Looking for advice on open source licenses

I’ve been developing (and operating) CSFBL, my multiplayer, web-based baseball game, for over eight years. After mulling for quite some time as to the future of the game, I’m seriously considering the transition of the game to an open source project. That being said, finding the right open source license is important.

After doing my reading, I’m thinking of going the route taken by MySQL – i.e., open-source under the GPL, but the potential for closed-source and commercial options available with a separate license.

Realistically, I highly doubt people would come to license the software for commercial use, but I do want to protect the product, intellectual property, and my sweat equity (I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy on it over 8+ years). My interest is in sharing it (and getting help from others), not letting others profit off it. (Hence I am avoiding licenses such as BSD).

Does anyone have suggestions, thoughts, or words of advice on this matter?

5 thoughts on “Looking for advice on open source licenses”

  • The nice thing about the GPL is that if a commercial entity did want to use your source in their own app if they make any modifications it has to be made available. If you go with the 2 license route, you do lose that one perk – which is that a commercial team could potentially improve your software, and make the change available to other interested developers in the community

    However, I could definitely see being more than a bit annoyed if some company did pick up the CSFBL engine and turn it into a profit making game/service.

    One curiosity: Say you went the two license route, and a company wants to use the source code to open a CSFBL-clone service. This clone service charges $X. Now, they are not distributing a standalone version of the game, but rather a service. They are making a profit through the use of your work. Do they need to use the “commercial” license, or can they get away with the GPL licensed version? How does the GPL handle such a situation? Does it differentiate between a service provided and a standalone binary app that is sold/licensed.

  • Your curiosity is one I share. I don’t want people to take the code and start their own fee-based service using it — that’s outside the spirit of the game and of what I want it to be. I’m not sure how GPL handles that with regard to service-enabling applications (which is, in a sense, what CSFBL is).

    Hopefully someone can shed light on that issue (without me having to go pay a lawyer!).

  • Brian, two other semi-related questions:

    (1) If you open source the code to CSFBL won’t current CSFBLer’s be able to see all the hidden modifiers? People would be able to calculate greed factors, etc.

    (2) What does this mean for the development of CSBB?

  • CSFBL will likely not be open-sourced — at least, not in its current state — but its successor, CSBB, will. Obviously, I will only expose code once it’s practical that it won’t reveal what shouldn’t be revealed (e.g. algorithms that need more masking before being revealed). I wouldn’t just air-drop all the existing CSFBL (messy and disgusting) code to the public; I’d only add things as they became practical to re-implement in CSBB.

  • Unfortunately I do not know anything about open source licenses. I may have to do some research here to see if there is an acceptable choice for us.

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