Dual-License - Free for Personal, Fee for Commercial?


Hello there! Over at https://MakeSoil.org we’re working on releasing some hardware designs to the world, and are investigating a dual-license model; one for personal use - considering the Creative Commons’ “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International” - and one for commercial use. For the commercial case, we would like to have a suggested donation ($ or %), as a revenue source for the non-profit.

How would you go about this? Any ideas, thoughts, or licenses that might be applicable in this case?


My advice is to go for an open source-compatible license (set) that is permissive, unless you have a really good reason from gathered solid evidence by doing research and experimentation with users/customers to go for something else.

It looks like you have a mission-driven organization with an organizational model where community is key (“make soil together on a planet-saving scale”). Giving the community (or anyone) the freedom and permission to innovate and do what they believe is the right thing to achieve that mission, including (also) making some money in order to be sustainable is the way to go. Also understand that “bad actors will act bad” and “good actors will act good” no matter which license sticker you put on your knowledge.

I have experience using an open source-compatible copyleft license set for our hardware designs and in hindsight that was not a good choice. The copyleft-clause prevented other entrepreneurs from engaging, as they did not understand what it meant and found it too risky or too much work to get over that.

Lastly, a “suggested donation” is just a suggestion. You can also do that with an open source-compatible (and hence not non-commercial) license.

Hope this helps…


Very helpful, mnot. Thanks!

You hit the nail on the head; we want to give this out as freely as possible while hopefully capturing some revenue to be sustainable. Bad actors will be bad actors, and good actors would likely heed the suggested donation in both the case of an open source or copyleft scenario. If we go too restrictive then we’ll stifle future innovation and the scale of the mission.

More thinking required. Any further thoughts very welcome.


You are welcome!

Just one remark at the moment:

both the case of an open source or copyleft scenario

Please understand that copyleft in fact is open source, as it is a specific category of open source licenses (with a feature known as ‘viral’). I recommend that you get a thorough comprehension of the details of how open licensing works and what are the variations/differences before making a decision.