I want to know if a license exists that is similar to GPL but allows only source distribution (that is no binary distribution).

Why do I want this? The idea is that I want fellow programmers to be able to have the benefits of open source software BUT also retain control over the consumer binary distribution. Specifically I want to prevent my software to be picked by organazations like the linux distributors. I want the users of my software to dowlnload binaries only from my site.

Is this possible?


  • 3
    Note that this kind license is hard to enforce, both technically and legally. Would you prevent people from writing script that downloads the binary from your site? How about if I give a copy of the download to my friend who don't have have internet at his home, would I violate the license agreement? What if I distribute the binary to thousands of my company's servers? Keep it simple, what would you want achieve by restricting binary distribution?
    – Lie Ryan
    Aug 1, 2014 at 10:00
  • I want to have all the software functionality available and open but only to the people that are willing to invest the effort of actually bulding the software. I want to keep the distribution of consumer binaries to myself. It is a means to get paid from people whosimply want that convenience and have no intention of contributing to the code itself. Aug 1, 2014 at 10:21
  • 5
    Such a license would not qualify as a free / open source software license, according to the definition of the FSF resp. OSI. Therefore, I propose you go check their list of non-free licenses, maybe some of those suits your needs.
    – user281377
    Aug 1, 2014 at 10:54
  • So, you want to provide hosting for anybody who improves your code? If I make an improvement to your code, the only way to distribute binaries based on my improvements is to ask you to host them? That seems terribly inefficient! Aug 1, 2014 at 11:06
  • 1
    @Dimitris: The requirement that derivatives use a different name can be obtained through trademark law. That is for example how Firefox ensures clones/derivatives are clearly distinguished from the real deal. Aug 1, 2014 at 13:21

3 Answers 3


No, that is not possible if you want to call what you're doing "open source." As noted in the comments, there are innumerable difficulties in trying to grant a copyleft that prohibits recompilation or distribution of compiled binaries, not the least of which is the cultural resistance you'll encounter.

However, you're selling a non-OSS product and don't care about granting a copyleft, so there's nothing stopping you from including the source code to your application with a limited right to recompile and patch for internal use. It's just that you wouldn't call that "open source", since that's not what you're doing.

(One of the key benefits of Open Source is the ability to take code and use it in your project, even if said project is yet another Linux distribution.)


Have a look at this:


It allows you to generate your own license where you can specify what the user is allowed/not allowed to do. Additionally, it lets you specify binary distribution.

If reality, it'd be difficult to enforce, but essentially you can say use and modification are okay, but redistribution is not. I imagine you'd have to draw a line between what is modified code and what is original though.


You commented on your question to add:

I wouldn't mind binary distributions of derivatives, however under a different name.

That adds the possibility of a free software (that is open source) answer to the original 'shared source' or 'shareware' question.

There are free software licenses that seem to require the name to be changed.

I may be wrong. Ask your lawyer about the Mozilla Public License

 This License does not grant any rights in the trademarks, service marks,
 or logos of any Contributor (except as may be necessary to comply with
 the notice requirements in Section 3.4).

Sometimes, redistributors might not read your license, or make a very small change to your trademark. You might want to consider how difficult your restrictions may be to enforce, especially outside your home country.

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