I was taking a look at this question here:

Open Source License that prevents re-selling

And it makes some good points on how open source is defined by its ability for resale...

However, I still have a bit of a concern of verbatim resale. I don't mind letting my code be changed, edited, modified, shared, etc... what would strike me as offensive though is if I released my application on a store, and someone decides to take my package/application, make no changes to it whatsoever, and release it in the same store at a competing price.

I would be fine if he say released it under a different translation, or added a feature, some documentation, or packaged it for a different platform... but to copy verbatim to snatch up some royalties, seems like that this would only be detrimental to the open source community and discourage developers who are brave enough to let their code be open in the first place.

Is there a strategy, clause, or a specific open source license that combats this type of behaviour? If I perhaps create and bundle a trademark inside my program, would this prevent it being sold verbatim?

  • 1
    If the trademark is something visible like the user name or the logo, then I don't think it will help with your intent. Yes, now these people need to change the name/logo/etc., but that is hardly any better than re-selling verbatim. So if they do that and release the result without any further changes, the situation is worse, because it's not obvious any more (to the casual observer) that this is exactly the same app.
    – user7043
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 14:45
  • 1
    In principle I don't think this is possible because the "bad guys" could take your code, make some trivial change (or one that is just non-trivial enough to get around whatever "no trivial changes" clause you invent) and then publish that for profit. I believe the only way around this is to have all derivative works require your explicit permission (so you can check for yourself that the changes are legitimate), or release only the "core" of your app as an open-source library (if there is such a core).
    – Ixrec
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 14:50
  • 1
    Dual license as GPL/propietary. It will allow you to sale your code and likely will prevent it from be resaled (theoretically GPL software can be sold, but it isn't).
    – Ginden
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 2:42

2 Answers 2


I think you may be fighting a losing battle; I'm not sure how "I want to make my source code available to others to do more or less what they want to" (the definition of open source) is compatible with "I want to keep others from undercutting me on price."

With that said, there are a few strategies that may or may not help:

  1. Trademark the product name, logo, etc. This would mean that cloning could still happen, but any clones couldn't use your name. Examples: Red Hat clone CentOS couldn't refer to Red Hat by name (it described itself as "based on a prominent North American Linux vendor"); the Firefox trademarks mean that Debian calls their version of Firefox "Iceweasel."

    As @Delnan points out, this could easily backfire, since it doesn't prevent people from releasing under a different name and building up their own brand.

  2. Don't open source everything. Open all of the libraries and supporting code but keep your core functionality closed (example: GitHub); or open the core but make add-ons proprietary (examples: numerous); or open the PC / Mac version but keep the mobile port proprietary. For games, you can open the code but copyright the assets (levels, graphics, etc.) (examples: DOOM, ToME).

    Even something as simple as opening the components but keeping the build scripts and packaging closed could be enough of a road block to stop parasites until you're reasonably popular; at that point, you can hopefully compete on other terms.

  3. Let it go. Patrick McKenzie talks about feeling "violated" when someone pirates your commercial software and wanting "a security system [that] includes dead-locks, pitbulls, a batallion of US Marines with shoot-to-kill-orders, and some cleverly disguised booby-traps involving acid or flaming oil, or perhaps just flaming acid"; although he's discussing commercial software, maybe the same philosophy applies here.

    If your product doesn't see much success, then the existence of parasites isn't really hurting you. If your product does see success, then if you do your product right - create something that meets people's needs, and treat people well - then you'll have fans, and you'll have a community, and this will provide some protection against parasites. You won't stop every abuse, but you'll do well enough.

    Or maybe not. I'm not an expert here.


Is there […] a specific open source license that combats this type of behaviour?

No, there is no such license. And there cannot be. The ability to sell the software is a crucial part of the Open Source Definition. Any license that prohibits selling is by definition not Open Source.

If I perhaps create and bundle a trademark inside my program, would this prevent it being sold verbatim?

Yes, it would. If you trademark the name of your program, then anybody who wants to sell it would need to buy a trademark license from you, and you could simply refuse to sell them one. Thus, they would need to change the name of your software.

OTOH, if they need to edit the software anyway to change the name, they could just keep the name, and edit some other minor part, thus no longer making it a verbatim copy, and as a result legal to sell.

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