Source Code License


@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).



You appear to have missed a key sentence:

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.

The copyright license is granted to both defold and the users equally.




No, I didn’t miss that- maybe I should have addressed it. That does indeed seem to grant the same rights to anyone who gets the contribution. But note, it is only the contribution that is granted that right. So while technically I could use this to claim I have the right to use any code that was contributed under the CLA however I see fit, it is practically impossible to extract the contribution from the larger project, owned by the Defold Foundation. If King granted the code to the Defold Foundation under the terms of the CLA, then the whole license question is moot- because the CLA would supersede the project license. If King instead granted copyright control of the code under different terms, then the Foundation would have additional rights to the project as a whole.

Even if King did grant the code to the Foundation under the CLA, I am not going to take it and say “see, the CLA says I can release a commercial version of the engine” but I would want to follow the communities own intent in my use of the code. Right now, that intent seems to be under the terms of the Defold License.

That brings us back to the question of how to best achieve the Foundation’s goals of building a healthy, thriving ecosystem and community around the code, and what license would best achieve that goal.



Whilst you claim you want a debate about how to best achieve the foundation’s goals, you have made several mistaken bad-faith assumptions about the license, admitted yourself that you hadn’t read the CLA when you started the thread, have been a member of the defold community for just two days, and have already stated that you have no intention of using defold. All of those things make it very difficult for you to take part in a community discussion. furthermore, the CLA has already been updated after you made a suggestion about a significant flaw, an hour after you made that post.



What you’re saying here is that you want defold to be free and open source so that users are able to use a variety of business models they choose to monetise their creations.



It might be a little bit off-topic, but I watched it today and it somehow remainds of the situation :smiley:

Especially the part about negative feedbacks that are the loudest in the internet



I’m really not following you on this. Everything I have said about the license has been true- further, nothing I have said has been said in bad faith. I apologize if it has come off that way.

Yes, I hadn’t read the CLA, I couldn’t find a link to it anywhere. That is why I asked for it. Asking for a link so I could read it was part of my good faith effort to understand it. Further, once provided with the link, I read it, and I was right about what it said, so I don’t know what relevance that has to your point?

I never said that. I said I won’t use it with its current license.

So what your saying is that I have already made a positive contribution to this community, through this thread? Your welcome. (And especially thanks you to @britzl for being so responsive and getting that improvement made!)

I have listed several reasons why I feel that an Open Source license such as the Apache 2.0 License would be better for the Defold Engine, and the community. To summarize:

  1. It would be more compatible with other Open Source projects, allowing better collaboration between these projects.

  2. It would better promite the use of open source licenses- one of the stated purposes of the Defold Foundation.

  3. It would be better for the community because any member of the community- a user of the engine, and contributor to the engine source, and designer, documentation writer, or anyone else) would have the ability to benefit financially from their involvement in the community, in a variety of different ways.

Can I clarify anything else for you?



Thanks for your clarifications! You’ve won me over. I appreciate the time you took to explain everything.

I’m on my way to McDonald’s now to convince them to give me some OpenSource hamburgers for free, and then refuse them on the grounds that they aren’t vegetarian.



I agree. I would also have wanted an MIT or Apache license. This is what we use for all of the other repositories we have open sourced, including the build server.

But it was the requirement from the founder that a non commercialisation clause was added to the license of the main repository containing the editor and engine. It was either that or no foundation and no source code.

This is something I have a problem understanding. Godot has a lot of contributors. As far as I can tell the contributors work on Godot without compensation. Are your saying that they contribute based on some potential future earnings when Godot is sold by someone?



Thank you for sharing more information about the license situation!

To answer you questions about Godot- the Godot core team have a Patreon account that brings in over $10,000 per month- this money is used to pay for their full time salaries. I am not sure how many developers they have at the moment- I think they have 3, but maybe it is only 2- and they are closing in on enough funding to add another. Godot has also received significant grant funding from the Mozilla Foundation and other organizations. They have also participated in the Google Summer of Code.

These are opportunities likely closed to the Defold due to its current license. I have also seen job ads seeking both employees and contractors to work on Godot- I imagine many of these engagements result in contributions flowing back into the project. With the Defold License, the type of engagement a consultant might enter into is likely limited- as the license forbids any form of commercialization. Even if it isn’t intended to prevent hiring a consultant to work on the engine… I think many would shy away from such engagements due to the license forbidding any form of commercialization.

