I'm developing a software using a game engine that can cross compile the result for different targets (HTML, Android, IOS). I'm planning to release the software under an open source licence. Eg. modified version of GPL3.

How can I modify the licence in a way to it prohibits use/compilation/publication/distribution on IOS devices or devices made by the Apple company?

I want to prevent that someone grabs my open source licence and uploads it to the Apple store (for free or for charge) or makes it otherwise available to Apple devices.

The reasoning for this requirement is quite complex and shall not be discussed here. But the essential goal is to provide less software and so less customer satisfaction to the customer base of the excluded hardware or OS.

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    I'm voting to close this as off-topic because it is a question about something forbidden in Free and Open Source licenses. Apr 25, 2017 at 7:24
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    This site is about projects published under a license that meets either the Free Software Definition or the Open Source Definition (which are nearly equivalent.) This site is not about freeware or source visible projects which do not meet the FSD or OSD. I understand that you want a source visible license, but the community has decided that is off-topic. But if you ask in Open Source Chat someone might still be able to help you. Apr 25, 2017 at 7:53
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    It may not say it with those exact words, but the sense is definitely there: "Open Source Stack Exchange is a question & answer site about a group of related movements ... These movements have been spearheaded by a group of organisations: FSF, OSI, Creative Commons, Free Culture. These organisations prefer a variety of different terms (free, open source, libre)" If you have further questions about the site scope I suggest you ask on Open Source Meta. Apr 25, 2017 at 8:51
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    I'm sorry you had a bad experience with the fact that our in-development standards (as is typical of a beta site) are not formalized in the FAQ. If you think our site's on-topic scope should shift to include your question, you are welcome to join our community on Meta and suggest this change. Be prepared to explain exactly how you propose to expand the scope of the site (all licensing questions? the license on any computer program that is source-available?) and to defend why you think such a change would make the site better.
    – apsillers
    Apr 25, 2017 at 12:14
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    Apr 25, 2017 at 19:01

2 Answers 2


You can’t. A license that allows this restriction can’t be a FLOSS license.

For example, as far as the use of the software is concerned:

Both definitions also don’t allow such a restriction when distributing the software.

(That doesn’t necessarily mean that others are allowed to distribute your software specifically in Apple’s app store; for possible problems with this platform, see our tag .)

  • Kenyakorn: in addition, you write that you intend to release under a modified GPLv3. Note that the GPLv3 is itself copyrighted, and says at the top "Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed". Certain customizations are permitted under s7, but not yours. If you make other modifications to it, you're in breach of copyright yourself. If you try to add your requirement as an additional licence that applies as well, s7 disclaims it. So not only can you not do what you want, but you shouldn't start with the GPL.
    – MadHatter
    Apr 25, 2017 at 6:37
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    @KenyakornKetsombut Seeing as licenses are filled with legalese it is quite likely that an original license would end up with a lot in common. That's not really a problem. Assuming you have the legal freedom to take and transform anyone else's text is. This is nothing specific to licenses, it applies to every copyrighted text. Now I don't personally agree with the copyright system we have now, but the law is what it is. Maybe you think licenses shouldn't be copyrightable - well petition your politicians to change the laws, but on this site we have to give advice that works within the law. Apr 25, 2017 at 7:33
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    @KenyakornKetsombut: "Surely I can write up an open source licence that prohibits ANY distribution if I wanted to do that.": No, you can’t, if we assume that "open source" refers to OSI’s Open Source Definition, which is the widely accepted meaning (and especially here on this site). It’s misleading to interpret the term "open source" literally without explicitly saying so; a better term would be something like "source code available".
    – unor
    Apr 25, 2017 at 8:10
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    @KenyakornKetsombut: How can it not be misleading if it goes against the widely accepted definition? Search in your favorite search engine, check the Wikipedia articles, look it up in dictionaries -- you’ll likely have a harder time to find the meaning you refer to instead of the OSD meaning. "Open" has a special meaning here (just like in "open standard" etc.) -- You might argue that it would have been better to have chosen a different term back then (I would agree), but trying to change this now by using the same term in a different meaning is not helpful if you want to be understood.
    – unor
    Apr 25, 2017 at 8:23
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    @KenyakornKetsombut: Please read the whole article, namely the section that is relevant here: Definition. You‘ll see that it doesn’t refer to the meaning you refer to. -- (Also: I didn’t "confirm" that the term is misleading, I said that a different term might have been better. From a linguistic perspective, the term is perfectly fine. The word "open", like many words, is ambigious. You can’t just use your preferred meaning of "open" for any term that contains "open".)
    – unor
    Apr 25, 2017 at 8:35

If you just want to exclude App Store distribution, you don't have to modify the license. Just use the GPLv3, because the App Store terms of service are incompatible with the GPLv3. It should not be possible to have your GPLv3 app in the App Store.

Article from the FSF: https://www.fsf.org/blogs/licensing/more-about-the-app-store-gpl-enforcement

Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein.

(Emphasis added.) This last sentence is a crucial part of the strong copyleft in the GPL and AGPL: it prevents distributors from using separate legal agreements, like Terms of Service or NDAs, to take away the freedoms that the license is supposed to grant. This is the license condition that Apple is violating when it distributes GPL-covered software through the App Store.

But there some minor loopholes:

Ad Hoc - Limited to 100 Devices. Devices must be explicitly added to a provision.

Enterprise - No device limit, devices do not need to explicitly added to provisions. In effect, these builds will run on any device; the caveat, you are not legally allowed to distribute these builds to anyone outside your company. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/11301361/ios-app-deployment-without-appstore?noredirect=1&lq=1

Maybe this still fills your needs.

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