Computers have been my hobby since I was 12. Now I'm a freelance Java developer. Like many other developers I am working on various private projects. Some are open source components (Butterfly Components - DI container, web ui, persistence api, mock test api etc.). Some are the tutorials at Yet others are web projects. I hold a bachelor degree in computer science and a master degree in IT focused on P2P networks. Jakob has posted 35 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

The $5-Ware License

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Here is a crazy idea after all the discussions about "The future of open source": The $5-Ware License. We grab an Apache License 2.0 and add this one clause to it:

 "If you are using this product for commercial use, you must make a one-time donation of $5 to the developer".

How about that?

 Or we can have two $5 licenses:

  • $5 Ware Life Time License
  • $5 Ware Annual License

The $5 Ware Life Time License means a one-time donation. The $5 Ware Annual Licence means a $5 donation each year. $5 is not going to ruin anyone! Not even if paid once a year! Unless you are using hundreds or thousands of free programs.

But $5 will definately make some difference in income to the developer (compared to $0), and thus perhaps motivate the her / him to move the project forward a little faster. Who wants to do a $5 Ware License for the community?? :-)

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jakob Jenkov.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Alessandro Santini replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 7:36am

The idea does not seem too new to me. Once was called shareware.

Zviki Cohen replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 8:06am

IMHO, $5 is enough to turn a user to a customer. Customer rightfully expects much more than a user: support, bug fixing, etc. This is not the case with donations, where it is done out of generousity rather than a legally binding agreement.

Dimitris Menounos replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 8:17am

Shareware is different. Regardless donations seldom fly (if ever), and even if they did it wouldn't be the way to make an honest living. By the way using the word "must" it is not a "donation" anymore.

Alessandro Santini replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 8:25am in response to: Dimitris Menounos

Just from the link you sent me: "With shareware, a developer bypasses the normal distribution channel eliminating the normal retail middleman markups and directly markets to the end user. The end result is a reduced end-user price compared to the retail channel. Users of shareware are encouraged to copy and distribute unregistered versions of the software to friends, coworkers and other acquaintances. The hope is that users will find the program useful or entertaining and will pay to register to be able to access all the features." Did you read past the fist paragraph?

Dimitris Menounos replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 8:45am

Shareware is trial based. It says so right there in the first paragraph :) I meant that that is different from the Apache $5-Ware license proposal which as far I understand wouldn't pose such limitation.

Kristian Rink replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 8:55am

I'd, well, rather see another approach: Commercial users of open source should provide some kind of support back to the team... be that "monetary" donations, be that time and energy making the overall product work better, be that sponsoring of resources required to get goin' (hosting, bandwidth, ...). As it might be obvious, I love open source - for many particular reasons, but the idea of "just" getting something for free without giving anything in return is a completely different cup of tea I guess...


Jose Maria Arranz replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 8:57am in response to: Alessandro Santini

Shareware is like any normal closed source propietary software added a "distribution freedom".

For instance, MSOffice would be shareware if you get the right to upload the evaluation version to your own website (of course you cannot).

Jacob's proposal is a new sort of dual licensing, in this case both license types share the same file and includes a concrete fee :)

The idea of changing an Apache license in this way is a bit weird, but the background is fine and the idea is not really new.


Rory Marquis replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 9:02am

A $5 Ware licence, is only as good as the $ is itself.

In n years time $5 could will be worth 5c, so what would be the point? You would have to call it something else (?Shareware), but then you couldn't impose or control the financial restraint ontop of it.

Basically, a utopian idea that has merit in a Utopian world. As someone already mentiond, Shareware already exists (trial period or not).

Alessandro Santini replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 9:06am

@ Dimitris: not all sharewares were timebombed or functionally limited. Some were simply displaying "UNREGISTERED" on the splash screen, as far as I can recall.

@ Jose, Kristian: what if someone forks the project? Will the $5 clause still apply? Who's gonna take that money? The fork authors or the original project authors? Oh, you cannot fork? Then it is not OSI compliant?

