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Some thoughts on the open source discussions yesterday

By Björn Ritzl on May 20, 2020

Tagged as: Open-source

The release of the Defold source code and the transition to the Defold Foundation was the culmination of many months of preparations. While most things went smoothly (except an SVG which crashed the Firefox browser!) we never anticipated the amount of feedback on our use of the term Open Source. We want to take the opportunity to clarify a couple of things:

Let’s start off by saying that there was absolutely no ill-intent on our part when we said that Defold is open source. The source code is available on GitHub for anyone to play around with and hopefully contribute to. This is what we meant, nothing else. Our license, which is derived from the popular Apache 2.0 license, has an additional clause to prevent someone from selling Defold (meaning the engine and editor). We want our community to always be able to use the best possible version of Defold for free with no upfront fees, no royalties and no licensing costs. Always free!

As a game developer you can of course commercialise any game you make with Defold, you can sell your extensions, plugins and tools and you can make any change you want to the engine and editor and you don’t have to contribute back if you don’t want to. This will always be the case! We will not try to limit your creativity or your ability to commercialise your creations.

The problem with our wish that Defold should remain free to use, with the source available, is that the Open Source Initiative defines the term Open Source to always allow Open Source software to be commercialised. This is the opposite of what we want for Defold, and it put us on a collision course with the OSI and the users standing by their definition of Open Source. We received a lot of negative and sometimes unjustly harsh critique, but again, no ill-intent was meant and instead of spending a lot of effort trying to win the argument we have decided to make the following changes:

  • We are now describing Defold as “free to use” instead of “free” as in the OSI definition. By saying “free to use” we mean that game developers doesn’t pay any upfront fee, royalties or license costs.
  • We call our license “developer-friendly” instead of “permissive”. By saying “developer-friendly” we mean a license where developers can commercialise their games, extensions, plugins and tools and where they are free to modify the engine without having to contribute changes back.
  • Finally we try to say “source available” instead of “open source” as much as possible and we avoid using “free and open”.

We are in touch with the President of the Open Source Initiative to discuss these changes. We hope to put this matter to rest soon and instead focus our efforts on our community of amazing game developers. Thank you.

Björn Ritzl
Defold Product Owner
The Defold Foundation

If you have any questions regarding the Defold source code or the Defold License please reach out to us: