Suppose I am a developer. I am developing a piece of software. I decide I want to make this code open source. But... I only want developers (or people that will be using the code in other projects) to be able to use it under CC-BY. But people using the code for general use (not in other projects) I would like to apply an MIT license.

My question:

Based on the CC requirements it says I can't restrict it from anyone. Here I am not restricting anyone from anything. I am just applying different rules. Am I allowed to do this?

  • 2
    What's the difference between "in projects" and "general use"? Jul 8, 2015 at 5:03
  • Keep in mind that you can only do this with unanimous agreement by everyone who is a copyright holder. Which means if you want to accept contributions from other people, you need all of them to give you permission in writing to release the work under the other license (or alternatively get them to pass their copyright over to you). Jul 18, 2015 at 9:19
  • A key point you're missing is that the CC restrictions apply to people who use your code. They do not apply to you as the copyright holder. You as th copyright holder are allowed to do anything you want and can completely ignore any restrictions in the license. Jul 18, 2015 at 9:21

3 Answers 3


The Creative Commons family of licenses are not "Open Source Licenses" and Creative Commons "recommends free and open source software licenses for software" like those listed by the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Initiative (http://creativecommons.org/software).

Therefore, if you assigned your work a CC-BY license it would not be considered "open source software" and you should not label it as such.

Further the Open Source Definition, and thus OSI Approved Licenses, does not allow discrimination against persons or groups (Criteria No. 5) or discrimination against fields of endeavours (Criteria No. 6).

I think you are looking to Dual-License your software. You can find out more about dual-licensing open source software at oss.watch. You can find out more about open source licenses' restrictions and permissions at TL;DR Legal.

  • 1
    While the CC licenses are not conventionally used for software, saying they are not open source licenses is not in line with how this site is thinking. Please see Meta for some discussions about neutrality. Jul 8, 2015 at 5:06
  • I would refer to Creative Commons on the matter and defer to how they themselves not only interrupt the differences but also the naming conventions they use.
    – massonpj
    Jul 8, 2015 at 11:49
  • Hit return, oops: CC licenses vs open source licenses: "CC recommends & uses free & open source software licenses for software." - bit.ly/1D0vaIU "We recommend considering licenses made available by the Free Software Foundation or listed as 'open source' by the Open Source Initiative." - bit.ly/1HaxcYN "The term 'open content' describes any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like "open source')" David Wiley, CC Fellow, bit.ly/1eFsomt
    – massonpj
    Jul 8, 2015 at 12:05

You can license your intellectual property under different licenses to different people. But when your license follows the definitions of open source and/or free software, the licensees have the right to relicense it under the same terms to other people. So this would not be an effective way to control distribution.

When you want to control distribution, you shouldn't be using an open source license in the first place.

  • 2
    If @treavor-clake released his work under a permissive license, e.g. BSD, derivative works could be sub-licensed. In addition, the works that include the original BSD code could be distributed under another license, including a proprietary license, as long as the original BSD license for the original code was included in that distribution.
    – massonpj
    Jul 8, 2015 at 2:28

Based on the CC requirements it says I can't restrict it from anyone. Here I am not restricting anyone from anything. I am just applying different rules. Am I allowed to do this?

Well, given free speech and all that - you can certainly say that you want different licenses to apply to different groups of people.

But please be aware that nobody needs to honor such additional terms imposed by you. Quoting from the legal code of CC-BY 4.0:

The Licensor shall not be bound by any additional or different terms or conditions communicated by You unless expressly agreed.

I know of no approved (by the FSF or OSI) license that lets you impose any form of discrimination against people or uses.

So, since such additional terms have no legal effect, there is no point in doing this.

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