What license should developers use?

Hi all,

I want to use this Topic to discuss the License people/developers should use for their game. This is about how to publish an open source game, but not having others just “copy it” and make it their own.

What license should we use if:

  • we want to provide the source for other people to learn
  • we don’t want our game to be just re-branded
  • we want a character to be copyrighted (for example mario)
  • the music is actually not open source
  • the graphics are copyrighted
  • maybe we just want to provide the source as learning stuff but you can’t use any of it for your own game

I would like to hear all of you, on how to accomplish setup or pick a proper license. Maybe we should create our own licenses, as an example:

  • arduboy license case 1: all material is open source.
  • arduboy license case 2: game source is open, but the game idea, music, characters, or graphics are copyrighted
  • arduoby license case 3: all material is copyrighted but source is provided


I will remove all off topic responses and those not adding to the conversation about the licenses

For the love of all that is holy, please don’t create new licenses. :slight_smile: There is no need.

Simply license different parts of your project under different existing, well understood, well documented license.

e.g. code under GPL or MIT, so people can share it and re-share their changes, and assets such as graphics under a more restrictive license.

This has a common practice for many, many years, and will allow exactly what you want to accomplish. People can redistribute code or games based on things they’ve learned from you, but will need to provide their own graphical assets and music.

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I think that @popey 's idea is good.

As a graphist there are already some licences available to protect my work.

But maybe we should explain what licences are available and what are they made for. The point is, if we create new licences there will be no official action available if someone stole our work no. Am i wrong on that point ?

But @JO3RI you’re right about the main idea, the arduboy community must be organize about how to spread her work. It’s not easy but if someone find another solution different from the existing licences i’m very curious.

Thanks @JO3RI for this important point

Correct me if I’m wrong, but a game idea can not be copyrighted, only the graphics, characters etc. Or else there would not be a video games industry at all.

Here’s a great tool for figuring out what license to use. Note that in this case you’ll need to go through it multiple times, once for code, and again for music / assets.

@popey a guide or a flow chart on what License to use for each part would be a handy tool ?

haha ok you just posted one :slight_smile:

@popey for example, what license should you use if you don’t want people to distribute, change or use parts (like graphics, music) from your game without permission, BUT you want them to give the ability to learn from your code (so you do want to provide the source)

When I forked the Arduboy2 library from the Arduboy library, I found that the library code and examples were under various licenses, and the existing LICENCE.txt file didn’t cover them all. It took me a while to determine what code was using which license, if they were all compatible with each other, and then come up with a format for LICENSE.txt that covered them all.

In case it’s of any use as an example for other projects, the Arduboy2 LICENCE.txt document is here. Comments are welcome.

There are some examples where the actual gameplay element is trademarked.

Are you suggesting that only the Tetris company are allowed to make a falling block game?

Anytime I ever release my projects, I make it understood that I release the programs that I make. Even though I provide the source for my games/software, the projects are not open source and do not belong to anyone else but me.

I would like to be able to have a very simple and basic licensing that I could issue when people download my games similar to the Arduboy License 3 that you have listed.

Interesting topic… this is definitely something that’s been on my mind lately. I would like to create Arduboy games using characters of mine, but I want to retain complete ownership of my characters and their graphics.

I think if you TRULY want it to be open source that you should really presume to “own” anything other than perhaps the images/music… using a license that requires attribution is nice though… but I think if someone takes an open-source game… say changes ALL the graphics to a different theme and adds new music… and then republishes it… that might be enough to make it a valid “whole new game” in my eyes… since then they are really using the game “engine”… and isn’t that the whole point of OSS?

But honestly if the OSS license used required attribution then attribution should still be given.

Basically unless you’re going to pay a team of lawyers there is no way to “stop someone from stealing and rebranding”… that is really a legal matter (if you want to make it one). All you can do is make it clear that your license requires attribution and then most people will do the right thing, and bad people will still do the wrong thing - and nothing can be done to stop it.

Please no creation of new licenses though. :slight_smile:

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So one could make the game copyrighted and still provide the source ?

  • What License should you use if you don’t want other people to distribute your games without permission ?

  • What License should you use if you want to keep all rights of the game the game and not allow others to do anything else with it, than play the game.

@Dreamer3 @popey I’m not trying to create a new license, I trying to figure out what license people should use in case:

Sure, providing source is not the definition of “open source”. "Open source licenses are licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition — in brief, they allow software to be freely used, modified, and shared. " https://opensource.org/licenses

No idea - but neither of those would be an open source license.

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Google finds all sorts of people asking this question and many answers. Just one thing I saw:

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I think that link has a very interesting part about FREE and OPEN

As I have learned now, if you want to restrict distribution … you no longer can say it’s Open Source Software.

One option I haven’t seen mentioned that I think people might want to consider - especially if they’re going with different licenses for different elements - are the create commons licenses. These provide a number of options, including most of the ones mentioned here. They are not, however, intended for use with code, and they recommend using a different license for code.

As for code - use what fits your needs. Since we distribute source and expect most end users to build it themselves, license compatibility issues should be minimal. People wanting to distribute hex files might have problems if you mix something other than copyleft or copycenter licenses. That might be desirable: you can take my code, modify and share it, but you can’t (legally) distribute binaries based on it.

That’s not true from the link to opensource.org it discusses Permissive liscenses:

What is a “permissive” Open Source license?

A “permissive” license is simply a non-copyleft open source license — one that guarantees the freedoms to use, modify, and redistribute, but that permits proprietary derivative works. See the copyleft entry for more information.

Agreed. Open source is an idea, not a license/trademark/law that you can enforce.

The JO3RI Open Source License can be anything you want really. You’ll confuse people if the source code is not available to read, but that’s about it.