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If you would like to publish software under the Charity Software License please leave a note on the talk page in the projects section.


Intent of the license

This section is meant to clarify the spirit of the license.

The intent of the license is to offer an alternative to open source software as specified by the OSI open source definition with the aim to generate revenue for charity. Software licensed under the CSL can be made available in source code but there is no obligation to do so, unless the open source variant OSCSL is chosen. The software is made available with guarantees about the use of revenue generated by software sales. The license will include a list of trusted third parties, usually non-profit organizations, who can sell software licensed under the CSL. Depending on country of residence this may require two entities: a for-profit business and a foundation or other non-profit organization as its owner. A group of authors cannot sell their own software under the CSL without first becoming a Licensor (a trusted reseller) in the sense of the license. The rationale is that the CSL is intended as a unique selling point for software licensed under the CSL and arbitrary software authors are not expected to reliably handle the financial resources in the intent of the license. Thus the CSL can increase the trustworthiness of authors without any disadvantages for software authors who mean to take the CSL seriously. Licensors in the sense of the license require external auditors, as, for instance, the Deutsche Zentralinstitut für soziale Fragen (dzi.de). A share of the generated revenue can, within predefined limits, be used to develop the software. The recipient of revenue shares is the maintainer. The maintainer can distribute funding, hire contractors, fork the project or pass on the office of maintainer to another person. The office of maintainer is meant to allow a software development process similar to that of the open source community, although slightly less inclusive.

Compatible licenses

The CSL is intended to allow use of software components licensed under LGPL License, BSD License, Apache License or Mozilla Public License.

Dual licensing

A software author can make his work compatible with the CSL by dual-licensing the work. A program licensed under the GPL and the CSL can, for instance, be used under the terms of the GPL but can be incorporated into a derivative work licensed under the CSL. The program is consequently available as open source software but can be used for charitable purposes to generate revenue as part of a derivative work. Many other open source licenses do not require a dual licensing option because they are fully compatible with the CSL.

Recommendation: GPL+CSL

There is a conceivable synergy between the GPL and the CSL that deserves independent attention: A GPL-licensed parent project can to a degree discourage competitors: because a very similar program is available as free software, making a very similar program or derivative work is a less likely goal for a commercial developer. At the same time CSL-licensed derivatives can give additional meaning to the GPL-licensed parent project. Thus the recommendation for open source authors considering to support the CSL is to choose GPL+CSL as their license.

Alternative dual-licensing options

Dual-licensing with any other open source license is useful, even if it may have only symbolic value. You can dual-license a program under BSD+CSL for instance, which doesn't change the licensing conditions in any way, because the BSD license allows proprietary use, but you endorse the CSL license by mentioning it.


The difference in philosophy between CSL and open source in a nutshell is that CSL is about prevention while open source is about creation.

Terms and conditions for use, reproduction and distribution


"Maintainer" shall mean the individual or Legal Entity identified as the initial developer or an individual or Legal Entity appointed (in writing) by the previous Maintainer as the current Maintainer.
"License" shall mean the terms and conditions for use, reproduction, and distribution as defined by this document.
"Licensor" shall mean any entity authorized by the License that is granting the License to a consumer or would be permitted to grant the License to a consumer.
"Licensee" shall mean an individual or Legal Entity exercising permissions granted by this License.
"Legal Entity" shall mean the union of the acting entity and all other entities that control, are controlled by, or are under common control with that entity. For the purposes of this definition, "control" means (i) the power, direct or indirect, to cause the direction or management of such entity, whether by contract or otherwise, or (ii) ownership of fifty percent (50%) or more of the outstanding shares, or (iii) beneficial ownership of such entity.
"Source" form shall mean the preferred form for making modifications, including but not limited to software source code, documentation source, and configuration files.
"Object" form shall mean any form resulting from mechanical transformation or translation of a Source form, including but not limited to compiled object code, generated documentation, and conversions to other media types.
"Work" shall mean the work of authorship, whether in Source or Object form, made available under the License, as indicated by a copyright notice that is included in or attached to the work (an example is provided in the Appendix below).
"Derivative Works" shall mean any work, whether in Source or Object form, that is based on (or derived from) the Work and for which the editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications represent, as a whole, an original work of authorship. For the purposes of this License, Derivative Works shall not include works that remain separable from, or merely link (or bind by name) to the interfaces of, the Work and Derivative Works thereof.
"Contribution" shall mean any work of authorship, including the original version of the Work and any modifications or additions to that Work or Derivative Works thereof, that is intentionally submitted to a Licensor for inclusion in the Work by the copyright owner or by an individual or Legal Entity authorized to submit on behalf of the copyright owner. For the purposes of this definition, "submitted" means any form of electronic, verbal, or written communication sent to the Licensor or its representatives, including but not limited to communication on electronic mailing lists, source code control systems, and issue tracking systems that are managed by, or on behalf of, the Licensor for the purpose of discussing and improving the Work, but excluding communication that is conspicuously marked or otherwise designated in writing by the copyright owner as "Not a Contribution."
"Contributor" shall mean any Licensor and any individual or Legal Entity on behalf of whom a Contribution has been received by any Licensor and subsequently incorporated within the Work.
"License Steward" shall mean the Legal Entity that is defined as the License Steward under the identically named section of the License.

