I have created a new media/format of presenting video, but is not a 'technology' but a concept, a design system. I want to release the idea for free for anyone to develop, use etc. What kind of license should I use?

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    Any open-source license qualifies for that. The question is in the follow-up question: what do you want to require of the adoptions and development based on it? Shall it also have to be free-for-everyone or can it be proprietary and closed-source? Oct 4, 2021 at 9:15
  • @planetmaker OK, so something like creative commons share-alike, in which the other entity must create something open/free etc. too - yes I want that. But I don't know anything about licenses. What should I use? Oct 4, 2021 at 9:24
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    What form does your idea have? Is it something like a whitepaper that describes how the idea could be realized, or do you already have a concrete realization in the form of a code library that others can use (or build upon)? Oct 4, 2021 at 13:16
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    @planetmaker, the CC licenses are designed more for writings (e.g. a novel or a textbook) or other more stand-alone works (images and such), not so much for code. The closest thing to CC-SA would be one of the GPL family of licenses for your intended use. Read and understand David A. Wheeler's advise (he has written extensively on the matter). And think through what you'd do with contributions, do you want them to belong to their authors or some sort of central authority.
    – vonbrand
    Oct 4, 2021 at 16:55
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    First we would need to look at if what you have is even eligible for copyright. Ideas and methods of doing things are generally not copyrightable, so copyright-based licenses don't apply (they might in some cases be patentable, though). However, copyright applies to a text or graphic which describes those ideas and methods. Assuming that you indeed have something where copyright applies, we would then need to know what your intention is. For example, do you want strong or weak copyleft?
    – Philipp
    Oct 5, 2021 at 9:01

1 Answer 1


When it comes to copyright, your specification and the code that implements it are two completely unrelated things. This means that whatever copyright license you choose for your specification, it has no effect on the license an implementer can use for their code.

If you want to enforce an open-source implementation of your specification, then you must look to contract law (and probably a very strict closed-source license on your specification to prevent further distribution).

On the other hand, if you want others to freely build upon your specification and you are not really bothered if someone creates a closed-source implementation, then you could choose an open-source license for your specification. For example one from the Creative Commons family.

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