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gorrillamcd
Hangin' Out

join:2010-04-01
mexico

Question about licensing an open source project

While not specifically Unix related, I thought I'd ask here since a lot of you guys are knowledgeable about the available open source licenses.

I have a web app that I'm developing (source code currently in an alpha state: »github.com/gorrillamcd/Armory ). I'm trying to figure out how to license it. I like the MIT License since it's simple to understand and open. While I don't mind people making derivate works and selling that, I don't want people to sell exact copies of the app. I looked at the GPL as well but it also allows the selling of copies. This line in the MIT license seems to permit both of those scenarios: "including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software"

Is there a way to license an open source project such that duplicates can't be sold? Maybe I'm not understanding something about how licensing works since even the more restrictive GPL allows for this.
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Steve
I know your IP address
Consultant
join:2001-03-10
Foothill Ranch, CA
kudos:5

1 recommendation

Neither license prohibits reselling of your code, but GNU means that they have to feed back changes to the project.

A lot of people find the GNU license appealing, but the best way to give your project hope for a long life is by widespread adoption, and that means an MIT/BSD/Apache type license.

Yes, they can take your code and never give changes back, but in practice if something gets widely used (for whatever reason), it builds up a support system of people experienced with it, and this is the best hope you have for having the project get traction in the marketplace.

Letting go of the "somebody else might make money on my code!" notion is probably the best thing you can do for your project.

Steve
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Stephen J. Friedl | Unix Wizard | Security Consultant | Orange County, California USA | my web site


gorrillamcd
Hangin' Out

join:2010-04-01
mexico
reply to gorrillamcd
I'll have a look at the GNU license. I definitely understand the importance of adoption and fostering a strong community around my app, which is why I wanted it to be as open as possible. My reasoning for wanting to disallow the sale of duplicates (I don't mind gratis distribution) is best explained with the problem VLC was having earlier this year, with copycats charging for the software that's freely available from the actual site.

But, I'm not too stuck on it. If I can't do it like that, there's probably a reason for it. It's always sad to see a good open source project stagnate for one reason or another and I don't won't mine to end up the same, so I'll probably take your advice anyways and license it as originally planned (with one of the more open licenses like MIT).
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Maxo
Your tax dollars at work.
Premium,VIP
join:2002-11-04
Tallahassee, FL
reply to gorrillamcd
When we talk about open and free software, there are some concepts that come in to play. Licenses like the MIT, Apache, GNU, etc. are open and free licenses. That means that access to the source code is guaranteed, and that the ability to use that code however you want is also allowed.
»en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_and_o···software
If you make the source code available, but consumers are not free to do with it what they want, then that is not FOSS software. You will need to look outside of the FOSS community to find a license that fits what you are looking for.

You may also want to think about what you want exactly. How many changes would make a derivative work that is different enough for you to be okay with someone selling? It seems it would be important to know the answer to that question before you license it.
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gorrillamcd
Hangin' Out

join:2010-04-01
mexico
reply to gorrillamcd
said by Maxo :
How many changes would make a derivative work that is different enough for you to be okay with someone selling?
That's right. Defining what "derivative work" means in an exact manner would be difficult, verbose, and error prone.

As for your other comments, technically I see where you're coming from by letting people have completely unlimited access to the source code as being truly FOSS. However, in practice there seems to be some room for variation (GPL has more restrictions than MIT for example).

I don't think it unreasonable to want the app to be available without cost no matter who distributes it, but it doesn't seem practical to license it with that restriction due to the concerns you and Steve brought up.
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I'm an IT technician with a lot to learn, taught by viewers like you!