I don't have any budget to buy commercial licenses but the libraries I use offer non-commercial free licenses.

How far can I go in regard to monetizing my game without it being considered commercial ? Donations? Do ads count? Optional items purchase?

For example, fmod states in their free license:

This license cannot be used for commercial services, where the executable containing fmod is not sold, but the data is.

What if only some data (optional) is sold?

Thank you.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This sounds like a good question for a lawyer, and I would be very cautious of taking legal advice from anyone else. You don't want to have to pay to defend yourself, doubly so since your budget is the reason you are considering this. Using a technicality like you suggest (not selling the fmod data, but selling something else) could not pan out as you hope. \$\endgroup\$ – Chewy Gumball Jun 13 '11 at 1:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Win the lottery (something with a jackpot in the hundreds of millions of dollars), then just treat it like a fun retirement project. ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – Randolf Richardson Jun 13 '11 at 2:36

com·mer·cial   [kuh-mur-shuhl] –adjective 1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of commerce. 2. engaged in commerce. 3. prepared, done, or acting with sole or chief emphasis on salability, profit, or success: a commercial product;

I am not a lawyer, and the comment that Chewy made about consulting a professional stands as very reasonable.

Since you asked here though, my opinion is that if you use the software on someone's behalf, and they compensate you to do so by any means then you have acted commercially.

For this discussion, I'd suggest that sales, ad revenue, donations, software in trade or any promises of future considerations all constitute acting commercially.

If you're looking to take a project out of the basement and start generating income from it, then the authors who have aided you by writing libraries deserve to be compensated. If you've developed this program with the intention of selling it, then the clock's been ticking on this day.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I hope that in-game commerce wouldn't be considered as "engaged in commerce." This would most certainly depend on how the license uses the "non-commercial" terminology. A lawyer's opinion would be very important for this, and it would also be important for that lawyer to understand what "in-game commerce" is before they render an opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – Randolf Richardson Jun 13 '11 at 2:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Randolf Richardson Yes, a lawyer's opinion would be critical. I think that any use of the software in a commercial manner is by definition commercial. So "in game commerce" makes the non-commercial game... commercial. This is strictly opinion \$\endgroup\$ – Stephen Jun 13 '11 at 2:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's kind of in the name.... In-Game COMMERCE = Commercial \$\endgroup\$ – Milney Feb 14 '17 at 13:42

From http://www.fmod.org/index.php/sales :

If your title is not intended for commercial gain and does not include the FMOD library for resale, license or other commercial distribution, then use of FMOD is free.

If you are pursuing revenue models, then your title is clearly intended for commercial gain, and you do not meet the criteria to use the FMOD non-commercial license. You would need to purchase either the Commercial or the Casual licenses.

In general, you should contact the copyright holder over these types of conditionally-free licenses, to verify that your planned usage is okay with them. But in this specific case, it seems pretty clear to me that what you're trying to do is not allowed by FMOD's non-commercial license terms.

But you should really be asking them, not us. FMOD has a team which handles licensing terms and interactions with developers. You can reach them at sales@fmod.org.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 "These are not the lawyers you are looking for." \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Blezek Jun 13 '11 at 19:30

If you're monetizing your game, via ads or in-game purchases, it will be considered commercial. I'd suggest using a library that allows commercial usage, there are plenty of free open-source libraries that fit the bill.


The title of this question is an oxymoron. Any revenue means your product is commercial. If you don't want to pay licensing, you need to stick to free alternatives. OpenAL is not that much harder to use than FMod and it is free. There are plenty of free libraries like SDL that can help with a lot of the startup work.

It sounds like you're trying to "get around" licensing, which you just can't do. Either license the product or use one of the (many available) free alternatives.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is nearly two years old, and the original poster hasn't been back since then. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Trevor Powell Apr 30 '13 at 2:19

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