I’m planning to write an open-source OS. So these are the thing I want to include with my license:

  • For non-commercial use, I give users unlimited rights to copy, distribute, edit my OS, but they must credit me.
  • For commercial use, they can only copy, distribute, but not edit, and I will charge for additional cost, such as client access license.
  • For two scenarios, the users mustn’t change the activation process, and these modified works don’t need to be open-source.
  • I will divide it into editions, some are free completely, some others are partial free, as I mentioned above.
    What license should I choose?
    Thanks in advance
  • 1
    Your requirements cannot be satisfied by an OSI-approved Open Source license.
    – ecm
    Apr 6, 2023 at 12:10
  • Open-source in the common definition does not discriminate between the uses of the software. Especially any non-commercial clause leaves that definition. Apr 6, 2023 at 12:13
  • I note your edit, but in such a case, commercial users will take the code (which you say is permitted) and edit out the check for client licences (which you say is permitted), so it becomes completely irrelevant that you're charging for them.
    – MadHatter
    Apr 6, 2023 at 15:03
  • I edited it @MadHatter, do you mind reading it again and giving me some advices?
    – tomsimi
    Apr 6, 2023 at 16:31
  • 2
    I won't be doing that, because you're still asking about non-free licensing scenarios, and those are off-topic for this site. Nothing you can do will change that as long as you wish to distinguish between the rights granted to commercial and non-commercial users.
    – MadHatter
    Apr 6, 2023 at 19:13

1 Answer 1


Open source in the common definition does not discriminate between use cases of the software - so in this sense as asked the question is not about open source in the definition used on this site and as used by the OSI.

However, a common business concept is to distribute the software under the terms of the GPL, thus a strong copy-left: any derivative software must be distributed also under GPL and sources must be made available on any software distributed. You could go even a step further and use the AGPL which imposes the requirement also onto hosting sites where users interact via a network interface with the software. In these cases companies often sell a different license for commercial use which does not impose these restrictions for a fee under their commercial license. Of course they can only do that, if they hold the complete copyright - and that includes contributions from 3rd party should you want to accept any. QT is one of the examples with this business model.

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