I'm rewriting my entire GPLv3 project in a different language to sidestep angry contributors that don't want me to make money on their contributions.

What I want for my project is:

  • people can use it and contribute like GPL,
  • if you want to embed it in some proprietary solution, you pay.

Basically it's an enforced donation to the project for whom intend to make money.

  1. Is there a standardised license that fits my use case?
  2. If not, is there an existing project you know of I can use as a template?
  • You would still need the permission of your angry contributors to change to a dual license. Jun 10 '17 at 11:50
  • I don't think so, they don't own the concepts, but just the implementation. Right?
    – sscarduzio
    Jun 10 '17 at 13:22
  • 2
    But if you translated some code, that would be a "derivative work" and the contributors of the original code would have copyright rights to your translated work. Jun 10 '17 at 18:30
  • 3
    Whether A is a derivative of B is (in the U.S.) dependent on 2 factors (1) the author's access to original B and (2) A's similarity to original B. You can try to impose clean-room standards on yourself (i.e., don't look at the code while implementing, only look at requirements) but your familiarity with the code may make it impossible for you to completely diminish the access factor. How "similar" two works are for the similarity factor is subjective but can include non-literal aspects (using someone's fictional character in your new book is infringement, even without literal text copying)
    – apsillers
    Jun 11 '17 at 2:18
  • 1
    That said, your self-description of the new work as "heavily refactored" is encouraging, and may be dissimilar enough to avoid infringement (but a court of law can tell you for sure, if you get sued). The fact that you're using a new language is less important (e.g., translations of natural-language literary works are still derivatives of the original)
    – apsillers
    Jun 11 '17 at 2:21

As there are no "standard commercial" licenses (see also Commercial licence deproliferation attempts), there is also no standard license combination for a OSS+Commercial dual license.

I know of at least one successful project that uses a OSS+Commercial dual license: The Qt project. From their licensing page:

Qt for Application Development is dual-licensed under commercial and open source licenses. The commercial Qt license gives you the full rights to create and distribute software on your own terms without any open source license obligations. With the commercial license you also have access to the official Qt Support and close strategic relationship with The Qt Company to make sure your development goals are met.

Qt for Application Development is also available under GPL and LGPLv3 open source licenses. [...] The Qt open source licensing is ideal for use cases such as open source projects with open source distribution, student/academic purposes, hobby projects, internal research projects without external distribution, or other projects where all (L)GPL obligations can be met.

When using a OSS+Commercial dual license, it is usually best to choose a copyleft license for the OSS side, because that ensures there is no (or less of a) loophole for commercial users to use the product without paying for the commercial license.

  • 2
    Good answer. Note that Qt was not proposed under LGPL before it was bought by Oracle, and thus the incentive to buy the commercial license was even greater.
    – Zimm i48
    Jul 19 '17 at 18:38

To your main question: Any successful “dual license” OSS project I can use as template?

I would argue: There are successful examples, but you shouldn't use them as a template.

The right license(s) and strategy for your project are very specific to your project and community. I strongly encourage you to choose your licenses based on what seems appropriate in your case, rather than which ones have seen success with other projects.

(The SFOSC project I'm involved with for example decided the entire model doesn't align with it's principles)

Take for example MongoDB, which is arguably successful by several metrics.

Currently they dual license with their new SSPL as a copyleft license for which they offer commercial license alternatives as one aspect of their business model. (They also offer MongoDB as-a-service for example)

They created and switched to this license as a direct response to cloud providers making presumably large profits with their software and it sparked heated discussions whether given the new restrictions the license can even be considered a free and open source software license. However it has been part of the apparently required pressure for Google to negotiate a deal but also for Amazon to make another hard fork.

Even if your project is in the exact same boat of this cloud providers vs database vendors clash of the titans, you'll have to ask yourself if you really want to take the same approach as MongoDB or your community has different values and concerns.

Is there a standardised license that fits my use case?

Again, whether it fits your case is something you will need to decide with your community, but...

By definition, for dual-licensing you will want to select at least 2 software licenses. One for the OSS aspect, one as the commercial license you can buy.

Additionally you will need some type of Contributor Agreement and have all contributors sign it. Specifically to make sure all copyrights are held by a single legal entity, which is necessary to be able to change the license without infringing on the copyrights of your contributors.

For the OSS license, there may be fitting candidates among the copyleft or source available licenses.

For CAs you might look at Harmony agreements though I'm convinced there are more options out there.

And as talked about in the previous answer I'm not aware of any templates you can 'just use'.


With respect to your question about whether there is an existing project that permits dual-licensing as GPL and as commercial:

The "gregbook" contribution to libpng is dual-licensed, GPLv2+ and BSD-like. See the LICENSE file in libpng16's contrib/gregbook directory. "License 1" specifically permits commercial applications.

  • Oh that is an interesting application of double licensing. What I meant though is dual OSS+Commercial.
    – sscarduzio
    Jun 10 '17 at 19:00
  • I believe that if you accept it under the BSD-like license you can use it in a commercial app and relicense it commercially, so long as you abide by the requirement to keep the BSD copyright notice intact. The LICENSE says, "Permission is granted to anyone to use this software for any purpose, including commercial applications, and to alter it and redistribute it freely, subject to the following restrictions:..." Jun 10 '17 at 19:25

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