How to license closed source free-ware application for distribution to the public?


I have created a small application/tool, and I would like to release it to the public under those conditions:

  • It is free. (donations are welcome)
  • It is closed source.
  • In the future, I might create a different version with extra options and charge a small fee for it. (this might not be relevant to this question, just adding all information)
The closest I found was this: - Which is perfect for what I want, but it is not recommended to be used in applications or source code.

How should I license my software ?

Software License Application Donations Software Licensing

asked Mar 11 '13 at 10:51
113 points
  • Are you releasing the end result (compiled) software or the source code? – Michaelkay 10 years ago
  • @Michaelkay I am not releasing the source, only the compiled .exe – Sharp12345 10 years ago

4 Answers


Since it's closed source most typical product companies don't release any specific licensing details with their software. There may be some terms of service, or something like that but if it's closed source the default is that people have no right to re-purpose it or sell it, or try to modify it. Just because you release it for $0 versus $250 makes no difference. It's your copyright, you created it, you invented it. The default would not give anyone else any right to do anything with it other then use it as you have outlined. I don't think most of the licensing you find online is going to be tailored to a commercial situation like this.

answered Mar 11 '13 at 11:43
Ryan Doom
5,472 points
  • **(I'm not a lawyer.)** This is misleading. Most software, including proprietary software (whether proprietary freeware, or payware) ships with some *extensive* agreement. A EULA is rarely just a copyright *statement*; it's usually a *contract*, so many restrictions, to be enforceable, likely must be spelled out explicitly. For better or for worse, most proprietary software (including proprietary freeware) comes with restrictions that go far beyond merely asserting copyright. Most EULAs attempt to prohibit users from reverse engineering the software. And a warranty disclaimer is important too! – Eliah Kagan 10 years ago


There are hundreds of thousands of freeware programs out on the internet with exactly the same restrictions as you propose. Just pick a topic and do a Google search for "freeware XYZ". Download a few of them and look at their licenses.

Make sure you include a license with every copy you distribute. If you simply says it's free you might find out at a later date that someone is doing something with your package that you don't like, and you essentially gave them permission to do so.

answered Mar 12 '13 at 07:44
Gary E
12,510 points
  • Isn't "no license" the most restricted "license" out there? As in all rights and permissions are reserved to the creator only? – Snake Doc 10 years ago


The CC 3.0 is indeed not good for code. You're better off using a simple software license. The fact that the application is free is irrelevant. I think this annotated sample is a good starting point, but there are others. If it looks overly complicated for your app you could probably get away with some basic terms of service. I'm a strong supporter of "smart copying" of terms of service. Go take a peak at your biggest competitor's TOS and write yours, adding some language like "the product is now free, but can't guarantee it will stay free forever". If you start getting traction, definitely hire a lawyer to review your terms.

answered Mar 13 '13 at 05:11
829 points


This is not a free application, it is freeware. And, if you plan to offer a paid version later, then it is more akin to Shareware.

Since those terms are from the age of dinosaurs, it's easier to see your application as commercial software which base price is $0. Treat it as any other commercial piece of software.

answered Mar 15 '13 at 22:26
Leonardo Herrera
216 points

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