A dual license system for code libraries?

Agner Fog agner at agner.org
Sat Feb 25 17:45:14 UTC 2017

On 25-02-2017 14:44, Paul Boddie wrote:

> ...this is almost like asking for business advice
Don't get me wrong. It is not my goal to make money. My goal is to make 
free software libraries.

> You have to remember that Free Software is all about end-user 
> empowerment. If
> a user gets a binary that gives them none of the privileges of Free 
> Software
> then it doesn't matter in practice what went into making that 
> software: they
> are being denied the ability to participate in controlling what that 
> software
> - the actual thing they obtained, not part of it - actually is or does.
> Where a scheme advocates putting proprietary software in front of 
> users, it is
> not going to get the support of the FSF, because even the LGPL is 
> effectively
> a barely palatable concession to the idea that Free Software might be 
> used in
> proprietary software under certain circumstances. I don't think you 
> should
> expect the FSFE to take a different position.
That's the nature of a software library. It can be used in many 
different contexts - free as well as proprietary.
If a company wants to make a piece of proprietary software for a 
specific purpose then they will do so no matter what. If they can't use 
my GPL library they will find another way. It is not realistic that we 
can coerce them to make their software free if their business is to sell 
software. But we can make them contribute to funding free software if 
this is cheaper for them than making their own library from scratch. My 
project doesn't need any funding, so the money can go to some other free 
software projects (which might ultimately outcompete some proprietary 

The dual license system for software libraries that I am proposing will 
serve two purposes:
1. It gives open source projects that use the library an advantage over 
proprietary projects using the same library.
2. It generates a revenue that may be used for funding other free 
software projects.

If a library uses GPL only, it will make an incentive for somebody else 
to make a proprietary alternative to the library (which will possibly be 
so similar to the free code that we would have a nasty battle over 
possible copyright violation).

If we use a more permissive license (Apache or BSD) then we will allow 
proprietary code makers to free ride and make money on our open source 
work without contributing anything in return.

> I think that more attention should be given to funding mechanisms for 
> Free
> Software.
This is indeed what I am proposing. The problem is that we need an 
organization to handle the money.

I think this is an unresolved issue in the open source movement. How do 
we deal with software libraries and other pieces of code that can be 
reused in proprietary software (and is so valuable that private 
companies will pay for it).
> For what it's worth, you could look at what existing businesses have 
> done in
> this area already. There have been several companies that have offered 
> dual-
> licensing schemes, and some of them may even have offered something 
> resembling
> what you are trying to achieve.
But I don't want to make a company - I just want to make code

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