Does licensing and ownership of software and intellectual property work on a spectrum of extremes and in-between nuances, or is it an "either this or that" decision?
Let me give concrete examples by presenting 3 hypothetical phases in the development of a software company:
You've developed software for a while and you're on to something big, you're creating novel technology or a niche application that could gain traction and wide-spread use. However, you're inexperienced in launching businesses and you don't have financial assets to hire additional workers to help you with various aspects of your endeavor. Is it possible at this point to simply open-source your software to accelerate the development of the product and later on close source it, or some kind of arrangement where you allow others to partake but still retain ownership of the software?
You now lead a modest middle-sized software business. Your intent was never to simply maximize profits, you actually want to share your technology so that others can make use of it, at least parts of your tech. Is it possible here to limit the use of your technology to private actors, educational institutions and non-profits while demanding royalty/license fees from businesses that wish to license your tech for use in their non-profit ventures?
You're ready to let your business be acquired/sold but you're concerned with how the technology that you have built and refined over the years will be misused and that the management and future utilization of it will not be aligned with your mission statement of making this available to non-profits. At this point is it possible to enforce a clause that would prevent the future owner from shutting down and wiping the technology from public use? Or is there a way to ensure that "if company B, that acquired tech X from company A, should itself cease to operate, then tech X must be released into the public domain"?
Basically, the underlying premise of the questions is, if there is such a legal and business-oriented arrangement that maximally empowers a software engineer or creator to publish their product in the open-source space and gain traction (assuming they're lacking financial aid to run their own business out of their own pocket) and avoid being ripped off by larger corporate entities. Furthermore if it is possible to keep a commitment to provide the core technology to the public without having for-profit entities profit off of it, and monetizing parts of the product or perhaps providing a service to remain cash flow positive. As well as, ensuring the tech or value of the product doesn't get squandered should a change of ownership or acquisition occur.