We're accepting license recommendation questions as a part of the scope of the site. A close reason has already been proposed for questions that lack sufficient information:

Questions asking for the recommendation of a license must include sufficient information on the desired effects, the context regarding the current details of the project itself. Questions that do not include relevant information, and are unclear, will make it incredibly difficult to make a well-informed answer, and will be unhelpful to assist any future readers. See: [A faq meta post to assist readers in making a good license-recommendation question]

We're gradually coming to a conclusion that questions asking for license recommendations that do not include sufficient information are to be off-topic.

But what about questions like this that fall off-topic scope-wise? How do we determine whether they are on-topic or not?

3 Answers 3


I fear that never closing a question if it:

  • asks for an open source license
  • asks for a recommendation
  • asks for justification

is going to produce a lot of questions of the form: I want to use an open source license with the requirements A, B, and C, it must also impose restriction X (where X may be some arbitrary restriction on type of use, type of user, or on derivative code).

Even if these are asked in good faith by people ignorant of the fact that the one fundamental idea of FLOSS that the only restriction allowed is that you shall not be allowed to restrict others, we do not want to encourage such questions. Having several of these questions open, each with each own individual string of answers, is not going to be helpful. Having them duplicated will not be helpful because all the answers are going to say almost exactly the same thing:

No, you can not impose restriction X and call it open source.

... where the only difference will be that X may vary from question to question.

Since there exists a lot of possible permutations of A, B, C, and X, we risk accumulating a lot of these.

Better to create a generic question: Can I impose any restriction and still use an open source license, and close all those permutations of requirements A, B, and C + restriction X as dupes of this generic question.

  • 1
    This seems to me like the best solution. I note that this means that questions about which open source license fits when they want to impose restrictions that would make it non-open is not off-topic but is a duplicate of a generic canonical question.
    – Martijn
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 20:28

TL;DR: Any license recommendation question that asks for an open license is on-topic.

Example 1:

I'm looking at open-sourcing project X, and I need a good open source license to do it under.

The requirements are X, Y, Z, and it needs to be A and B.

What is a good license for this and why?

This question:

  • asks for an open source license
  • asks for a recommendation
  • asks for justification

In principle, answers to license recommendation questions should be backed up by reasoning and/or experience. This particular example is on-topic because it asks for an open license and gives enough details to successfully recommend one.

Example 2:

I want to open source a tool I'm developing, so I need a good open license so that people can use it. I'll be publishing on GitHub, so the license should preferably be in GitHub's list of open source licenses.

The license must forbid people I specify from using the tool, such as the military. It must also do D, E, and F things.

Can you recommend me a good license? I'd also appreciate reasoning behind your recommendation.

This question does the same as the last:

  • asks for an open source license
  • asks for a recommendation
  • asks for justification

The difference here is that it sets out a requirement which precludes using an open license. However, this is still on-topic as it does ask for an open license. The answer should be along the lines of:

There is no open source license that matches your requirements, because X and Y. You could change your requirements or consider using a proprietary EULA (though we won't be able to recommend you one of the latter).

Example 3:

I've finished developing my project and I want to release it. However, because I spent so long on it, I want some specific restrictions on how people can use it:

  • They have to tell me who they are and let me approve the request.
  • They can't develop anything further from my code.

How could I license this?

This question is off-topic because it doesn't ask for an open license. The similarity to example 2 is that the requirements preclude an open license; however, this question doesn't actually want an open license in the first place - it just wants a license.


Questions that directly ask for a non-open license specifically should be off-topic. Likewise, if questions demonstrate good intentions to have an open license, they should be on-topic, even if the requirements for the license would require a license that is non-open.

That being said, if a license demonstrates lack of complete understanding (not knowing the full implications of derivatives, copyleft...), but is wanting of an open license, but a non-open license is later found to not be feasible, the question should still be on-topic.


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