Patreon unlocked content

I’m seeing variants of “support me and I’ll open the content” across GitHub Sponsors, Patreon, and other systems.

Here’s an example of role playing game (RPG) content:

The license is effectively CC-BY of the illustration of the map — but not its name:

Because of the incredible generosity of my patrons, I’m able to make this map free for commercial use also. Each month while funding is over the $400 mark, we choose a map from the blog’s extensive back catalog to retroactively release under this free commercial license. You can use, reuse, remix and/or modify the maps that are being published under the commercial license on a royalty-free basis as long as they include attribution (“Cartography by Dyson Logos” or “Maps by Dyson Logos”).

Please note that only the isometric version of this map is included in this commercial use license – and that the text and name of the map are NOT released under this license, and cannot be used in conjunction with this map in a commercial project.

So, rather than a time locked BSL, this is a funding locked type of license.

This example isn’t specific, but “if I make it to X dollars” one time or per month is I think an effective call to action.

It’s not a long term business model — well, unless patronage is the plan, which I think it could be for — but it does drive discussion about supporting creators.

If you have seen software models for this, I’d be interesting in seeing links.


BTW, the Open Gaming License used for a lot of RPG content is pretty interesting thing to dig into.


I’ve come across this model under the name sponsorware. Seems like a great way to get paid for the initial development, especially if you have many eager Twitter/Newsletter followers to help cross the funding threshold.

It’s not clear to me how well this model scales as the number of free users increases. I guess the assumption is that enough subscribers will stick around to cover ongoing development and maintenance costs.

License Zero had a somewhat similar concept with sponsored relicensing.

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L0 did a license in this vein: Basically, it’s a license that only applies if you’re currently enrolled to make regular payments supporting the project, through whatever platform.

Yep. But it doesn’t offer any facility for splitting the total relicensing cost among payers.

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The Material theme for mkdocs has something similar:

If you are an ‘insider’, you get access to all features, and every time a certain threshold of funding is crossed, one or a few features get released to the public.


IMO this is one of those actual uses for cryptocurrency. A script could divide payments to each git author weighted by commits or something.

Tax is a problem, but if there were a service like Paddle you could nominate as your billing agent the average developer wouldn’t need to deal with sales tax in random jurisdictions.

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Or you could just use OpenCollective and do the same thing :wink:

The governance model of how to split is interesting to. A not-just-code contribution model is most interesting, and mostly I see this being negotiated.

New contributors come in, either with a large contribution (you can always fork and maintain a fork by yourself), and then maybe commit to shared work over time.

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OpenCollective seems really neat but I don’t see a ton of projects that directly sell licenses (as opposed to donations or sponsorships or some other intangible “feel-good” situation). Really cool concept though, will consider it for future projects.

As far as negotiations, to me personally there is a lot of value in standardization. If I had to negotiate everything I wouldn’t write as much code, which is already less than I’d like. Even picking licenses for new projects is a hassle (how I got distracted and wound up here :face_with_hand_over_mouth:…)

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Concepts like XLC with shared revenue from license exceptions is all brand new. So yes, you’re not going to see a lot yet.

And that was my point about “negotiation”. As projects try these things — they’re going to have to come up with different ways that work. Some could opt for a split based on LOC or commits or whatever.

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