As a owner of an open source project you'd want people to contribute and make it better, right?

But if you then decide to throw on a nice tasty licencing model for people to use the software [Corporate or otherwise], do you get rights to all the income? if so why would people bother contributing? They could be doing all the work while you, the owner, reap all the rewards?

This just seems wrong to me, maybe i'm misunderstanding it.

  • Any examples of that sort of licensing?
    – Andy Hunt
    Sep 5, 2011 at 14:48
  • 2
    Sure, ckeditor.com/license as far as I can tell you have to pay a licence to use this software.
    – Kohan
    Sep 5, 2011 at 14:53
  • @Kohan You should have a look here, I found posts that contradict your views (personally it's not clear at all): stackoverflow.com/questions/6305276/… and stackoverflow.com/questions/5626453/…
    – Shadok
    Sep 5, 2011 at 15:08
  • @Kohan, CKEditor seem to be showing a lack of knowledge of open source licenses. Any commercial entity could use the GPL licensed CKEditor license without releasing source code, instead of paying for their Website or Corporate Websites license. I could understand it if they released their software under AGPL instead of GPL, LGPL and MPL, as that specifically covers using licensed material in the way they imply their GPLed versions can't be used.
    – Mark Booth
    Sep 5, 2011 at 15:19
  • Isn't open source software free to sell without giving any of its developers a royalty?
    – JeffO
    Sep 5, 2011 at 18:50

3 Answers 3


In projects that have dual licensing (like Qt or MySQL) the biggest incentive to contributing is getting changes your own local changes (bug fixes, and so on) accepted into upstream therefore reducing the need to create and maintain local forks.


The open source project you are contributing to may be important to you, as it is.

Let's take the example of Mono which is open source, but licensed to corporation:

Mainsoft, one of the most prolific contributor of the project uses the code for its own .NET to Java compiler. The company clearly don't care than the license owner, relicense their work to corporations. It's a win-win scheme.


This just seems wrong to me, maybe i'm misunderstanding it.

You are. Open Source is in itself a protected term. A project under Open Source license is using a license that has been approved by the OSI – and all those licenses imply, by definition, that the licensed product is free (as in free beer)1). There is no discussion about that.

CKEditor is an instance of double licensing. But their commercial license does not negate the fact that it’s also OSS, which makes it free for you, if you can abide by the remaining terms of that license. If you can’t, your only choice is to pick the non-free commercial usage license.

As a developer, if you contribute to an Open Source project, you are contributing to a free project. Sure, the maintainer may still make money from it, but so what? It’s still free to use and modify for everybody who wants to. As a “service in return”, if you will, the maintainer makes sure that updates are incorporated into the code, pushed to distributors and published.

1) First point of the Open Source Definition

  • I have no issue with it being licensed or even having to pay, I was more interested in knowing what incentive the average coder would have to contribute on a project that is just going to make someone else rich. From what I can gather of the answers... there is none. unless you work for a company that wants their own changes implemented in the main branch.
    – Kohan
    Sep 6, 2011 at 8:05
  • @Kohan As I said: Open Source = free. If you are contributing to Open Source, then you are contributing to a free project. And I’ve never heard of public contributions to closed source (how is this even possible? You don’t have the code, hence you cannot modify it). Sep 6, 2011 at 8:11
  • He is talking about dual licensed software (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-licensing)
    – FigBug
    Sep 10, 2011 at 13:53

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