Most importantly: do you really think that, besides a few idealists, someone will pay for something which is free and source code included?

Jose Maria Arranz replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 9:20am

I agree with you Alessandro, Jakob's idea is amusing but it has many faults because of Apache License.

Dual licensing is already a proven model. Dual licensing involves three parts:

1) An Intelectual Property holder.

2) A non-liberal license (GPL or AGPL)

3) A commercial license for closed source derivatives.

The holder of the  Intelectual Property is the only who can license the product to third parties. There are two ways of licensing:

a) For free: you can pick a non-liberal license. GPL or AGPL prohibits closed source derivatives. You can fork the product if you want, but the derivative product must be GPL or AGPL.  AGPL has one advantage over GPL it has not the "SaaS hole".

b) With a fee: you get the commercial license. The commercial license grants the right to make and distributed closed source software derivatives on top of the product but avoids public forks of the original product.


Dimitris Menounos replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 9:34am

@Alessandro You are right, I had forgotten about these.

@ Jose Dual licencing works only in those cases where a project serves as a platform for others to build on. What about the projects that are meant to be used as-is, without extensions or modifications?

I have posted my thoughts on the other thread.

Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 9:55am

My Ubuntu installation contains 100's and 100's of actively used packages. I supplement the standard installation with probably around 50 other packages using the built in Synaptic installer. There are 1000's and 1000's of packages to choose from. Ubuntu probably provides the richest Linux experience this way.

Making packages $5 shareware would make this a *very* expensive endeavor.

How about making Ubuntu as a whole shareware? Then some mechanism could decide how that donation money is distributed amongs all the contributors. Complicated perhaps, but desperate times call for desperate measures...

Jose Maria Arranz replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 10:33am

Dimitris Menounos: Dual licencing works only in those cases where a project serves as a platform for others to build on. What about the projects that are meant to be used as-is, without extensions or modifications?

Yes, you are right, the answer is I don't know, this web site is about software development, right? :)

Think for a moment AutoCAD released as open source, may be a commercial and educational-non profit license could be the answer, but is just speculation. This is not new some commercial vendors license for educational purposes for free or cheaper.

Anyway I just interested in software development... is enough for me :)




Kristian Rink replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 1:31pm in response to: Mike P(Okidoky)

What about a radically different approach? Rather than selling software, consider Ubuntu given away for free, and, consider people treating their computer like they eventually treat their car (getting things set right and fixed by someone who knows rather than messing around themselves with things they don't completely understand)? Moreover, consider companies offering this kind of service to end users at affordable prices (which, compared to license costs at least for mainstream software, shouldn't be all too hard) for installing and configuring custom Ubuntu workstations for end users? Consider these companies providing a small share of their income back to "the Ubuntu community" in order to keep the system running? This would be beneficial for everyone without someone being nagged about shareware, payware, ...:

- End users would end up with well-configured, well-maintained systems rather than having to mess with that dreaded recovery CD after last nights crash again and again. They will pay money in any case, but in this case they will pay money for something they directly can see a benefit from. 

- Small computer reseller shops would have a whole new market of actually adding value to what they sell rather than just "pushing PCs pre-installed with Windows" down the market.

- The community would have some kind of refunding by people who get benefit for what they pay. 

- The issue of "software piracy" will be gone, along with the most horrid plagues software has brought us (the whole broken mess of entering registration codes, dealing with product activations and all this whole load of crap users are forced through just recently). There practically would be no "stealing", because: No payment, no benefit - you either can spend a certain amount on someone making your machine ready for production for you, or you can choose to save this money and, instead, waste hours and hours trying to do so yourself.

I am not sure, but maybe this would be an approach better than the "donationware" idea...


Alex(JAlexoid) ... replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 2:31pm in response to: Dimitris Menounos

Shareware is trial based.


 That is an absolute lie or dillusion. No matter who says it.

