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Most, if not all, open source software licenses allow others to obtain a copy of the source code, edit, and redistribute both source and built versions of the software, edited or not. Also, more often than not, that includes commercial redistribution.

My question is: is there anything legally preventing someone, besides the original author, from simply taking the software and selling it as-is? or is it only disparaged by the fact that a free copy is available elsewhere? I just want to allow others to freely use and edit my software, even if it's for commercial use, but I don't want others selling exactly what I made.

Obviously there are other licenses like CC-NC and it's variants, but those generally are not used for software, and aren't open source due to the restrictions they place.

For example, if I wrote an open source Android game under the MIT license and some studio decides to put the game on the Play Store, without modification or my permission, and manage to sell thousands of copies, could I challenge them in court via some clause in the license I used or copyright law in general, and win?

closed as off-topic by JeffO, user40980, user22815, gnat, GlenH7 Aug 14 '15 at 22:25

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  • There's a conflict between "allow commercial use" and "don't sell as-is". It is hard to define "as-is" in a satisfactory way: It can't simply mean bit-identical because it is easy to change some really minor aspect without meeting your intent, but to define "sufficently substantial" changes in a way that will hold up in court will at least require consultation with a lawyer, if possible at all. – user7043 Aug 13 '15 at 7:54
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is seeking legal advice. – JeffO Aug 13 '15 at 10:04
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For example, if I wrote an open source Android game under the MIT license and some studio decides to put the game on the Play Store, without modification or my permission, and manage to sell thousands of copies, could I challenge them in court via some clause in the license I used or copyright law in general, and win?

No, you could not. By licensing it to them under the MIT license, you explicitly gave them permission to do this.

However, they are unlikely to be very successful with this, because you (and anyone else) could also put up the game for free. The free version(s) would compete with their identical paid version(s). Consumers have little reason to pay for something when they can also get it for free.

I just want to allow others to freely use and edit my software, even if it's for commercial use, but I don't want others selling exactly what I made.

Then you should not use an open source license, because selling for profit is one of the essential freedoms any open source license guarantees.

When you ask a lawyer to draft your license conditions (always let a lawyer write legal documents - laymen are not qualified for this), the question you need to answer is where exactly you draw the line how much someone needs to edit to be allowed to sell it. You don't want me to sell exactly what you did? So I change a single byte and now I can sell it? Do you want to decide on a case-by-case basis if a modification is different enough? Then you should not have a public license but instead negotiate a contract with every licensee individually.

Also, why exactly are you against people selling your unchanged work? You give it away for free, so you have no financial losses at all when someone decides to give someone money for a copy. So why exactly does this thought leave a bad aftertaste for you? Answering this question for yourself will also hold the key to what to tell your lawyer to write into your license conditions.

  • You could always use the GPL as a poor mans non-commercial license. – kat0r Aug 13 '15 at 9:14
  • No, you can't. The GPL also allows commercial distribution. It even allows charging a (reasonable) additional fee for the source code. Every Open Source License, and every Free Software License allows commercial distribution, because that is part of the freedoms granted by the Free Software Definition and Open Source Definition. – Jörg W Mittag Aug 13 '15 at 9:29
  • Maybe you could add to your answer a sentence explaining how creating your own (necessarily, because of the restriction against commercial re-distribution) non-open-source license might actually work against the OP's goal of "I just want to allow others to freely use and edit my software", by making it impossible to use other open-source (or at least GPL) components to do so. – Jörg W Mittag Aug 13 '15 at 9:34
  • @kat0r Xchat is an example of GPLed software sold for money. Since the source code must be made available on request it is basically the effort of compiling and packaging the software which incurs the charge. – user4495048 Aug 13 '15 at 9:57
  • @JörgWMittag most people/companies are not going to open-source their product in order to use a GPL lib. Yes, technically you can use GPL in commercial applications, in reality it will/does not happen very often. – kat0r Aug 13 '15 at 10:47

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