I am looking for a license that allows to make copies of a file and distribute them BUT NOT to make changes to the file, or cut parts of the text and distribute only them.

Any ideas?

For example, that might be a good license for a CV/résumé file.

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    I think you are looking for the Creative Commons No Derivates license.
    – Brandin
    Jan 28, 2018 at 21:36
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    I'm voting to close because it is specifically a non-free license request. Jan 29, 2018 at 1:58
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    @rapt The Free Software and Open Source definitions include allowing those who receive your code to modify it as they wish. Jan 29, 2018 at 5:26
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    @rapt: Licenses can't limit freedom, because you need a license to have some freedom in the first place. Without a license, you are not allowed to do anything with a file you got from someone else. Jan 29, 2018 at 16:38
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    @rapt: I doubt that. The license terms might not be spelled out as explicitly as for publicly published works, but if you give your resume to a recruiter with the understanding that it will be used in a certain way, then any judge will probably regard that as a license for using the resume in that way. Jan 29, 2018 at 17:46

2 Answers 2


There are a couple of licenses that disallow modifications of a creative work in whole or part. The intention of these licenses is to prevent misrepresentation. This is especially suitable for works that express an opinion, or for legal notices.

The “nobody can change this document” requirement is very close to the default license: all rights reserved. So the only right you want to license is the right to make copies.

In most cases, the CC-BY-ND license family is the best license for creative works that you don't want changed. This license explicitly allows some changes that you might want to permit, e.g. format-shifting. As it is a copyright-based license, it cannot prevent adapated/changed works, but it does not allow them to be distributed.

The GPLv3 license text is itself under a short license that may suit your needs:

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

I think that is a very good license. If you use a similar phrasing, remember to replace “license document” with an appropriate description of the document.

The GFDL (GNU Free Documentation License) is a fairly complex license, but allows you to specify Invariant Sections. While other parts of the document may be changed, the content of these sections can only be copied verbatim. This license is generally unsuitable for small documents like CVs.

  • Thanks. Is there any variant that also requires to get my explicit permission (i.e. written permission) before distributing a copy of the file?
    – rapt
    Jan 29, 2018 at 17:43
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    @rapt That is the default license: all rights reserved.
    – amon
    Jan 29, 2018 at 17:46
  • Then is it not contradictory to use both an open source license e.g. Apache License, or GNU GPL - AND the "Copyright © Me 20XX. All rights reserved."? I see it often... examples: stackoverflow.com/a/34805638/784980 github.com/jhford/screenresolution/blob/master/main.c ... If "All rights reserved" then why releasing it under an open source license.... which one takes precedence?
    – rapt
    Jan 29, 2018 at 18:50
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    @rapt Great question! See MIT license and “All rights reserved.”? (especially the second answer). Basically, "All rights reserved" used to be necessary as part of securing your copyright. Without it (pre-1910, in the U.S.), you wouldn't have a copyright to offer via a license. Nowadays, the phrase just sticks around out of habit and doesn't have a modern legal function (except to cause confusion!).
    – apsillers
    Jan 29, 2018 at 18:54
  • @apsillers Thanks for the link! Good answers there. I have been wondering about this collision.
    – rapt
    Jan 29, 2018 at 19:02

I still think this is off-topic, but since it hasn't been closed yet, I figured I'd point out that I do exactly this with my CV, and have done for some years. It's not done indirectly via licence but by explicit rights grant; you can see the CV at http://www.gatekeeper.ltd.uk/cv/tom/ but the relevant bit says

The material in this CV is (c) Tom Yates, 2016. Permission to reproduce unaltered is granted. Permission to reproduce in a modified form is explicitly withheld, but will ordinarily be granted if an application is accompanied by the proposed modifications.

Which I think makes clear what you can do right now, what you need to ask about, and how I'm likely (but not guaranteed) to respond. Essentially I didn't want recruiters taking my CV for their talent search engines and filing off the contact details so that anyone who wanted to find me had to go through them. I've been doing this since 2001 (according to the RCS history) and I've not yet run into problems with it being copied-and-modified (at least, Google finds only one copy, which is mine) so it's possible this works.

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