I am writing some software that (for once - usually I open source stuff on sourceforge/github/etc.) I plan on selling. To each source file, I want to attach a proprietary software license that doesn't allow anyone to use, modify, derive, etc. the software (and source code) without my express permission.

I have been looking at the Microsoft Reference Source Licensing and would be happy to use that, however I'm not sure if I can (legally).

So I ask: in the same way that there are well-known an regarded open source software licenses (ASL, GNU, etc.), are there well-know proprietary licenses that are "open" in the sense that I could use them to protect my product? Thanks in advance!

  • 1
    If for some reason you want people to be able to see the code but not anything else, you don't need a license. The standard copyright (all rights reserved) protects the work from distribution or derivation by others. This is sometimes called source available - not Open Source. You could use a license if you wanted to make this explicit; see Microsoft's Ms-RSL for an example. – congusbongus Sep 13 '13 at 2:34

No, there are none that are particularly well regarded, mostly because there aren't very many at all.

Companies that don't free their products are usually VERY wary of letting ANYONE see the source under any circumstances. When they do, they usually want a pile of legal paperwork.

I do have to ask what you hope to accomplish by using such a license. I can envision very few circumstances where anyone who buys your software is going to care about the source code to a product they aren't allowed to modify.

If I were going to sell a product, then I'd simply keep the source to myself. If someone has a really good reason and need, you can negotiate a look at the source on an individual basis.

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  • Good point - I guess I was thinking about it the wrong way. Thanks for the solid advice! – herpylderp Sep 13 '13 at 1:51
  • A case for non-free source release is letting the customer to compile it themselves. So you do not need to provide binary packages for a dozen different Unix and Linux variants. This approach is often combined with source obfuscator, I think. – hyde Sep 13 '13 at 6:23
  • @hyde - that's how I've seen it done. Gimpel software does it that way for their FlexeLint product. – Michael Kohne Sep 13 '13 at 12:09

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