Is there a Software licenses that force contribution back to the original project only for commercial use (projects that wants to make money out of it)?.

Another way to phrase the question

People can use and fork the project, but only the original can be used commercially so they have to get the changes to be accept in the original in order to sell product with it, they can sell only products with the original code.

I am not sure if it will fail the DesertIslandTest because I am talking about giving back only for commercial use.

Licenses and their characteristics.

Simulator question: users of my projects to give back?.

2 Answers 2


Is there a Software licenses that force contribution back to the original project only for commercial use?

Yes, but it would not be an open source license because this is a clear violation of the "no discrimination against fields of endeavor" clause:

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

By forcing commercial users to do something, you are restricting them from using the program - the desert island test is one of the examples of this, as the smart entrepreneur on the desert island wouldn't be able to modify and sell the software .

  • If you can add to the answer example of Software Licenses that have all the requirement that I have talked about (without open source part) it could be very helpful for the next person that will come across this post.
    – Guy Luz
    Sep 2, 2020 at 16:18
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    @GuyLuz This is a site about open source licenses, if you want a recommendation for a non-open source license you should talk to your lawyers instead. Sep 2, 2020 at 16:19

Your other way to phrase the question isn't equivalent to the first. If you want to force commercial users to not modify your software at all, that's impossible. If you want to force commercial users to make their changes available to the original project, that is possible.

You can do this by dual licensing. Software is open-source as long as it's available under at least one open-source license, even if it's also available under other non-open-source licenses. Choose one license that's copyleft and allows commercial use (like the GPL, or even the AGPL), and another license that disallows commercial use but is otherwise permissive (like CC-BY-NC).

  • 1
    How does your strategy require commercial users of the software under GPL to contribute their changes back to the original project, as the OP desires?
    – MadHatter
    Sep 2, 2020 at 19:30
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    @MadHatter I think the OP's wording is slightly ambiguous. I'm not sure whether they mean "commercial users need to do the legwork of creating a PR and getting it accepted by upstream", or just "commercial users need to make their changes available under a license that allows upstream to do the legwork of pulling the change if they want it". I think this does do the latter, especially since the OP's scenario talks about selling the software and not just using it internally. Sep 2, 2020 at 19:39
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    I don't agree about the ambiguity, but in any case, your plan does neither. The GPL obliges one to give source only to those who receive the binaries, so in the case of a commercial GPL offering, unless the OP actually buys a copy, there's no guarantee (s)he can get access to the changes at all.
    – MadHatter
    Sep 3, 2020 at 5:04
  • @JosephSible-ReinstateMonica The GPL does not say that you must make your changes available to upstream. It only says you need to make them available to people you "convey" your software to. And "conveying" is voluntary. When you convey the modified GPL software to a small circle of people who all agree that the original creator doesn't need to know about these changes, then there is no way for the original creator to force them to give them those changes.
    – Philipp
    Sep 3, 2020 at 11:21
  • @Philipp You're right that it doesn't require that in general, but the OP makes it sound like the software in this case will be publicly sold, so that shouldn't be a big problem in practice in this case. Sep 3, 2020 at 13:44

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