The opportunities that Godot have because of its license also help them to bring in additional contributors who aren’t being paid directly for the work they are doing. Many Google Summer of Code participants go on to become regular contributors to the projects they work on.

One of the biggest reasons for me to choose Open Source is to avoid vendor lock-in- if for some reason I am not a good customer fit for a vendor- especially if there is a mismatch in business models- I don’t want the vendor to be trapped into serving me- nor do I want to be trapped into that vendor. I want know that there is at least the potential to hire some one or pay a company to create the product and service I need, without being restricted by the software license. (Obviously there will always be the restriction of what I am willing to pay versus what a potential vendor is willing to accept for the work!) If I have that option open, I am more willing to build on a product and trust in its future. But if a product can’t be commercialized, it causes me much reason to be concerned for its future.

I hope this makes sense. I understand that there may not be anything anyone on the Defold team can do right now about it.



Hmm, maybe i truly misundertsand the sitiation, but what you’re describing vis a vis Godot seems pretty much the same as with Defold. My reading of the announcement is that Bjorn and other(s) will be working on Defold full time, with pay, initially from a King contribution, and eventually through donation and other support (patreon, git, etc) similar to your $2500 per bloke Godot situation as described.

There is nothing (that i can see) in the licence that says someone who is a regular quality contributor can’t be hired by the Foundation and paid for their work, and nothing (that i can see…) That imposes any limitations on you using Defold, including modifying the h*ll out of it to make your niche application, other than you can’t then resell your cool new modded-Defold editor/engine, only the app/game you made with it. Again, as far as I can see i dont see a clause that says the Defold Foundation can legally stop you from selling your game because you made significant changes to your own copy of the engine that aren’t in line with their vision of the direction of the feature-packed, slim, engine they’re maintaining and offering for free.

I dunno, I’m not a lawyer, certainly not a Swedish lawyer, I’m not even a real game dev. @britzl, help us understand.

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Some people are clearly personally interpreting things in the license that the Defold team did not intend. @britzl has said he is working with their legal to get some clarity so that needs to be waited on.



Like I said previously, I don’t know what the intent is- I know that software licenses, like any legal document, can be tricky to get right. I know that “otherwise commercialize” is extremely broad. I know that others have used similar clauses before and there has been debate over what that means- with some saying it is so broad that it is unenforceable, and others saying that it makes it impossible to use for any commercial activity, including work for hire, and others come to some middle of the road conclusion.

@ryanscottlandry that was my understanding as well, but I don’t know what the arrangement is for employing them. And it may be all fine and good for the Foundation- but there are going to be a lot of others who won’t touch it in any way for pay.

Hopefully there will be some improvements to the license. Hopefully this discussion will have contributed in some small way to making the project better, even if I don’t get what I desire of having the Apache 2.o license adopted.



I might be the last one who joined the Defold forum before the switch to the new license and with it in a way confirming Defold as my tech of choice for the future. I did go through the previous license before doing so, to check if there is anything that would hinder my ability to use Defold in my future games.

Time investment for adjusting to new language and learning the “Defold api” / has to spread on more than one project for me to find it financially viable (indie game market is tough) and with that, license has to fit several projects.

While I liked the summary of previous license terms the section about not allowing Defold to be used for games that involve real money gambling, software that promotes violence, degrades ethnic groups etc. worried me a bit as to what would the actual interpretation of that be.

Did that mean you can’t use it for fighting games or shooting games which tend to have some sort of WW2 or fighting terrorist theme, because that kind of games are not in line with the engine owner’s ip/public image or if that was there just to avoid any legal liabilities in case someone used the software for things not allowed by Swedish/International law, like terrorism.

Defold license clears that up and I think the limitations that it has will benefit the Defold foundation goals and game makers using the software the most (even more than MIT license would).

  • community gets bigger
  • number of assets increases
  • more jobs/software where Defold engine can be used

I would like to congratulate and thank everyone that made this transition possible. :slightly_smiling_face:
The way that license is summarised and presented on the website with marked changes to the Apache 2.0 is something that should be the norm.



This will likely happen in the future. People can get hired by the Defold foundation to work on the code.

Correct. You can sell games created using a modified version of Defold.