Shareware can be just as much the nagging shareware. Nagging shareware just reminds you every so often about registering. Possibly interfering with your work, even though the software itself remains 100% usable and with full functionality for an unlimited amount of time. And that makes it non trial software like.

So shareware can be as much about deactivating certain features, as much as activating features.


Jörg Buchberger replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 3:36pm

From the Open Source Initiative's definition page ...

... The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:

1. Free Redistribution

... license shall not restrict ... from selling ... as a component of an aggregate software distribution ... license shall not require a royalty ...

Jörg Buchberger replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 3:53pm in response to: Jörg Buchberger

So, if I don't misunderstand the OSI terms, that means the $5 clause would not be open source compliant, if part of the license itself. That license would not be open source anymore, according to that definition. (Since the OSI definition does not discern between commercial types and open source types of aggregate software distributions.)

However, nothing seems to prevent any open source project, which distributes aggregate software distributions, from selling it (for whatever royalty-free price they see fit).

Otengi Miloskov replied on Thu, 2009/04/23 - 5:19pm

If you make a software and you opt for a OSS license it means you will give your work for free to the world it is that plain and simple!.

If you want to make money from your work and dont want to share with the world accept a propetary license and be done with this stupidity.

OSS for make money or business it is flawed.


Dominique De Vito replied on Fri, 2009/04/24 - 3:16am

Well, I have 2 ideas.

(1) For example, for a big release of Firefox, do a campaign asking for 1$ for each download. Anyone may give 0, 1$ or even more. It may bring to Mozilla foundation quite an amount of money due to the high number of downloads. Well, it could work for Mozilla, but not for all other OSS projects. The fact is, it don't think there is one single business model for all OSS cases. This kind of model could work for Mozilla, so why not try it ?

(2) I have another idea for OSS projects. Not for all cases, but it could be interesting for some cases too. I have written about it in a (long) post:
Revisiting donation/funding for open source projects - let's talk about FDD.

it is about what I have called Funding-Driven Development (FDD).

And I have written more about FDD into another post:
Another idea for Funding-Driven Development (FDD) - for Firefox and OpenOffice

Any comment ?


Jakob Jenkov replied on Fri, 2009/04/24 - 5:59am

The $5-ware license may not fly. But I got a lot of good posts / ideas from it, so I guess it was not wasted.


@Domenique De Vito:

The other day I upgraded my open source Tortoise SVN client. At the end of the upgrade process there was a "Donate" button (a bit like you are suggesting with Mozilla). And guess what? I donated €5 ($7)... nothing much, but that button reminded me that I could donate, and some, like me, just might do so.  So, perhaps it's a good idea.

Dominique De Vito replied on Fri, 2009/04/24 - 6:11am in response to: Jakob Jenkov

@Jakob Jenkov Yes, I like your point. That's exactly the kind of proposition I envisioned. To be asked for donation during the download or, similarly, during the installation/upgrade process. I am glad it could work ;-)

Jaga Dheesan replied on Sat, 2009/04/25 - 10:57am


Also if the list of payment methods include Paypall also along others methods it will make the donation timing very short as they need to give only pay pal id & pwd.. In case of credit card they need to enter long string of numbers... as for convenient point... this may be irritating and many potential donaters may just skip the donation step {just bcause (1) entering his personnal details - concern abt security. would we prefer to enter our credit card details in all sites that we like ..Nope, (2) even if it they decided to enter... it will take atleast 5 to 10 mins for entering credit card details alone } hence here the simplicity will improve the chances for end developer to receive the benefit..


 Cheers & Best Wishes.


Alessandro Santini replied on Sun, 2009/04/26 - 3:38am in response to: Dominique De Vito

I presume that the "Donate" button will nicely apply also to all the frameworks and libraries that do not display a user interface...

Dominique De Vito replied on Sun, 2009/04/26 - 11:34am in response to: Alessandro Santini

I presume that the "Donate" button will nicely apply also to all the frameworks and libraries that do not display a user interface...

Such button could be on a download page, or shown during the installation process.

It could be also into the web site main page.


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