Suppose I invented a great open source license. I decided I wanted to gain money from it!

my question:

Is there any way I could charge people for using it?

  • If yes, how?
  • If no, why not, and what alternatives do I have?
  • 2
    I think we would all appreciate if people would explain down votes unless obviously clear, especially during these critical stages of site development.
    – Zizouz212
    Jun 28, 2015 at 18:12
  • @Zizouz212 The button tooltips say all a downvote needs to. Jun 30, 2015 at 8:48
  • @curiousdannii Regardless, we want actual information, not random guesses
    – Zizouz212
    Jun 30, 2015 at 11:33
  • @Zizouz212 Then this question is not researched and does not appear very useful. Jun 30, 2015 at 11:34

2 Answers 2


Licenses are documents to which copyright can apply, and the copyright terms of a license itself don't need to have anything to do with its content. So you can "license a license" and prohibit anyone from using your license unless they pay a fee. However, be aware that:

  • Most people won't consider this in accordance to the FLOSS spirit, so you will have a hard time to convince the community that your license is worth it.
  • There already is a large number of open source licenses which cover most common use-cases which are competing with yours and which can be applied for free. And when there isn't one which covers your novel idea, it won't take long until one shows up which expresses the same idea with different words and thus circumvents your copyright (because this is what the FLOSS community does). What could protect you from this is a patent, but I am not sure if contract clauses are patentable.
  • Make sure your licensing model for the license does not prevent the license from being libre. For example, when your license mandates a strong copyleft and at the same time the "license license" mandates that every sub-licensee also buys a "license license" from you, then the work it is applied to is no longer free software.

There is nothing to stop you trying, as Phillip explains. The question is why would someone use your license rather than one of the others.

Or more practically, what could you offer to entice people to use your license?

One possibility is to provide service in return for the use of the license and the license fee. Perhaps you could provide promotion services for such projects, helping with search engine optimization.

Another is to offer assistance in license enforcement for any registered Licensors. The FSF states that it will help enforce the GPL, but only if they own the copyright. You could differentiate your license by not requiring that the copyright be assigned, merely permission from the holder to act on their behalf.

If your license includes implicit guarantees of quality, you could support users of the licensed products by ensuring Licensors meet some agreed standard of 'quality'

You could protect your License (and its use) via the trademark system. The US DoD took this approach with the Ada language to try and ensure that all implementations of the compiler and supporting tools met a high level of compliance to the standard.

As I said, you can do it, but there has to be a significant value to the Licensor and to consumers of the licensed products. And that is likely to lead you into areas of great expense and legal liability.

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