License for open-source project that I'd like to earn money from


I had an idea some time ago for a website. After much coding and banging out the idea, I've got it to a decent stage.

If I were someone else, potentially a more commercially-minded person, I might want to sell it, or slather it with advertisements. However, I've fallen somewhat in love with open-source, and I'd like to host the project on GitHub and give it a nice open-source license.

However, the project seems to be getting better all the time and, in fact, I think that it'll quickly grow to be fairly popular. So I'd like to put a small text ad on it that benefits charity.

However, this means that someone might just come along and set up a clone of it with no charity-benefiting ads - and, of course, the clone might eclipse the main website in popularity. Thus, I'd like to give it a special license.

I've determined my requirements for a license:

  • The license must let people contribute code to it via GitHub
  • People have to be able to view the source code
  • Someone should be allowed to clone it and redistribute it, but only if I grant specific permission (I'd most likely do so for a benevolent cause - example: someone smuggling in copies of the software into Syria, someone giving it away to the poor)
  • People may download it from GitHub but only for use among themselves (no setting up a website with all paid features enabled for free without my consent, no removing advertisements w/o my consent, etc.)
    {summary: I don't want to make the developers grumpy or give nothing to charity}

Does anyone know of a license that would enable me to do most, or all, of the things mentioned above?

[edit: Okay, I've decided to go the completely open-source route, with attribution. Thanks to everyone for changing my mind - I seriously doubt the viability of an alternative option. I'll leave this question here in its' current state, but for anyone with the same question: Please reconsider, as I did]

License Ads

asked Aug 18 '12 at 13:09
Owen Versteeg
11 points
  • By having such an odd and restrictive "open source" license you will guarantee that no one will contribute to the project or use it. If someone finds the code useful they will just build their own instead. I'd suggest either changing your terms or just forgetting the open source thing. – Tim J 8 years ago

3 Answers


I'd suggest taking a look at the license differentiator by OSS Watch to get a better feel for the real options you have.

answered Aug 18 '12 at 13:25
Blunders .
899 points
  • Thanks, this is an awesome tool. I've used it to pick a nonrestrictive license - the Attribution Assurance License. – Owen Versteeg 8 years ago


Such a license probably does not exist. It is very straightforward, however, to write your own license (or hire an attorney to do it).

The far bigger problem is enforcing the license. People will ignore your license and do what they want with your code. Unfortunately, most people do not share your ideals. I don't think you can run a successful business on this plan.

answered Aug 19 '12 at 09:21
1,936 points


What I understand is that basically you want to other people to be able to see the code or use it privately, but not commercialize your code on their own.

Unless I am wrong- the fact that you have written the code gives you all these rights anyway - it is called Copyright. To be sure, put a standard copyright statement on it. a License is your public way of letting other people know the rules around use of your code, rather than each one having to call you and get a specific permission from you. Contribute code to it via github? sure. But their contribution would be their copyright, they will be you as far as the new content is concerned.

answered Aug 23 '12 at 06:39
Andrew Zubinski
1 point
  • Awesome, thanks. I guess that I should put a disclaimer at the top of the readme: WARNING: By contributing code to this open-source project, you agree to release your contributions under the X license (for everyone) and the Y license (for those that have written permission to use this code under the Y license). These licenses are described in detail in the license.txt file. – Owen Versteeg 8 years ago

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

License Ads