Recently I came across the Non-Profit Open Software License; tl;dr Legal says this about it:

A variant of the Open Software License 3.0, this license requires that the organization using it is a non-profit and that no revenue is generated from sale of the software, support or services.

This seems to refer to clause 17 (a) in the license text, which says:

Licensor represents and declares that it is a not-for-profit organization that derives no revenue whatsoever from the distribution of the Original Work or Derivative Works thereof, or from support or services relating thereto.

What does this mean? Does it mean only not-for-profit organisations can use NPOSL code?

But doesn't this go against the Open Source Definition, which says "No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor"? Why is this license OSI-approved - it is listed on their list of approved licenses?

1 Answer 1


NPOSL is an Open Source license; you've made a common reading error with the license text. It's the licensor, not the licensee, that needs to be a non-profit. In other words, a non-profit could publish code under the NPOSL, but everyone else can use the code.

The NPOSL is a variant of the OSL; the OSL's author explains the license on their website:

There is also a new Non-Profit OSL 3.0, identical to OSL 3.0 except that: Under Non-Profit OSL 3.0, Licensor disclaims certain warranties and limits liability from certain types of damages. Those differences are summarized in § 17 of the Non-Profit OSL 3.0, a section that does not appear in OSL 3.0 or AFL 3.0. Because of § 17(a), only non-profit distributors may use the Non-Profit OSL 3.0 license.


Reduced Risk For Non-Profit Organizations

Some licensors are non-profit organizations that derive no revenue whatsoever from the distribution of the Original Work or Derivative Works, or even from support or services associated with those works. As a simple economic matter, these organizations have no revenue stream and they cannot afford to offer any warranties, even a simple Warranty of Provenance. For those licensors, there is now a Non-Profit OSL 3.0 that doesn't include that warranty and that disclaims liability even for direct damages. The differences between OSL 3.0 and Non-Profit OSL 3.0 are detailed in § 17 of the Non-Profit OSL 3.0 license. Section 17 includes Licensor's representation that it is actually a non-profit organization. Note also that once an Original Work is distributed by a Licensor who cannot make that non-profit representation, the license reverts to OSL 3.0.

tl;dr if you redistribute NPOSL code and you are not a non-profit, the license reverts to OSL (clause 17 (d)). The license is designed to protect non-profits, who by law cannot provide some warranties that the normal OSL requires.

  • 1
    Wow! Great self-answer! I don't want to admit myself, but I think I reread your question at least three times before I figured out what was happening. Good catch! :D
    – Zizouz212
    Jul 26, 2017 at 5:59
  • 2
    So the NPOSL actually imposes a disjunctive branch in terms of what license you may redistribute the work under, based on field of endeavor, but the resolution of both of those branches fulfill OSD requirements.
    – apsillers
    Jul 26, 2017 at 14:07

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