Say you have a software company, and you would like to make all the source code you provide FOSS, as you want to allow your customers to be able to modify and learn the code of the software you provide. However, to avoid competition using your code to their benefit, you would like to only allow private use. So my question boils down to two parts.

First, is there a FOSS license that

  • Permits private, but not commercial use
  • Is strong copyleft, such that all derivatives must be licensed under the same conditions
  • Otherwise allows modification and distribution, as long as there's no commercial gain involved

Second, if there is or can be, what are the implications of such a license?

  • Can the original company still use the original code? I would assume yes, as it's the copyright holder of all the original code
  • What about derived code by private individuals? I assume that under the terms stated above, the original company wouldn't be able to use it, unless such an exception is explicitly specified in the license
  • Would there be any other possible issues with such a license?

This question was originally posed on opensource. I have moved it here since I was told it doesn't fit their guidelines, and I wouldn't know of a better site in the network to post it on.

  • 1
    Doesn't a "Free or Open Source Software" license inherently grant the users the right to run the software "for any purpose"?
    – Upnorth
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


You can use any license that you like (unless you do some clearly illegal things). The license that you propose would mean that your software cannot be combined with most open source software. For example, the various GPL licenses don't allow a restriction "for private use only", so the software cannot be combined with GPL licensed software.

You must log in to answer this question.