Requesting a change in the licensing?

This is possibly a naive question, so my apologies in advance. As I understand the licensing in Blender, any tool you write for it must also be open sourced, is that right? Is it possible to change this? I think one big obstacle for Blender adoption at major studios (the ones that use Maya, for example) is that they don’t want to open source their tools. Is it possible to request a change in this or am I misunderstanding how the licensing works?


Big studios doesn’t have to release their tools as open source with source code as long as they aren’t disturbing them to everyone… nothing prevents them to have internal build/plug ins that only they can use.


Licensing isn’t that much of an issue for a pipeline integration. With libraries like Alembic, OpenVDB and USD becoming popular, a lot of building blocks are there to push data between Blender and other applications without having to link against closed source SDKs.

Licensing is a problem for little studios and freelances, because make hard to develop plugins like other software have.

@easythrees no need to apologize :slight_smile: this comes up from time to time, a lot can be written on this, however I’m not really personally keen to re-open topics like this which have already been discussed at length. Sinking time into re-asserting points which have been made many times already.

There are multiple long threads about this on Blender Artists, while some are quite old, I think they’re still relevant.

Note that it’s disputable that Blender’s license is “holding it back” in significant ways - as you suggest, however this can’t be known unless actually tried.

To summarize though, it’s unlikely Blender will stop being GPL:

  • There is little interest to change from the developers (as far as I know).
  • The practical difficulty in making such a change, given the Blender-Foundation doesn’t own copyrights all of the code in Blender’s code-base.

Sounds like we need to poll all users and get some metrics on this matter.

There’s a direct quote from one of the developers of the Substance tools (Allegorithmic, now bought by Adobe, hardly “little studios”) stating that because of Blender’s open-source license, a commercial plugin with their technology will not be made for it (as has been made for 3ds max, Maya, Houdini, Modo, Unity, Unreal, Lumberyard and more).

The real important thing about this problem is that closed-source plugins do not need Blender to change its entire license, only of its plugin libraries: this would be the BPY for scripted plugins, and potentially a SDK for binary plugins.
The libraries used by the plugins can be freely modified, the user’s freedom is guaranteed. This is the LGPL.

I don’t have the skill or “stock” to make these changes myself. I can contribute to a crowd-funded campaign to make it happen.
If you ensure that proprietary commercial plugins can be made for Blender (designed specifically for this software, therefore it will enjoy all the benefits despite these plugins being closed-source), the BF ecossystem will grow as it will bring in players in the likes of specialized plugin developers that want to make great tools while also protecting their intellectual property.

You didn’t mean it this way, but this is exactly what I’m talking about: “I don’t have the tools I need in Blender, so let me switch over to that other product that does have it”.
You are making people step out and stop using (!) the software just to have access to something.

Can’t you see how this works against Blender’s interests?

If anyone here points out that “hey, Blender has been free open-source from its foundation, we want to ensure the users’ freedom to modify it according to the GPL, forever”, well, I’ll have to reply with “letting people make closed-source plugins (read: plug, ins) for it, does not violate that beautiful ideology, as plugins are software designed specifically to run within Blender. People will have the freedom not to use those plugins if they don’t want to. Blender will still keep shining in its GPL beauty.”

All licences have advantages and disadvantages.

It really doesn’t matter how strongly anyone, or even everyone, feels about the current Blender license. There just isn’t a practical way to change the license even if that were desired. You can have all the polls you want, but the license won’t change. For good or for ill we have the license that we have.

Unless you want to somehow track down every single person who has contributed to the current codebase over the last 20 years and ask their permission. And, for any one of those hundreds of people, if any says “no” then you have to clean-room replace the code they wrote. And then you’d also have to replace every single library that Blender uses that is not complaint with the new license you want to have.

Seriously can’t happen no matter how strongly anyone feels. Not going to happen.


Thank you everyone for the responses. I’ll admit it’s a little dispiriting to hear that we can’t easily change the licenses to something more amenable to adoption. In my mind that basically pigeonholes Blender to never be adopted by the larger more established studios.

Which is how things often work outside of Blender too. It’s not like studios use just one program and thousands of plugins for it - you’ll end up with some mixture of say Houdini, Maya, RenderMan, ZBrush, Substance, …

Can’t you see how this works against Blender’s interests?

What exactly are Blender’s interests?

But, as I mentioned, licenses come with advantages and disadvantages.

One large advantage is that any studio, large or small, has full (and free) access to the full source code. So they can fiddle with it at will without being beholden to the whims and timelines of some other entity with different motivations. So if they need something changed they can do so immediately. They can even make proprietary changes and extensions to the program that they can keep to themselves forever.


That can be keeped with a change in the license that will allow made propietary plugins.

Concrete examples of what you would like to do, but feel that the current licensing prevents, might be a better way to find a solution rather than simply saying “the licensing needs to change”.

In general most people seem to find ways to do what they want within the current environment, even things that at first glance might not appear possible. For example lots of people “sell” addons for Blender, even though in most cases the addons are also licensed under the GPL, so the payment is somewhat voluntary. But that doesn’t stop there being an active and vibrant addons market.

Well, you have a lot of proffesional addons developers complaining about that. IN blender you have people making addons that in other software will de rich to developer with a few income.

I’m calling FUD on this as you don’t provide any examples of studios who haven’t adopted Blender (in fact only @RNavega did).

A change in licence may benefit people like yourself but consider how it may affect the individuals and studios that already do use Blender.

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Didn’t Natron adopted the mozilla public license first, as “it would be a problem for commercial plugins” and finally changed their license to GPL because in fact, even if some people pretend the opposite, there’s no problem with the GPL as long as you do dynamic linking, instead of static linking ?

And isn’t VRAY for blender sold, not even as a plugin but as a standalone blender version ?

I think this GPL question might be a false problem, but yet again, I’m not a lawyer, and those examples might not be “legal” with regards of the gpl.

Vray is a render engine. It is different to adapt to a suite. But when you need interact with things then is when you have the problem.

Have you seen one hair/physics proffesionl addon? And that are one of the most common addons in any other software. Why dont we have nothing of this in blender. Becausr nobody want to spent a lot of time in something that dont sell or dont obtain money.

Yes, some people do it, but accepting a fraction of the benefits that they will have in other software.

There is, V-Ray can get away with having its own license because it’s not made specifically to communicate with Blender (or any other GPL software), like a plugin would.
The V-Ray plugin is GPL’ed, the V-Ray runtime is proprietary because it doesn’t know what Blender is (to a casual observer, as this is a legal problem).
The GPL calls this setup an “aggregate”:

A binary plugin interface, and for such an interface to be licensed with LGPL so that binary plugins can be licensed in whatever way the author wants.
(Correcting myself from my previous post) This means that the entire Blender codebase would have to be licensed with LGPL because even if plugins only access isolated parts of the codebase (that interface / SDK / library), those parts do communicate with other parts that are indeed GPL, which is a viral all-or-nothing license. There’d be too much intimacy with GPL code.

If you want to put some light protection on the code in your Python add-ons, try to use obfuscation.
Or make an executable that doesn’t know what Blender is, and then call it from your GPL Python add-on in a way that would likely be considered “aggregate” by a judge in court

As far as i know(may be wrong) to change the license, everyone who contributed code to blender for the past 18 years would have to agree to that change…
It won’t happen.

It can happen perfectly, only it won’t happen if you never try.