A dual license system for code libraries?

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Sun Feb 26 16:17:58 UTC 2017

On Sunday 26. February 2017 08.01.00 Agner Fog wrote:
> If we don't make a way for private companies to pay for GPL software
> libraries then we are forcing them to develop a proprietary alternative
> to the library. This would not be good for the promotion of open software.

We are not forcing them to do anything. And I believe that RMS made a few 
reasonable points on the broader topic in the following essay:


Stallman even mentions Trolltech, who were a pertinent example of how you 
could have a model where proprietary software vendors pay for permission to 
use what would otherwise be Free Software in those vendors' own proprietary 
software. As far as I remember, those vendors lost any privileges they might 
have had to modify the software under the Free Software terms accepted by 
everyone else. (Even if they didn't, they weren't getting something they could 
do absolutely anything with, as if they had bought permission to completely 
ignore the normal licensing.)

This could be tolerated because the company selling the licences held the 
copyright exclusively and because most of the developers worked for the 
company. Bring in other people and you *do* start to have the issue of what 
their contributions are worth. (You can say that those people can commit to 
not getting paid themselves because the money would go to a non-profit or a 
"good cause", but those people may still have an opinion about whether the 
pricing is appropriate or not and whether the actual recipients of the money 
are getting paid enough.)


> Allow me to repeat my initial idea:
> > I have also thought about a scheme that requires no administration.
> > You would get a commercial license automatically by donating a certain
> > amount of money to some non-profit organization and posting proof of
> > payment to some repository. Would that work?

I imagine that many people contributing to a copyleft-licensed project would 
not be too happy with this, if the licensing itself were one of the factors 
that motivated them to choose that project to contribute to, instead of 
choosing to contribute to a permissively-licensed project of a similar nature 

I wouldn't be happy about it at all. It would be like someone being able to 
claim that the rules don't apply to them because they have money. That the 
little people who choose the terms of their contributions and who ask that 
those terms be respected can simply be "bought". I know that this is how 
things tend to go on in the wider world, but I don't see why Free Software 
developers should choose to encourage it.

I suggest that you read (or familiarise yourself again with) discussions about 
contributor licensing agreements and what people don't tend to like about 


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