I am looking for a license that would allow anyone to contribute to an open source project. That of course includes copying/forking the code and applying changes to it, that potentially (and maybe only partially) go back into the original source code via a review process. (pull-request on GitHub or similar processes) The sources itself are available on GitHub and as archived downloads from other sources.

Making builds for distribution should be exclusively reserved to the project owner. These builds are, just as the source code, available to everyone and free of charge and may also be redistributed by third parties for free. Usage of the software in commercial and non-commercial products is allowed and would require credit, however the builds itself can not be part of the price in commercial projects.

Creating customized builds or builds derived from the source code or available builds should not be allowed if these are going to be distributed in any form. Creating builds for the sole purpose of verifying that available builds are indeed created from the available source code may be allowed of course.

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    There's no (open source) license that does that but the license of the TeX Book source code by Don Knuth sounds similar to what you want to achieve.
    – ljrk
    Sep 3, 2020 at 23:52

1 Answer 1


There is no open source license that would satisfy these requirements because it goes against the fundamental principles of Software Freedom and the Open Source Definition. The freedom to create (competing) forks is essential: free software should not be shackled to a particular maintainer.

A milder version of your license situation could be possible though: preventing modified binaries from being distributed under the same name. The Artistic License contains such a provision, but is a really bad license in this scenario. More reasonably, your project could establish and defend a trademark for the name of the software. This strategy is e.g. used by Mozilla software like Firefox. However, the result of some versions of the Mozilla trademark policy was that projects like Debian considered it to be non-free software, so that they included rebranded versions instead: Firefox became Iceweasel.

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    The LPPL might also be an option re "don't use the same name." But it has a number of weird complications, so don't just slap it on any random piece of software without reading it carefully.
    – Kevin
    Sep 3, 2020 at 19:56

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