Source Code License

Thank you for listening to the push-back on the usage of the term open source! And thank you for making your engine and source available under such generous terms.

Might I ask what is holding the Defold Foundation back from going all the way and using the Apache 2.0 license?

Looking at the information about the foundation ( it sounds like the Apache License would better achieve the Foundations goals.

1 Like

Here’s my guess:

The biggest difference compared to a permissive open source license is this one

You can not commercialise original or modified (derivative) versions of the Defold editor and/or engine

I always believe MIT/Apache 2.0 license is suitable, and sometimes even necessary for “libraries”. However, they make less sense for “applications”. I assume that there will be dedicated people working on Defold after splitting from King, which means that in the long term, there has to be a financial mean to support the team. This term in the license is one way of guarantee some kind of “exclusive right” for the team to potentially monetize the product, which I believe the team totally deserves.

I personally are not bothered by this at all. In fact, open source is kind of rare in game industry, even “source code available” is not that common. id Tech is GPL, which means it is almost impossible to use it for commercial games. The current Defold license is a delicate balance and a pragmatic compromise.


This term in the license is one way of guarantee some kind of “exclusive right” for the team to potentially monetize the product

Actually, this part of the license restricts commercial options for code contributors. It means that the Defold Foundation (who owns the project) is the only ones that can create make money from the engine itself. Anyone else who wants to be part of the community and make contributions are left out from that opportunity. It places contributors at a disadvantage to the more privileged Foundation. I could not find a copy of the CLA, but presumably it grants the Defold Foundation rights that are not provided back to the contributor.

The objectives of the Defold Foundation are:

Make the Defold software available to the public
Make the Defold source code available to the public
Support the open source community and the use of open licenses

These purposes would better be served by the Foundation releasing the source under the Apache 2.0 License. In fact, the Foundation has already accomplished the first two objectives, so they are doing well with those. If that were all they wanted to do, they may as well close it down. But that isn’t all that they want to do. The third objective is an ongoing commitment, one that would better be pursued by using the Apache License 2.0.

(I have no idea why the forum is applying the weird formatting to the list of objectives…)

Edit: Tried switching to block-quotes as suggested- still weird, but better.

Use a blockquote instead

> Blockquote


Edit: It’s because you’re still including the ```s

Make the Defold software available to the public
Make the Defold source code available to the public
Support the open source community and the use of open licenses

It was mentioned in slack that having that clause was a requirement from King when they started the foundation. The people in the foundation have mentioned in slack that if they could have had it their way they would have gone with a FOSS license as defined by the OSI.

1 Like

Thanks, that is the missing information I was curious about. So the Foundation doesn’t have complete control over the code, at least not yet.

1 Like

Give it time, there are good arguments for making it fully open (while still keeping governance and the IP) which those in power to make decisions will understand eventually. While there are fears of allowing commercialization, it’s necessary to exist within the same ecosystem that other tools like Godot live in, and allowing it removes the chilling effects of contributing code .


I ope this is true and that King comes around and removes this restriction soon! When I first read the announcement, I thought I would try Defold in an upcoming project (I plan to make a hidden picture game for my mother) and who know what I could do with it if I liked it. But with so many great Open Source options available, I won’t even consider Defold as it stands.

I want tools that put me on equal standing to everyone else in the community.

1 Like

I’m curious to what in the code license that would challenge this:

I want tools that put me on equal standing to everyone else in the community.

I could understand that additions/changes to the Apache 2.0 license would be off putting from an Open Source “evangelistic” view, and that’s totally fine!

But I certainly don’t think the additions to the license changes the “equal standing”, since they explicitly say that the engine and editor source cannot be sold as a product in the future, to avoid that any party would “lock down” any improvements under a paid alternative. On the contrary, I would feel that these additions actually would make me more at ease to know that any improvements to Defold will always be free and available for all.

Again, I’m just being curious and honestly want to understand the issue people are having with the additions (and not the Open Source wording).


I think everything is mixed up:

  1. We shouldn’t use “open source” term - yes, Defold doesn’t use it anymore.
  2. I don’t like the license Defold has.

These are two different issues. The first one is solved.

About the second one: what exactly you don’t like in the license?

I read a lot of comments all over the internet, a lot of people distort information and say that “you can’t monetize games made with Defold” or “you can’t modify games if you modify the Defold engine” - both are wrong.

The only restriction: you can’t sell the engine itself.

Here is the license with explanations:


Yes, I acknowledged and thanked you for resolving issue 1. As for issue 2, I will respond to both @AGulev and @sven:

So, I guess I may be mistakenly making an assumption, because as stated previously, I could not find the text of the CLA. And I think that is the part that places me on unequal footing. If some one who know where the CLA is, could post a link to it, that would help me out!

My assumption is thus: That the CLA grants to either the Defold Foundation or King the right to use the engine under different license terms that what is offered to me, as a potential contributor.

