although c.f. commercial Linux distributions that seem to do ok), although since the start of the Web you don't even actually need to distribute anything to make money off software (something the AGPL is meant to deal with, but hardly anyone even considers using that license.) –  Wooble Feb 1 '13 at 11:28
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5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The problem is your non-commercial requirement, which means that your license will neither be Open Source (as defined by the Open Source Initiative) nor Free (as defined by the Free Software Foundation). It makes your license incompatible with any version of the GPL, so it is impossible to satisfy all your requirements.

If you want to keep the non-commercial restriction, you could look at the Creative Commons licenses; they aren't recommended for software, but you may find one that does what you want. I know of no repository for non-OS/Free licenses other than that.

If you want some sort of legal assurance on your license, you've got basically two options: use one that has been vetted by somebody's lawyers (typically a real Open Source/Free license), or hire your own. This community contains lots of people with some layman's knowledge of the law (often extensive), but not all that many real lawyers, and a lawyer would be extremely unlikely to provide any sort of professional assurance for free.

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Huh? I thought the GPL disallowed use in commercial apps. "using the Lesser GPL permits use of the library in proprietary programs; using the ordinary GPL for a library makes it available only for free programs." gnu.org/licenses/why-not-lgpl.html –  Mark Jan 6 '11 at 19:35
5  
@Ralph: No, it doesn't disallow use in commercial apps. "Proprietary", in Gnu terms, means that the license isn't Free, and the "Free" is to be understood in the sense of freedom and not zero price. It has nothing to do with commercial vs. non-commercial. It does make some business models unfeasible (like selling large numbers of identical shrinkwrapped copies), but the commercial use of software includes much more than selling copies of applications. Red Hat, for example, makes a thriving business out of Free Software. –  David Thornley Jan 6 '11 at 20:38
    
Confusing. They should have taught me this in uni :p –  Mark Jan 7 '11 at 0:34
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As @Wooble mentions, your 1st/2nd point conflict makes this 'impossible'. I suspect you're perhaps looking for a dual licensing scenario.

I will offer two extra bits of advice:

  • Seek out an IP Lawyer that's familiar with open source licenses to advise you. Whatever we (the community) say comes with the typical IANAL proviso.

  • Don't create you're own license - that truly is a legal minefield, stick with ones that have at least a little bit of case law behind them (failing that, pick one that the big boys all silently agree not to screw each other over on).

  • Seek out an IP Lawyer that's familiar with open source licenses to advise you. Whatever we (the community) say comes with the typical IANAL proviso. See what I did there? :)

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True, but in a dual licensing, you typically open source it with a copy-left license, which gives people an incentive to buy your commercial license. So even with dual licenses the OP can't achieve their goal. –  Scott Whitlock Jan 6 '11 at 16:12
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Your non-commercial use requirement is incompatible with the (L)GPL.

The GPL only allows the addition of a predefined set of additional terms: any other restrictions are disallowed.

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I'm no expert but your licenses demands things are free and non-commercial which isn't a restriction of the GPL so in that sense it wouldn't be compatible with the GPL which very intentionality doesn't make that demand.

In addition, you want people to be able to re-license under other licenses, but presumably you want to retain the not for profit type clause so that's not going to work as either it's licensed under the other license (in which case making money is likely an option) or it's under your license.

It sounds to me like you want an Open Source license that isn't actually that open at all in that you want to restrict for profit use of your work.

Personally I think the first thing you need to do is work out whether you're open or closed as at the moment you're half and half and that's what's causing problems as it's not an easy partnership.

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Reading your requirements I remembered the license of iTextSharp:

http://itextpdf.com/terms-of-use/index.php

Which claims to be a free/open source software (F/OSS) project but that you have to buy a license if you want to use it commercially. I don't know much about this topic so I don't know if it is similar to what you are asking for but I'll throw it out there just in case. :)

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