I am currently planning to launch an alpha version of the software as a representative of an unregistered company. We (currently I'm the only person on the team) do not have any patents and are not planning to apply for it until we are cash-flow positive. Open-source licenses like that of Open Source Foundation and Free Software Foundation typically allow only free softwares which even include commercialization in the clause. (Even Apache and GPL have similar issues) But, we would like to have a complete control over the aspect of commercialization. (While it is a great opportunity to be helping each other and helping fellow students like us make money, we would not like unhealthy businesses spurring up and ultimately ruining the entire market; If that is the case, then they can either build software from scratch or pay us for commercialization. This is the major intention behind non-commercialisation and attribution. The concerns raised in Lady-Ada's website are similar; But, the solutions are unsatisfactory).

We would like to have something like OpenCV’s non-free modules. While Creative Commons license looks like a perfect fit, the (very) website disclaims the use of it for softwares. Some more people may join in the business and we are planning to update our softwares over the next couple of months. Can you let me know if ‘versioning’ is possible and if multiple licenses are necessary and also if it is wiser to use Creative Commons or modify the existing licenses with exceptions (including Creative Commons)? (and why?) If such licence is not available, it is ok for me to use AGPL or RPL provided that they do not interfere with non-commercial terms (it is ok (although not intended) even if people do not publish source code as long as they use it only for non-commercial purposes; We do not like to annoy them with licence terms and would like to promote the non-commercial adoption as the world needs our software).

Additional note: If there are license terms which would allow us to make our software completely free after some time, then that is desirable. (If I make money and gain traction to get into a great university, I wouldn't mind making it free)

[This question is a follow-up of this question; Sorry, but the number of links has been restricted to two. However, the original question has links. Sorry for the inconvenience]

1 Answer 1


If you want to restrict your software to not be used for commercial purposes, it is not open source.

You can release it under multiple licenses - such as the GPL and a commercial license (where a user can choose one or the other, obviously having to pay for the latter) - but it seems from your question that you're not considering the GPL either. The GPL does allow commercial use, but requires software derivative of it to also be licensed in a similar way, so this keeps it free (as in libre), thus preventing it from becoming proprietary. However, it doesn't prevent people from making money from it.

Creative Commons, as you've discovered, is not recommended for software; it was drafted more with art forms in mind (such as photography and sound recordings).

It sounds like what you're really after is a proprietary license that will allow you to control how your software is used. I would recommend having a lawyer with appropriate expertise draft this for you, however you could attempt to create a license online.

Finally to answer your last question, yes you can choose to release your software under a free/open-source license at a later date. You can always license your software as you see fit, at any time. What you can't do is revoke a license from someone that has already received it; but there's nothing stopping you from re-releasing under a new license.


As for why there is no commercial license freely available online: companies go to considerable expense to draft their licenses. These licenses would generally be copyrighted by those companies: what's in it for them if they open up a license to be used by anyone? All they'd be doing is giving their competitors an advantage in not having to do their own legal research.

The only reason we have licenses that are free for us to use is that the open source community has created them in order to benefit the entire open source community. As far as I know, no-one sees any benefit in creating a license at their own expense to be freely used by another party to restrict the use of their software.

  • 1
    Thanks for the excellent suggestions. That is terse and answers to-the-point. If possible, can you consider explaining why there is no licence available online (as such) even when many people are struggling for such a licence or organization which endorses that? May 6, 2016 at 19:18
  • Sure, I've edited the answer :)
    – Tim Malone
    May 7, 2016 at 1:23
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    Just like Prasad says, this is a great answer that definitely deserves additional attention. Keep it up! :D
    – Zizouz212
    Jun 16, 2016 at 22:48
  • Hi @TimMalone thanks for sharing your answer. I have created a similar one at Q5407. The GPL is fine for me as long as running on limited ressources. Is this suitable? Thanks if you may have a look. Tom Apr 22, 2017 at 19:16
  • @TomFreudenberg In general, if you're saying "it's fine as long as....", it's probably not going to be suitable ;) You cannot add restrictions that curtail the user's freedom, because then it's not open source.
    – Tim Malone
    Apr 22, 2017 at 21:26

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