Changing Licensing model for a Software Framework to more permissive


I'm author of the "Agile Toolkit " Framework. Currently it's available under dual license

  • Affero GPL - any use, personal or commercial
  • Permissive license for $130/domain
  • Permissive license for unlimited domains $460/year

(link for licensing terms )

Since I have released it, many users have expressed desire to make personal projects and AGPL license seem to be an obstacle. I don't want to adopt MIT/BSD as it would pretty much any chance for me the get any revenue.

Suggest what license combination to use to keep framework open source and free for personal use, but still require to purchase a license for commercial use.

Also - I know I might need to seek advice from a legal advisor on this, but this is a very low-profit project so I can't afford to spend much.

Software Open Source Licensing Web Dev

asked Oct 24 '11 at 06:15
253 points
  • It would be helpful if you put a link on pages that mention the license terms to the actual Affero license - I couldn't find that anywhere so had to google it, which is a nuisance. In terms of alternative licenses that leave commercial exploitation a possibility, you could look at the RPL ( – Steve Wilkinson 12 years ago

3 Answers


I think you have the best combination of licenses already. Apache/MIT/BSD clearly don't work. Any other GPL license would allow commercial use since I presume people running a website would not be distributing the modified code. The Affero license is the only GPL license that applies even when the code is not distributed.

I don't see why people using your code for personal products are complaining about the Affero license. I would stick with your current course.

answered Oct 24 '11 at 08:17
1,936 points


You're in a tight spot - there is no existing open source license that has the properties you seem to want.

I can see why GPL turns people off - since your code is PHP, GPL license would force people to publish all their PHP backend code as GPL and I can understand why it makes people uncomfortable (as well as requiring more work for them to comply) even if it's for personal project.

On the other hand, as you pointed out, you can't just use MIT or BSD license as it provides no reason for anyone to pay you.

You need a custom license, one that doesn't require people using it for personal projects to publish all of their code but also has enough restrictions so that people using it for business purposes will pay you.

The only idea I have is a license that says: use for personal projects is free (and, unlike GPL, there's no need to open-source your code) but use for commercial projects requires paying you.

I've seen such scheme used by some desktop software. Would it work? I don't know. Clearly, it's a honor-based system as the definition of what is a commercial project is fuzzy and your ability to find out who breaks the rule and enforce the license limited (although the same can be said about GPL license as well).

answered Dec 23 '11 at 14:59
Krzysztof Kowalczyk
1,950 points
  • I have many users do that like you say. Noone is officially open-sourcing anything as of yet. I know people are working on both personal and paid projects and I hear good reviews and they say they will purchase license when they sure that the system works for them. That's OK, because if they don't publish their project, they don't need to publish their code for it even if it's AGPL. GPL is different because you don't need to publish your code except when you distribute your site and with PHP that's the only way anyway. – Romaninsh 12 years ago


How many users is many? You can grant licenses on an individual basis. That might be good enough for you, while providing a very strong legal protection. Just add a link to your site saying, if you need a license for private, limited use, email [email protected].

answered Oct 24 '11 at 07:19
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points
  • I fear this might be preventing the adoption. I'm getting very positive feedback from some of the users, but I fail to see growing market penetration. – Romaninsh 12 years ago

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