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In a project that I am working on, I would like to use the GNU GPL software license, but I also don't want to have any possible problems distributing my software.

For instance, there were some reports that GNU GPL apps were removed from the Apple App Store because the GNU GPL is not consistent with their terms of distribution.

In order to preempt such a possibility, I am planning to dual-license my code under two licenses

  • GNU GPL v2, or later at your discretion
  • CC-BY-ND 4.0

The thought process is, if some platform decides "for some obscure legal reason, GPL software is not allowed", I can say "fine, I will distribute this release of the code to you under CC-BY-ND".

But this also doesn't weaken my commitment to free-software, because if someone wants to fork the project, they have to use either GNU GPL, or retain the dual licensing. If they retain only CC-BY-ND, then they can no longer make modifications.

Does this make sense? Will this work the way I think it does? Is there a simpler or better way? Note that if this "works", then I would prefer it to using MIT / BSD license.

Do any other projects pursue a similar strategy? I don't know of one, and I'm not a lawyer.


Clarification based on comment discussion below

So, it's quite possible that I misunderstand what the issue was with Apple and GPL. But I thought the issue was that, Apple imposes terms like "When you buy the app, you can only install it on one device", and this is considered to run afoul of GPL which says "No downstream restriction". IIUC, GPL software can be sold -- they can decide to sell or not sell, and then they distribute or they don't. But when they decide to distribute, they can't put further restrictions on use of the software. IIUC, CC-BY-ND allows any downstream restrictions, its just no one can make modifications.

Basically what I think that I want is, an escape hatch that allows people to impose downstream restrictions when they distribute, provided they give up the right to make further modifications. Since I think that's basically still consistent with free software. It's possible that I shouldn't want that, I don't really know. But that's what makes sense to me at the moment.

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Creative Commons does not recommend applying their licenses to software. You seem like you might know this already, but it's worth linking again.

if some platform decides "for some obscure legal reason, GPL software is not allowed"

What makes you worry about the GPL specifically? What is there to say that the platform will say "CC-BY-ND is not allowed", or the same for any other license you might choose? Really, this doesn't make much sense. It's fine if you want to dual-license the work, but your reasoning behind it seems too obscure.

Are you yourself planning to sell the application on the app store? VLC's solution was to license the iOS version under the Mozilla Public License. The MPL has a weaker copyleft than the GPL's but draws a clear boundary for it at the source code file.

Edit based on OP's comment below

Instead of dual licensing, you could add it as an additional permission under GPLv3 section 7. In your copyright notice file, say:

Copyright (C) 2016 Chris Beck

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

Additional permission under section 7:

You may sublicense the work and impose further restrictions on recipients' rights granted herein provided that you not modify the work.

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    So, it's quite possible that I misunderstand what the issue was with Apple and GPL. But I thought the issue was that, Apple imposes terms like "When you buy the app, you can only install it on one device", and this is considered to run afoul of GPL which says "No downstream restriction". IIUC, GPL software can be sold -- they can decide to sell or not sell, and then they distribute or they don't. But when they decide to distribute, they can't put further restrictions on use of the software. IIUC, CC-BY-ND allows any downstream restrictions, its just no one can make modifications. – Chris Beck Aug 3 '16 at 22:30
  • I will try to find some kind of reference or link, I don't remember what it was that I read about the Apple vs GPL issue... probably you understand it better than me anyways though. – Chris Beck Aug 3 '16 at 22:30
  • Basically what I think that I want is, an escape hatch that allows people to impose downstream restrictions when they distribute, provided they give up the right to make further modifications. Since I think that's basically still consistent with free software. It's possible that I shouldn't want that, I don't really know. But that's what makes sense to me at the moment. – Chris Beck Aug 3 '16 at 22:32
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    @ChrisBeck Thanks for the clarification of your third comment. I think you could do this as an additional permission under GPLv3 section 7. In your copyright notice, you can say: "This program is licensed under the GPL version 3. Additional permission under section 7: you may sublicense the work and impose further restrictions on recipients' rights granted herein provided that you not modify the work." – EMBLEM Aug 3 '16 at 23:51
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    And, the unmodified version can itself refer to the location of the original GPL version, so users downstream can find out about it in case they want to pick up the source and play with it themselves. This actually seems like a reasonable compromise for this case. – MAP Aug 4 '16 at 2:15

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