This question is partially inspired by How is selling FLOSS packages for monetary compensation a viable strategy?

After reading that question and some of its answers, I was left wondering if there are licenses which allow modification and redistribution of the project on the condition that one does not charge less money for the distribution than you paid yourself. This would circumvent the problems addressed in the above question.

Are there any licenses that allow this and if so for what reasons would these licenses (not) be considered Open Source/Free?

I strongly suspect that these licenses would not be considered Free or Open, but one never knows.

  • How are you distributing an open source project for money? Is it like me paying shipping to get an Ubuntu CD or something else? Jul 22, 2015 at 16:26
  • @Raystafarian yeah, I'd be charging you to transfer the project from me to you.
    – overactor
    Jul 22, 2015 at 17:47
  • @Raystafarian according to the Free-Software definition (and probably the Open-Source definition), any licence holder is free to charge any amount that they wish: e.g. I can charge you for a copy of Ubuntu. Aug 2, 2015 at 19:03
  • How would you enforce it? e.g. I sell you a copy for £1000, then give you a free gift of £999. Or what about the other way around? What about my family. The only way to enforce it that I can think of it by forcing the payment of sales tax. That will not make you popular. Aug 2, 2015 at 19:08
  • You could try CC-BY-NC-*. This prevents anyone else from selling it at all. Its what xkcd uses. Jan 23, 2016 at 23:40

2 Answers 2


Anybody can make pretty much any license they want so yes you could ask a lawyer to write a license like you're describing.

But this would not fit the definition of an open source license. The whole point of open source is to let other people take your work and build on it, and that includes having a different pricing structure to your own.

Sometimes they might take your entire project and take it in a totally different direction, other times they might just fix a couple bugs that you haven't fixed and make it available on GitHub, other times they might include your project as a child work in a larger project, or perhaps they might just grab 5 lines of code you wrote and include it in their own completely unrelated project.

Any restrictions on pricing makes all of those situations nearly impossible. The only "viable" option under your license would be to take your project and sell it under a different name, but that's extremely rare. Why would anybody do that when it's so much easier to just contribute to the project you're running instead?

  • You make good points, but not all are valid. People could easily modify the code and distribute that. The limitation could be that no derived works can be redistributed for less than I sold it to them.
    – overactor
    Jul 22, 2015 at 17:49
  • @overactor that means if somebody redistributes the code to somebody who did not purchase it off you, and then somebody grabs that code, the third person wouldn't be bound by your terms. Jul 22, 2015 at 20:26
  • Unless the license has a sharealike clause.
    – overactor
    Jul 22, 2015 at 20:53
  • @overactor for a license to be open source "The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software". Your license would violate that. opensource.org/osd Jul 22, 2015 at 21:07
  • @overactor there is a reason why this is the first requirement for a license to be open source. It is critical for the success of any truly "open" project. Jul 22, 2015 at 21:08

Are there any licenses that allow me this [to forbid distributing my open source project for less money than I do]?

No, no such license exists (AFAIK).

As pointed out by Abhi Beckert, there is nothing to stop you from hiring a lawyer to write such a license for you. To be effective, the price-clause in this custom license must disallow all distribution models that undercut you on price.

This custom license could have a CopyLeft-clause to pass the price-restriction on to further downstream derivatives.

if so for what reasons would these licenses (not) be considered Open Source/Free?

Provided you mean Open Source as defined by the OSI such a license would violate this clause:

The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources.

I.e. if your custom license would disallow creating an aggregate software distribution with your project and some other program (e.g. "Hello World"), unless that distribution is sold at or above a specific price point, then the license would not be an Open Source-license as defined by the OSI.

Provided you mean Free as defined by the FSF such a license would violate the freedom to distribute.

Freedom to distribute (freedoms 2 and 3) means you are free to redistribute copies, either with or without modifications, either gratis or charging a fee for distribution, to anyone anywhere.

So according to the FSF, any license clause that disallows distribution of copies unless that distribution is sold at or above a specific price point will not be a Free Software-license as defined by the FSF.

TL;DR: Yes, you can create a custom license that does this, but it would not qualify as Open Source under the OSI defintion, nor as Free Software under the FSF definition.

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