If that is not the case, and the CLA does not grant any additional rights, I don’t know why there is a CLA at all. If the CLA situation could be cleared up, that could move the discussion away from unequal footing, and we could focus on the purposes of the foundation and how to best achieve them via a healthy ecosystem.

1 Like

Best part of this change is to see the true colors of Godot developers dogpiling Defold. In fact it doesn’t even make sense. Not having commercialized versions of the editor/engine is protecting the contributors. If they allow that, contributors are essentially wasting their time, since it could be forked and re-sold. Thus, negating every little PR from every contributor, and it was now basically done for free; at the expensive of someone else. That’s terrible


Should be available when you try to create a PR, iirc.

Why would you assume that? Is this a common thing in CLAs/licenses? Maybe it’s because I’m biased, working with the Defold team for a long time and being active with otherwise very positive community, it just seems so cynical. Again, don’t take it the wrong way, it’s nothing personal we definitely seen similar scepticism before! I guess I’m just surprised, or sad, that this seem to be the initial reaction people have.


Can you clarify something about the license? In particular, this requirement:

The Defold License requires that you must include the license and copyright notice with all copies of Defold and in any derived work created using Defold. It is up to you to decide how you wish to distribute the license and notice.

What does that mean for a mobile game? Am I really supposed to paste that whole blob of text into a dialog box?

1 Like

@SkaterDad the license page gives you several examples of how to include the license in your game.

The Defold License requires that you must include the license and copyright notice with all copies of Defold and in any derived work created using Defold. It is up to you to decide how you wish to distribute the license and notice. Below are some examples of how this can be done:

  • Show the license and notice at the end of a credits screen if your application has one
  • Show the license and notice from a dedicated license screen or popup in your application
  • Print the license and notice to an output log when your application starts
  • Put the license and notice in a text file and include it with the distribution of your application
  • Put the license and notice in a printed manual included with your application

Let’s start by taking King out of the picture. King no longer has any direct involvement and no ownership.

BUT your questions actually highlighted a problem that I will make sure to rectify today. Let me give you some additional information:

The Defold Foundation is a Swedish legal entity in many ways similar to a corporation, but with some very important differences governed by Swedish law. The objectives of a Swedish foundation cannot by changed for any reason. They are defined by the founder (King) upon creation.

King legal works from the London office. They have very little representation except for a patent lawyer working in Sweden. Any legal work needed in Sweden is done by an external legal firm. This was also the case when the foundation was created.

All paperwork submitted to Swedish authorities had to be in Swedish. An excerpt from the legal document defining the statutes of the foundation:

“Stiftelsen har till ändamål att göra open source mjukvaran Defold tillgänglig för allmänheten. För detta ändamål ska Stiftelsen hålla mjukvarans källkod tillgänglig att utan ersättning användas av tredje part.”

The legal team also provided an English translation:

" The objective of the Foundation is to make the open source software Defold available to the public. For this objective, the Foundation shall keep the software’s source codes available to be used by third parties."

One very important piece of information got lost in the translation: “utan ersättning” which translates to “without compensation” or maybe “without remuneration”.

In any case, the foundation objectives make it clear that the Defold source code must be provided free of charge. And this was lost in the translation which later was used to describe the foundation objectives. A mistake by me for which I apologize.

And remember that this cannot change. Once the foundation is created its objectives/statutes cannot change. Defold source code must remain available free of charge. If the foundation for some words reason would start charging for access to the core product (engine and editor) this would be in breach of the statutes, the foundation would be dissolved and the rights would return to King


If anyone is reading this thread and still doesn’t have a clear idea of what the defold license is, just read it here: It isn’t hard to understand but the OP has misinterpreted it and makes a few false assumptions. Here’s a summary of the most important points which appear to have been misunderstood:

  • You can commercialise games made with defold
  • You can commercialise any plugin, extension or tool created for use with Defold
  • You can’t commercialise the engine/editor itself (…but neither can defold, according to swedish law)
  • The license which must be included with your game can be included at the end of a credits screen or within the “settings” section of your game, or even just in a text file included in the installer.

People, and especially people on the internet, are the worst. I do art projects involved with technology, and some of that includes games, and it seems like especially in the world of video games there is a bizarre sense of entitlement, which i think comes from large corporations being the norm in the video game world, as they are able to give away most of their product for free. Free content became totally expected with music and film at the beginning of the download era and it looks like it’s something that’s moving towards videogames.

it gives a huge advantage to those who are able to spend hundreds of thousands on apps which are made available for free. Whereas if you are small business, you rely on getting paid for your work.

A situation in which you’re giving your product away for free, allowing others to monetise creations made with your product, AND THEN furthermore allowing others to make changes to your product and monetise those, is already pretty surreal. The fact that other people are now complaining about some terms and conditions that they either didn’t read or completely misunderstood, is just… :sob::sob::sob::sob::sob::sob::sob:

If you are all happy that the code is going open source, that’s great! I personally hope that you are able to maintain the tool and keep the core engine/editor (…and the community) up to the amazing standard that has always been while having this minor change to the licensing agreement.

