Coop Software License

Hi guys!
I am currently in the midst of starting the creation and research of a software license for coops! I will be doing this as part of my undergraduate dissertation. The license would in effect give co-ops who build tech the opportunity to exclusively distribute the licensed software only to other co-ops. The idea is that this would give the tech coop movement an edge when competing with their bigger, corporative, competitors.

As I am imagining it now the license would be an extension of GPL-3 with limitations on the distribution.

Have you guys heard of similar licenses which already exist?

Any other ideas/corrections are welcome :slight_smile:


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A good starting point for research is

Happy research!



In particular, you can try


That’s a perfect example, do you have any idea what “the commons” mean. The definition seems to be stretched really thin.

Yay! Mikey of Enspiral (who’s been around a few different related scenes) wrote a post that pins down some thoughts on reciprocity licenses:

Workers of open Source, Unite!



Hi @dtmakm, this is exactly what we do at CoopCycle :wink:

At first we used Peer Production License, but it’s not really a fit for software, so we created a derivative of AGPL-V3. Our additions are in 3. Commercial use


There is an earlier thread on this subject here.

@mex have you been in contact with the FSF and / or the FSFE regarding your license? I’d be interested in knowing what their take on it is.

Unfortunately, not really.

When I speak with free/libre software activists, they understand why we do this, but they warn against doing it (which I understand too). Last year I was at a conference together with a guy from FSF, and basically he said that we should follow the Four Freedoms, period. But speaking with him afterwards, he was more nuanced.

But there is definitely a subject on this in the free/libre/open source community.
Developers care more and more about how their code is used, last example was Chef’s developer deleting code to protest against ICE


Thanks for responding, I had a look through the license and is really similar to what we are aiming at.
Is your license though only for worker cooperatives?
Does it include consumer cooperatives as well?

Another difference is that we are looking to create something only for coops, without including the wider network of social economy businesses. Would shareholder companies whose main objective is to have a social impact rather than make a profit for their owners or shareholders, be able to use the licensed software feely?


Great discussion! @dtmakm, if you get anywhere with this project, could you let me know? My email is


At risk of repeating, wanted to clearly link the other convos about co-op license:

I think this should be the authoritative thread though, since you’re embarking on the actual work, and I want to support that @dtmakm :slight_smile: (I’ll request we archive the other, assuming that fits with how we deputize “official” threads on the CoTech forum)

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I’d love that, personally. I know lots of social mission companies who I feel would still be on the same team. I would definitely lean hard on government structures and extra-government certification bodies to validate. E.g., Only non-profit organizations recognized by state, or perhaps extra-governmental certification bodies like B-corp.

So what are your timeline, your scope, and what can we do to support @dtmakm? Is there a public project space like a GitHub repo or a Google Drive folder? I’m happy to offer support on any collab framework of the project, as I’ve helped steward dozens of community projects :slight_smile:


Hi peers, one of my post at the platcoop FB group triggered some interesting discussion, I’d share it here just in case someone wants to join the debate:

“Hi peers, I would love to license some code of my own as copyfarleft/copyfair but I don’t how exactly. Specifically, I’m concerned whether those licenses are actual licenses or just proposals, and if they are, where may I get the license documents? Otherwise, I do think it is of the utmost importance to make it happen so we have a tool for (A) production of peer-based digital commons and (B) the accelerated replication of cooperative technologies worldwide without appropriation of wage-labour-relationship-based enterprises. If we have our own way to protect yet replicate worker/user-owned innovation, we would then be able to plan innovation in much efficient way, so that each tool created by a coop can integrate and build synergy with existing tools, forming a ecosystem in a direction that we might be able to actually build a whole protected non-capitalist counter-infrastructure and not just isolated platforms in one country that might be canibalised by their capitalist counter-parts. Copyright is, arguably,doing that for capitalist-proprietary innovation. As cooperatives might have more incentives to open-source their innovation and collaborate between other coops, if we have our copyfair, then we would not have a competitive but cooperative advantage towards capitalist enterprises since they tend not to be keen on sharing resources, information and technology between other enterprises as us. I do think cooperatives should not scale but replicate, and open-source+copyfair+commonsProduction might be the way to achieve it. My prediction is that with that infrastructure in place we might accelerate innovation in an unprecedented speed and with that, chances of a post-capitalist revolution might increase.”

I encourage you to read also the comments :point_down: :point_down:


I’m not on Facebook so can’t comment there, the only license I’m aware of that is in use is the Coopyleft license which is mentioned above.

Personally I must admit that I’ve yet to find a use for a license that only allow co-ops (and individuals) to use and distribute code, I think Bruce Perens has a valid critique of this general approach, I use the GPL for the Bash and Ansible code that I write.

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