I want to distribute my software under license like Creative Commons Attribution - Non commercial - Share Alike license, i.e.

  • Redistribution of source code and binaries is freely.
  • Modified version of program have to be distributed under the same license. Attribution to original project should be supplied to.
  • Restrict any kind of commercial usage.

However CC does not recommend to use their licenses for software. Is there this kind of software license I could apply? Better if public license, but as far as I know US laws says that only EULA could restrict usage of received copy?

  • 3
    What do you exactly mean by non commercial? This is exactly the reason why CC shouldn't be used for software. I think that your best bet is to go with GPL 3, or AGPL 3. Sep 25, 2011 at 18:04
  • I think even CC doesn't really like the NC part. It's a big question what might be considered "commercial"
    – johannes
    Sep 25, 2011 at 18:13
  • 2
    A license can't restrict use. If you look at all the exclusive rights in 17 USC 106 you'll see that none of them have anything to do with use. This is why licenses (like the GPL) restrict distribution and modification, not use. Sep 25, 2011 at 21:13
  • @David: Wait, so how do EULAs work with "For educational purposes only", "Not for business/commercial use", "For evaluation purposes only" etc?
    – SF.
    Sep 26, 2011 at 7:37
  • 4
    @SF: EULAs are agreements (contracts), not licenses (offers). He was asking about a license -- and he couldn't use an agreement, since one of his requirements is free redistribution. (If you have to agree to something to receive/use it, it's not free.) Sep 26, 2011 at 15:59

3 Answers 3


Your requirements restrict the use of the software, so at least by the definition of open source from the OSI (definition of open source), it is therefore not open source, so you will find no help in open source licenses. So forget AGPL, GPL, BSD, Apache, MIT, etc.

I also looked at the Aladdin license as suggested by @thiton. This does not restrict commercial use, only sale (just as @thiton pointed out). If that is not strong enough, you may want to start with the wording from, say, MIT license and add you restrictions (but don't call it the MIT license of course, and don't call it open source).

Like crypto, licensing is hard, and rolling your own is tricky. The world doesn't like more licenses (they add friction), and is part of why OSI exists - to catalog and promote existing "good" licenses for open source so people don't roll their own. Hope it works out.


The Aladdin free public license (AFPL) is a typical license prohibiting reselling your code (but using it in-house in a commercial enterprise is allowed). Use with care, though, because of the legal caveats the comments have mentioned, and because most distributions will (for good reason) never include a program licensed under the AFPL.

  • Thanks a lot for this info, I don't care if distros won't include my program at he moment, but pity if it has legal problems.
    – Nick
    Oct 3, 2011 at 19:12

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm quite certain that the legal wording of CC isn't suited to software; there are many suitable open source software licenses.

Liberal licenses include ("liberal" here means both open and closed source products can be derived and commercialized) :

  1. MIT License
  2. BSD License
  3. Apache License

Reciprocal licenses include ("reciprocal" here means only open source products can be derived and commercialized):

  1. General Public License (GPL)
  2. Lesser General Public License (LGPL)
  3. Mozilla Public License (MPL)

For your needs, GPL is the best match: free use and redistribution of sources and binaries, reciprocation of any changes released, and derived products must be released under the same license.

Note that even with GPL, commercialization is still possible, albeit with a strong imposition of open source. If you don't want any commercialization, you may have to draft your own license.

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