My latest game, Malas Decisiones, accounts for about 10% of my income this year (i’m self-employed so I keep track of this kind of things). Just for the record, that means I will be taking a three-week holiday in august. I never, ever, ever would have imagined that would have been possible when I made my first game two years ago. I’ve also had paid trips to Germany and London thanks to my previous project, Do Not Open This Suitcase.

I hate capitalism as much as everyone and never planned on making money from my projects (… until becoming self-employed drastically changed my perspective on the things i was willing to do for money) but complaining about specific terms in the T&Cs in a product which is free and has basically 0 restrictions on how you monetise products derived from it, is something i will never understand.


Yes, that is VERY common in CLA’s. In fact, I have nver seen a CLA that did not grant increased rights to the contribution than what the contributor gets to the product as a whole- that is the whole point of a CLA. And the Defold CLA is no exceptions:

  1. Grant of Copyright License. Subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, You hereby grant to Defold and to recipients of software distributed by Defold a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, no-charge, royalty-free, irrevocable copyright license to reproduce, prepare derivative works of, publicly display, publicly perform, sublicense, and distribute Your Contributions and such derivative works.

In other words, ‘Defold’ to do whatever they want with the contribution you make, but the Defold License does not grant the same freedom back to the contributor in regards to the project. This is exactly what I mean by putting the contributor on unequal standing to the Foundation. (I will also point out what appears to be a significant flaw- the CLA does not define what “Defold” is, when it grants to “Defold” the rights. Is “Defold” a person? Is it the “Defold Foundation”? If my name is “Defold”, are you granting me a perpetual, royalty free license to your work?)

Now, if “Defold” means the Defold Foundation, and given the translation of the Foundation legal documents offered by @britzl, it could be argued that the Foundation can’t commercialize the code either. But that is not part of the CLA.


I haven’t really followed the Godot developers response, so I can’t comment on that. But I disagree with the claim that not allowing commercialized distributions of the engine protects contributors.

PostgresSQL is made available under a permissive, Open Source license- allowing many to sell various distributions of it- and they have a thriving community of contributors, users, and others.

The Linux Kernel is available under an Open Source license, and is commercialized by Microsoft (Windows Subsystem for Linux) , Google (Chrome OS and Android) AWS, Red Hat, Canonical, and countless others. Yet Linux has a thriving ecosystem of contributors.

Godot, Blender, Firefox, and countless other Open Source projects are available under Open Source licenses, can be commercialized, and yet have thriving communities of contributors.

None of these contributions are “negated” just because some body else could possibly use their code to create commercial value- all contributors have the same rights to do with the project as they desire, in accordance with the project license, including making a commercial version.


Thank you for that clarification. Now, I am not a lawyer, nor am I particularly familiar with Swedish law, but it sounds like the Defold Foundation is restricted from requiring compensation/remuneration for the source code. This does not sound like it restricts them from allowing third parties to charge for the source. In fact, if a court were asked to define open source, I could easily see them using the OSI’s definition, or something similiar to it- but I don’t intend to re-hash that debate here- lets focus on how to best achieve the Foundations purpose!


I’m really not sure what your complaint is- I have read and understood every term that was made available to me . I have not “complained” about those terms, and in fact have repeatedly thanked those involved for their work. I have labored to focus the discussion on how to best achieve the goals of the Defold Foundation moving forward. I have pointed out why the current license situation won’t work for me- and countless other potential community members, and I have highlighted other successful projects that do not have the same restrictions in support of my position.

Again, and to be very clear- I want to Thank the Defold developers and contributors, the Defold Foundation Board, King, and everyone else involved. Making the engine available to create commercial games for free is very generous.

I want to emphasize that the main point in creating this thread is not to complain, but to discuss how to best achieve the Foundations goals- particularly in regards to building a healthy ecosystem of contributors, users, and community members. Another purpose was to better understand the the Foundation, the License, the CLA, and the logic behind it all. I think this latter purpose has largely been achieved.

So thank you for engaging with me and sharing the CLA. Thank you for working on the Defold Engine and providing it under generous terms. I stand by my initial claim that the purposes of the Foundation would better be fulfilled by using an OSI approved Open Source License, such as the Apache 2.0 license.

Such a license would ensure that everyone is on equal footing, it would allow the community more freedom to potentially put food on the table with different business models around leveraging their contributions, and would ensure compatibility with other software a packages and distribution schemes. Based on my understanding of the Foundations goals and the founding documents, this would not violate the Foundations obligation to make the code available to the public without remuneration, but would better achieve the purpose of supporting the open source community and the use of open licenses- especially since it would make the Defold license much more compatible with the open source community and other popular open licenses, and open source code.


The CLA has been updated to define that Defold does indeed mean the Defold Foundation.

Yes, the Defold product (engine+editor) can not be commercialised by the foundation (because that would be a violation of the foundation objectives)

But the license of the source code prevents anyone from commercialising the source code of the engine+editor (the game engine product).