I have some source code I want to release but I'm unsure of the best license to put on it. From my research such licenses as MIT and GNU are horrible as they offer little to no protection towards crediting the original authors nor controlling distribution. GPL seems to provide some protection, but users are still allowed to modify the code and redistribute it as their own and I don't want that.

What I want is relatively simple from my stand point.

User/Licensee can:

 - Use source code
 - Compile source code
 - Modify source code for personal use

User/Licensee MUST (If I [Author] Allow distribution upon request):

 - Credit original author
 - Credit original hosting site
 - Link original hosting site's page with the code
 - NEVER claim or alter any credits, licenses, copyrights, etc, etc

User/Licensee cannot:

 - Distribute source code/Distribute it without author's written consent
 - Modify source code and release it
 - Create derivative works with source code
 - Use source code in other software
 - Remove/Alter copyrights, credits, licenses, etc, etc.
 - Sell source code
 - Sue/hold liable the original author in ANY way shape or form for anything (standard legal disclaimer and disclosure agreement - similar to MIT and others)

This may seem unreasonably restrictive, but it's mostly to protect credits as I've had numerous people use my code in the past and claim it as their own or alter credits/copyrights or post it on sites that I don't want my work on.

I've looked up some licenses that seem correct to implement, but from what I can see there are problems.

MS-RSL - Restricts a lot of the clauses I have, but the user can't use the source code or can they? As it says, it's just reference material, yet they can use it for debugging/etc only. Can this license (or any) be slightly tweaked in it's terms/clauses?

No License - Just a copyright, but this seems like an oxymoron in some degrees, what notice or other conditions does it specify so the user/licensee knows what's allowed/not? Can I specify my own clauses? Is this legal? Wouldn't this be tantamount to writing my own license?

I found a site called "Binpress" where you can create your own licenses (or it seems so), but are these enforceable? There are clauses about payments and such which seem to contradict conditions. Licensees are allowed to distribute the code even when one selects "No distribution" so the conditions seem to be negligible. Anyone use this before?

Anyone know of a license that will satisfy above requirements or any advice?


I did read other topics on the matter, but found most to be circumstantial or very vague on some matters. I read an article by Jeff Atwood, but the article "Pick a License, Any License" seemed to just regurgitate everything I already know or found out via other sites. It doesn't offer any deep in-detail information, explain each license in-depth, or explain anything related to altering/using licenses. He compared licenses to other licenses which is useless because if I don't know what license X is then comparing to license Y is about as useful as speaking Chinese to me.

Any advice or if anybody can answer the above questions it would be deeply appreciated. If you need me to give more detail then please let me know, but I think I have explained things well enough. :)

closed as off-topic by Basile Starynkevitch, user40980, durron597, user53019, user22815 Jun 19 '15 at 17:59

  • This question does not appear to be about software engineering within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Don't invent your license without help from a lawyer (and if you do, nobody would use your code if it has an obscure license). I believe GPL is ok, since attribution is related to copyright (and GPL requires the copyright owner & notice to be established & preserved). But ask a lawyer (or at least the FSF...) – Basile Starynkevitch Jun 19 '15 at 12:25
  • Please explain why you believe that users -of some GPL code- are still allowed to redistribute as their own a modified version of your code. I believe you are completely wrong. – Basile Starynkevitch Jun 19 '15 at 12:27
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a matter of opinion, and asking for legal advice. You should also explain what kind of software are you talking about. – Basile Starynkevitch Jun 19 '15 at 12:34
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    When you posted this on Stack Overflow, I recommended that you read the software licensing faq first. This question clearly is asking for the advice of a lawyer, and is not a "common knowledge" "spirit of the license" question. We are not lawyers, and therefore cannot and should not give you the "in depth" understanding of licenses that you ask for. You may want to consider the law public beta – durron597 Jun 19 '15 at 13:32
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    I didn't refer you over here, Bill the Lizard did. I saw that Bill referred you here and asked you to read the faq first; I didn't want to tell you not to post here because "pick a license for me" questions can be on-topic; but asking for in-depth explanation of license rules is not. I was expecting you to / hoping you would edit the question first to fit under our guidelines, but you just copy-pasted it, breaking the cross posting guidelines – durron597 Jun 19 '15 at 14:14

The basic idea behind open-source licensing is that anyone who has (legally) obtained a copy of the source code also has the right to make modifications and the right to distribute the modified or original work. The main difference between open-source licenses is in what rights you must give away when re-distributing the work.

With one or two exceptions, all licenses require that at least the copyright and license statements must be kept intact. At most, you may add your own copyright statement if you made modifications1. The exceptions are when the work is placed in the public domain or an equivalent license (like CC0). Even a very permissive license like MIT requires that the license and copyright remain intact.

If people don't respect the license terms, then it is possible to take legal action against them for violating your Intellectual Property rights. At the very least, you can request them to re-instate your copyright and/or license.

1. Copyright statements could be removed it it can be proven that all contributions by that copyright holder have been removed from the code.

If you don't like that basic principle behind open-source that everyone can share the code, then you should use a proprietary/closed-source license. These licenses are typically specific for a particular product or manufacturer and are not easy to re-use by someone else. Your best option is to have a lawyer write a license that exactly fits your desires.

  • Thank you for the kind, polite, and in-depth answer :) I may be using terms somewhat liberally here and that's my fault, but I think anyone will agree with me licenses are a lot of legalese so it's easy to make a mistake like that. MS-RSL seems like it's the closest fit to what sort of license I'm going for as reference use (even to use the code) is fine and it locks down redistribution, copyrights, etc, etc. Thanks again. – B1313 Jun 19 '15 at 13:57

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