I am creating a project on GitHub, and I need to choose a licence. I want it this license to follow something like this:


  • It can be edited.
  • An edited version of the project can be distributed. The project itself can NOT be distributed.
  • Both private use, patent use, and commercial use.


  • License and copyright notice
  • Modifications should use the same licence

Is there any license that would make a good fit?

  • 6
    This would not be an open source or free software license, since it disallows verbatim distribution. As two practical concerns: (1) what's to prevent Alice from making a change, then redistributing it to Bob, who changes it by undoing Alice's change and then distributes it? (This could happen by accident if Alice's change stinks.) (2) you say that "modifications should use the same license" but does that mean that if Alice makes a change, she can distribute it, but then no one can further redistribute Alice's version unless they, too, make a change, etc., endlessly down the line of recipients?
    – apsillers
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 21:01
  • @apsillers here is an easier explanation for #2: Modifications of existing files must be released under the same license when distributing the software. In some cases a similar or related license may be used. Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 22:06
  • 3
    For #1 I mean, what if Alice adds some annoying DRM to your program, and then Bob removed it (unaware of your original version without DRM). They've both made changes in good faith, but Bob's version is identical to your own. Is that okay? If so, what's the point of a restriction that can be so easily circumvented? If not, how could you hope to prevent it?
    – apsillers
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 23:09
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it asks about licenses which do not meet the Free Software or Open Source definitions. Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 9:42
  • 2
    My point is that anyone's project can be exactly the same as yours, by undoing the changes of an intermediate author. I chose DRM as a "feature" that someone would be likely to undo.
    – apsillers
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 15:31

1 Answer 1


Such a license would not be a free or open source license (as defined by the FSF and OSI, respectively), since it does not allow distribution of verbatim copies. You will not a find a license that meets your requirements in any list of FSF- or OSI-approved licenses.

Aside from the restriction no-verbatim-distribution restriction, it sounds like the GNU GPL would otherwise be a satisfactory license for you. Its copyleft provisions require that modified versions are distributed under the same license, and that downstream binary distributions also include corresponding source code (which you didn't explictly ask for, but may be something you want, or can at least tolerate). It also includes patent provisions, allows commercial use (as all FLOSS licenses must), and requires preservation of your copyright notices (as most FLOSS licenses do).

The no-verbatim-distribution requirement is also trivial to circumvent, either intentionally or accidentally:

  • Original author A licenses a work under your proposed license:

    Hello world! It's a beautiful day.

  • Downstream author B distributes a modified work based on A's work:

    Hello world! It's a beautiful HELLO SURPRISE ANNOYING SHOUTING day.

  • Downstream author C gets a copy of B's work (and may not even know about A's original work), and thinks it would look better without all that all-caps shouting. He makes a change and distributes a work that looks like this:

    Hello world! It's a beautiful day.

C has met your license's requirement to make a change before distributing, but C's work A's original work are identical, so your no-verbatim-distribution requirement hasn't achieved anything meaningful.

Carefully consider why you feel the need to impose such an unusual requirement. You're not concerned about people sharing or modifying your code. What is the worst possible scenario that could occur if you didn't impose a no-verbatim-distribution requirement? How is it practically different from a scenario where someone makes the smallest possible change and distributes a nearly-identical work?

I strongly suggest you reconsider this requirement, since it only seems to

  1. make your work annoying to distribute for downstream users (but in no way impossible for any determined redistributor),
  2. cut you off from a wealth of legally-vetted FLOSS license choices, and
  3. not afford you any practical advantage.
  • so basically you're saying that the GNU GPL v3 is a good open-source licence that DOES allow verbatim distribution? (i think i am right because i just read the license) Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 18:08
  • 1
    @Kasra Correct, the GPL allows it; I know of no license that forbids verbatim redistribution, and there cannot be any FLOSS license that forbids it.
    – apsillers
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 18:23

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