Edit: This question has been revised into a more specific question here that does not muddy the waters by bringing up the difficulties of supporting scientific software financially. Please see the new question for a clearer explanation of what I'm trying to get at in this question.
I'm a data-scientist in the general field of neuroscience, and, as part of my research, I write a lot of scientific software that is intended to be used and improved by the scientific community. I have traditionally licensed all of this software under the GPL.
Lately, I have been reading a lot about the AGPL, the SSPL, and the various CC licenses. This interest is not idle: I'm aware of at least one company that has considered using my software basically verbatim as part of a commercial web-service and charging other scientists/clinicians for its use.
I don't much like this idea for the usual reasons: I've developed the software in the spirit of advancing public science understanding and making the scientific process more transparent; if a company wants to use my software in a manner not aligned with these goals, I want some of the money they make to go back to the scientific community, which altruistically funded and supported the software's development in the first place.
It's worth noting for some context that grants to develop scientific software are rare, difficult to obtain, and generally do not provide very much support. Nor does scientific software development usually provide a path toward supporting one's own research with the software due to the open nature of science. (And, for the most part, we don't want other scientists or hobby-scientists to pay for our software or even for our help using it.) In short, our model is very different than that of MongoDB or other commercial software companies that tend to embrace open-source.
In addition, I think there is at least one concern not addressed by the GPL that is specific to scientific software: If company that modifies my software then provides it as part of a web-service, other scientists cannot guarantee that the company has not broken a scientifically-critical part of my code. The company may be inadvertently providing incorrect scientific conclusions to other clinicians or scientists. If I were to use the AGPL license, the company would at least be forced to make these modifications public so that researchers could determine for themselves if the product they were using was actually equivalent to the software I painstakingly wrote, tested, and published.
All of this leads up to my questions: (1) are there resources that discuss the professional/legal ramifications of these licenses specifically in the context of scientific work? and, (2) given that I don't have funds to have a lawyer write a custom license, how can I ensure that the kind of commercial mis-use I've described above is prohibited? I've spent several days reading discussions about the SSPL and related licenses, but I feel that all of the discussion centers around non-scientific software (and mostly around commercial software) and thus miss the mark. My intuition so far is that the best choice for me would be to license the software under GPLv3 + CC-BY-NC and to offer to license the software under negotiable conditions with anyone interested in commercial use. (Edit: I did a bit more reading and apparently Creative Commons licenses are not (any more?) compatible with GPL licenses. Alternately, it seems that the Commons Clause could do what I want; though I'm aware this is not generally considered open-source.)
Also, for the record:
- I'm looking for general advice as well as specific resources; I do not feel that I've been able to find much discussion of scientific software licenses online.
- I am not concerned with the relationship between the software and publications; I don't need the license to require co-authorship or citations or anything, I just want commercial companies to use/distribute the software in a scientifically responsible way, and, when appropriate, for some of the money made by commercial companies to be returned to the scientific community.
- I'm aware that relicensing my software does not prevent a company from using previous versions of the software that were licensed under the GPL. I don't see this as an issue.
- I'm more worried about the scientific misuse issue than the issue of commercial profit; it seems to me that the AGPL is the least restrictive change to the GPL that solves this.