Is there a software license that allows free access to source code, but does not allow redistributing any binaries, either direct from the source code or modified source code for a limited time?

The idea being much like a open source software patent; the original developer has the exclusive right to sell and distribute the product, and prevent others from copying the product for a limited time, and the source code would be disclosed to the public.

Obviously the downside is enforcing this license, but larger companies (e.g. Microsoft) could possibly gain the benefits of open source projects but still keep their proprietary position.

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    If you tell me that I can look at your source code, but I can't do anything with it, I'm going to tell you to take a hike. I've got better things to do with my valuable time. Feb 24, 2011 at 18:50
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    Out of curiosity, why do you want to make the source visible but not allow someone to use it? Why not just keep the code private? What do you (or anyone else) have to gain by making the source available? Jan 6, 2016 at 12:51

3 Answers 3


Technically that doesn't conform to the open-source definition thus it isn't strictly open-source software. You should look at the so-called visible source model.

You could just say that you are not permitted to redistribute the software et all in the license, even if it wouldn't be open-source (strictly)


There's actually plenty of proprietary, closed-source, software that you can get the source for. Sometimes the source is readily available, sometimes you have to sign some sort of agreement to get it, sometimes you need to be qualified somehow.

You don't actually need a license, just a copyright notice, but throwing in a license is expected, and people frequently don't pay attention to copyright.

You will not get the benefits of open source software. Almost nobody will go through the code to modify it for their purposes if they can't legally do so and pass it on. Independent programmers will not feel like contributing to what is legally your project and yours only.

  • Even with security fixes? Open-source seems to have flaws found and fixed much faster than closed-source.
    – Ben
    Feb 24, 2011 at 19:26
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    That's partly watching out for themselves and partly community spirit. This proposal removes the community spirit. Feb 24, 2011 at 20:22

In most countries you actually don't need to do anything. You can provide people with source and they're still not allowed to use it without your permission. Thus you can just say, you can use this binary, you can look at this source, but you can't redistribute either.

Then when time is up you can just stick it on sourceforge under an open license.

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