License grants

Evaluation grant

For the purpose of evaluating the Work each Contributor hereby grants the Licensee a limited non-exclusive and non-transferable right of use for his Contributions to the Work in order to make use of the Work for up to one month without interruptions or new beginnings. Each new version of the software can be evaluated anew under the evaluation grant.

Contributor grant

Subject to third party intellectual property claims, each Contributor hereby grants the Licensee a non-exclusive and non-transferable right of use for his Contributions to the Work in order to make use of the Work, provided the Work has been purchased from a Licensor.

Licensor obligations

Revenue from purchases

The Licensor accepts the obligation to provide appropriate funding for further development of the Work to the Maintainer, which shall not constitute more than 10% of the revenue from purchases of the Work. The Licensor accepts the obligation to refuse funding to a project if the use of funding has not been made sufficiently transparent or is seen as inappropriate according to published policies of the Licensor. The Licensor accepts the obligation to use at least 95% of the remaining revenue from purchases of the Work for charitable purposes. The Licensor accepts the obligation to document use of financial resources derived from purchases of the Work to the general public and to employ an external auditor to validate the use of financial resources derived from purchases of the Work.


The Licensor accepts the obligation to sell the Work for no less than the prices determined by the Maintainer. A preliminary default for price deductions is that residents of developing countries receive a deduction of 2% for each step in the Human Development Index their country of residence is below position 127.


The Licensor retains the right to sell the Work under the License only while the Maintainer of the Work and the License Steward both endorse the Licensor. The right to sell the Work can be terminated either by the Maintainer or by the License Steward at any time.

Distribution obligations

Source distribution

Parts of the Work that have been received in Source form can be distributed in Source form, unless otherwise specified by the Maintainer or the Licensor. Distribution in Source form does not constitute a right of use for the Work in Object form for the recipient.

Distribution of Modifications

Derivative Works that the Licensee creates or to which the Licensee contributes are governed by the terms of this License. The Maintainer of Derivative Works remains the original Maintainer of the Work, unless the Maintainer agrees to share or to transfer the office in writing.

Versions of the license

License Steward

The License Steward is [ ... to be determined ... ] and may publish revised and/or new versions of this License from time to time. Each version will be given a distinguishing version number. No one other than the License Steward has the right to modify this License.

Effect of new versions

The Licensee may choose to use the Work under the terms of the version of the License under which the Licensee originally received the Work or any subsequent version of the License published by the License Steward.

Multiple-licensed code

If the Work is available under other licenses the Licensee is free to choose the License as the governing contract and to terminate other licenses only if the Work has been purchased from a Licensor.

Disclaimer of warranty

The Work is provided by the Licensor ``as is´´ and any express or implied warranties, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose or non-infringement are disclaimed, except to the extent that these disclaimers are held to be legally invalid. In no event shall the Licensor be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, exemplary, or consequential damages (including, but not limited to, procurement of substitute goods or services; loss of use, data or profits; or business interruption) however caused and on any theory of liability, whether in contract, strict liability, or tort (including negligence or otherwise) arising in any way out of the use of the Work, even if advised of the possibility of such damage.

Headings not controlling

The headings in this License are for reference purposes only and shall not be construed as a part of the License.


CSL Freemium

The freemium variant offers a CSL or GPL+CSL licensed version for free (or for a CSL minimum licensing fee) but an advanced version of the program or advanced features require a commercial license.

If the source is released as open source at the same time the Maintainer should make it clear that open source releases should not try to rebuild the features of the program that are only available with a commercial license (unless this is tolerable). Users are free to make such changes and even to release them to the general public but should be aware that this could be seen as impolite and may motivate a change of the business model.


The CSL/75 allows the development team to retain up to 25% of the revenues. The purpose is to accomodate developers who would be scared away by the prospect of donating 90% of their revenues. The use of the money must follow the established policies of the Licensor (the reseller) as in the standard version.


The CSL/50 allows the development team to retain up to 50% of the revenues. The purpose is to extend the CSL/75 and to allow licensing fees for commercial third party software components included with the Work or Derivative Works. The additional 25% of the revenues must be used solely for licensing fees of such software components and must follow the established policies of the Licensor (the reseller). A Licensor could, for instance, regulate what constitutes inappropriate licensing fees.

Open source

An open source variant (OSCSL) could change the section "Source distribution" to:

The Licensor makes the Work available in Object form and in Source form. The Licensee is granted the right to distribute the Work or Derivative Works in Source form to third parties. Distribution in Source form does not constitute a right of use for the Work in Object form for the recipient.

Electronic Publishing Charity Source License (EPCSL)

An "electronic publishing" version of the CSL could allow an author to release a book, a piece of music or another work under a license similar in goal to the CSL. An important difference is that a published work is likely to be completed and not to require maintenance.

A single author could be eligible to receive 10% of the revenues of his works or up to 30%, if below $3500/month. Furthermore an author could be eligible to consume up to 30% of the revenues of his works for future projects at the average rate of previous payments over the last 5 years (or less, at the author's option) if revenues of currently sold works fell below the average rate of previous payments.

Wikibooks could be treated like software projects and be published under the original CSL, not the EPCSL. That could put the PDF form under the CSL while the original Wiki source code would remain available under whatever license was used for the form (e.g. GFDL or Creative Commons).

Further proposals

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