A dual license system for code libraries?

Agner Fog agner at agner.org
Mon Feb 27 13:40:50 UTC 2017

On 27-02-2017 11:06, Mirko Boehm (FSFE) wrote:
>   * You will need permission/license from the other contributors to
>     sell proprietary licenses.
>   * You need a scheme that fairly distributes the licensing revenue so
>     that it motivates people to contribute. You could pay out shares
>     of the revenue to them, or you could make it a public service
>     effort by donating a share or all of the proceeds to a
>     organisation with aims that benefit the general public, for
>     example FSFE.
> A Contributor License Agreement (CLA) can be used to set up such a 
> model. Usually, FSFE would not recommend using CLAs that enable 
> proprietary licensing. However in your situation this is already the 
> case, so in my understanding it would make your software more free 
> (because others can contribute to it). Please be aware that this is 
> not an official FSFE position.
My initial idea was that proprietary users would automatically get a 
license by donating a certain amount of money to some organization that 
supports free software, such as FSF. But I understand from this 
discussion thread that the policy of FSF or FSFE does not allow such a 
scheme. So I guess this will not work. I don't want to put in a random 
charity organization because the contributors might have different 
opinions about which organization to support.

So I guess the only solution is to use a more permissive license and let 
proprietary software vendors use the library for free. Right now they 
are actually paying, but this becomes too complicated if there is more 
than one contributor to the software library.

I could still encourage commercial users to donate money to FSF or some 
other organization, but I am not sure whether a voluntary scheme would 
work. The commercial users want an invoice and a piece of paper that 
says "license". Some even require that I register into their database of 
suppliers. Donation to charity doesn't fit into their administrative 
routines, I guess. Or maybe they can put it on their PR budget or their 
"Corporate Social Responsibility" budget?

Do you think the FSF will endorse such a scheme? (I can't get access to 
their mailing list even though I am a member).
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