There is a piece of software, free, and open source, under the MIT License.

I make modifications to it, make it better, etc. I distribute this new software, also for free and open source.

But can I revoke from those that use my new version the right to sell? I'm not ever going to sell my modified software; it will always be free and open source. That said, I don't want others to take my source, and scam others by selling it at a price.

1 Answer 1


The MIT license allows relicensing of the material and does not require that it be under the MIT license.

Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions

As described in What "sublicense" actually means? this means that you may incorporate your work and release it under a more restrictive license. In this case, removing the ability to sell copies of the software. That that with a significant grain of IANAL.

However, there's a bit 'gotcha' in this. The right to sell is part of the open source definition (and gnu philosophy).

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

As your modification would restrict a field of endeavor, it wouldn't be open source, nor compatible with other open source products which may lead to other difficulties.

But yes, you may relicense it anyway you want. The MIT is not a viral license and you can even take the entire project closed source if you so desire. But remember, that removing the right to sell is no longer free and open source. Your code could not be used in a GPL project, nor any other open source project with that restriction.

  • Me being the idiot that I am; how would I relicense my software? Since the MIT license calls for the original copyright notice and this permission notice to be included, would I just add on to this notice with a second license or would I add a separate LICENSE file altogether (or even, if needed, rename this second license to something along the lines of SUBLICENSE) that revokes the permission to sell?
    – 13steinj
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 21:58
  • I'd put the new license at the top of the LICENSE file, ending with a statement to the effect "This software is a derivative work based upon [original software], according to the following license [original license]. IANAL Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 22:30
  • @GlennRanders-Pehrson Actually after some digging, at least with the license that I chose, which is one from creative commons; (since after reading it over, it applies the best as it allows everything in the MIT license, except commercial use) the process is similar to what you mentioned. After I finish things up with my license today I'll add a link to it in a comment that mentions you.
    – 13steinj
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 2:12
  • @13steinj I would point to the Creative Commons FAQ: Can I apply a Creative Commons license to software? - "We recommend against using Creative Commons licenses for software. Instead, we strongly encourage you to use one of the very good software licenses which are already available. We recommend considering licenses made available by the Free Software Foundation or listed as “open source” by the Open Source Initiative." - and also, the CC NC license is not open source.
    – user40980
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 2:39
  • @MichealT in that case, should I just get a lawyer to write up a custom license, or is there already a license that exists that offers everything in the MIT license except for the right to sell. If revoking the right to sell makes it no longer open source, I'm willing to take that risk.
    – 13steinj
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 18:31

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