[License-discuss] Open source license and non disclosure agreement

Richard Fontana fontana at sharpeleven.org
Thu Oct 3 12:26:42 UTC 2013

On Thu, 03 Oct 2013 10:54:41 +0200
Quentin Lefebvre <quentin.lefebvre at inria.fr> wrote:

> Hi,
> Currently working on an open source project, we are looking for an 
> appropriate license for it.
> We would like something that allows us to work with people in a way
> such that :
>   - we can be informed of modifications of our program by developers,

Unless such a requirement were sufficiently narrowly tailored it would
IMO make a license not open source. Certainly no mainstream
OSI-approved license contains anything like such a requirement.

>   - we can have "our word to say" about redistribution of modified
> code (i.e. we would like to be able to explicitly authorize people to
> share the modified code).

That would obviously make the license not open source. 
> There is something in the GNU (L)GPL in article 2 that looks like
> what we want, but this 2nd article is not so obvious and seems in 
> contradiction with others. Here is what is said :

To clarify, this is from GPLv3, section 2.

> "You may convey covered works to others *for the sole purpose of
> having them make modifications exclusively for you*, or provide you
> with facilities for running those works, provided that you comply
> with the terms of this License in conveying all material for which
> you do not control copyright. Those thus making or running the
> covered works for you must do so exclusively on your behalf, under
> your direction and control, *on terms that prohibit them from making
> any copies of your copyrighted material outside their relationship
> with you*."

I believe you may be misunderstanding the point of this provision. It
is intended to carve out of the normal copyleft requirements the
situation where a company gives some software to an off-site contractor
for development or datacenter operations, in circumstances that might
otherwise be argued to be distribution to a third party in the GPLv2
sense. Anyway, this is not what you want. 

> But in GNU GPL's FAQ, here is what we found :
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#DoesTheGPLAllowNDA ,
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#DoesTheGPLAllowModNDA ,
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#DevelopChangesUnderNDA .
> I'd be very pleased to have more information and explanations about
> this kind of non disclosure agreement. How is it possible exactly
> under the GPL or LGPL terms ?
> Should we maybe choose another license for our purpose ?
> Are our goals in total contradiction with open source software ?

Your goals appear to be essentially in total contradiction with open
source software. 

- RF

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