License Zero

gainful open software development

May 24, 2019

Patron License tunnel licensing through patronage

The new Patron License enables developers to tunnel the public-private licensing business model through funding platforms that support “perks”, like Patreon, Open Collective, and now GitHub Sponsors.

Permission to ignore a noncommercial or copyleft license rule becomes a perk. But instead of “nice to have”, it’s “have to have”. Which I trust will help to rectify the disappointing financial results we’ve seen from such platforms, setting aside a handful of highly publicized outliers, many of whom tunnel advertising through patronage.

Structurally, the overall effect differs a bit from Would-be commercial users and closed-source developers pay a developer or a group, rather than per project. If they reach the relevant perk tier, their patronage entitles them to licenses for all the projects linked to that fundraising campaign via the Patron License.

The Patron License also implements subscription licensing, or recurring revenue, rather than one-off payments. This is possible, and convenient, because the underlying fundraising platforms handle those mechanics. The license need only say that you have to stay a sponsor at a qualifying tier to keep the license.

The license text is based on the Blue Oak Model License and License Zero’s own form private license. If you’re looking to skim, read through Applications and stop. The rest is more or less Blue Oak.

Patron License 1.0.0-draft.3

Payment Platforms:

Participating Contributors:


This license gives everyone supporting contributors to this software as qualifying patrons permission to ignore any noncommercial or copyleft rules of its free public license, while continuing to protect contributors from liability.


In order to agree to these terms and receive a license, you must qualify under Patrons. The rules of these terms are both obligations under your agreement and conditions to your license. That agreement and your license continue only while you qualify as a patron. You must not do anything with this software that triggers a rule that you cannot or will not follow.


To accept these terms, you must be enrolled to make regular payments through any of the payment platforms pages listed above, in amounts qualifying you for a tier of rewards that includes “patron licenses” or otherwise identifies licenses under these terms.


Except under Seat and Applications, you may not sublicense or transfer any agreement or license under these terms to anyone else.


If a legal entity, rather than an individual, accepts these terms, the entity may sublicense one individual employee or independent contractor at any given time. If the employee or contractor beaks any rule of these terms, the entity will stand directly responsible.


If you combine this software with other software in a larger application, you may sublicense this software as part of your larger application, and allow further sublicensing in turn, under these rules:

  1. Your larger application must have significant additional content or functionality beyond that of this software, and end users must license your larger application primarily for that added content or functionality.

  2. You may not sublicense anyone to break any rule of the public license for this software for any changes of their own or any software besides your larger application.

  3. You may build, and sublicense for, as many larger applications as you like.

Each contributor licenses you to do everything with this software that would otherwise infringe that contributor’s copyright in it.


You must ensure that everyone who gets a copy of any part of this software from you, with or without changes, also gets the texts of both this license and the free public license for this software.


If anyone notifies you in writing that you have not complied with Notices, you can keep your agreement and your license by taking all practical steps to comply within 30 days after the notice. If you do not do so, your agreement under these terms ends immediately, and your license ends with it.


Each contributor licenses you to do everything with this software that would otherwise infringe any patent claims they can license or become able to license.


No contributor can revoke this license, but your license may end if you break any rules of these terms.

No Liability

As far as the law allows, this software comes as is, without any warranty or condition, and no contributor will be liable to anyone for any damages related to this software or this license, under any kind of legal claim.

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