I wrote a small tool I published on my blog. I did not even think about the license, just put the binaries there for everyone to download. Now I am thinking about making it open source (BSD or GPL) but have already seen that my tool was available for download on other sites that bundle it with their own installer which also installs Browser-Addons aka. Adware. (we all know this crap)

Is there an open source license that forbids this but still allows the usage as open source? If not? May the GPL be modified to fit these conditions?


There's no such major license, as

  • FOSS licenses' primary goal is to maintain the "four freedoms" (or a part thereof for permissive licenses). Any restrictions on possible future functionality (even the odious DRM that Stallman asserts to have no place in the future1) are seen as highly undesirable and are gonna condemn a license as "incompatible"
  • in licenses that allow relicensing, such a provision is pointless as it can easily be removed with the entire license. In licenses that require to provide source code, it's pointless as well since, if the software ever gets contaminated with adware, any user can remove it with relative ease.

Regarding bundles, e.g. GPLv3 specifically requires that

"the compilation and its resulting copyright are not used to limit the access or legal rights of the compilation's users beyond what the individual works permit"

(otherwise, the work isn't considered an "aggregate" so GPLv3 applies to the entire thing, meaning the author immediately infringes it).


I believe that forcing a user to perform an installation (that they might not even be able to do in their environment) to access the source code does "limit the access or legal rights of the compilation's users beyond what the individual works permit".

Even in the remote case it doesn't, this provision from section 6 still limits the opportunity for "drive-by installs":

Corresponding Source conveyed... must be in a format that is publicly documented (and with an implementation available to the public in source code form), and must require no special password or key for unpacking, reading or copying.

by requiring that the (installation) package containing the source code must be publicly documented and have an "implementation available to the public in source code form" (the latter, I believe, means an unpacker in this case as the clause applies to the ability to "unpack, read or copy"). I.e. it effectively treats an installation package as a compound file.

1GPLv3 section 3 bans software covered by it from having legal rights associated with DRM regarding its circumvention. Which means, it doesn't limit functionality per se even in this case

  • Yes. The user can remove it with the source. But this is about creating binary releases. If the installer installs crapware the user has no chance to avoid this, because he only sees the source AFTER the installation. – Ole Albers Feb 23 '15 at 15:04
  • 1
    see the update. – ivan_pozdeev Feb 24 '15 at 13:30

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