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

Patrice-Emmanuel Schmitz pe.schmitz at googlemail.com
Thu Oct 3 15:48:55 UTC 2013

At Joinup.eu, we had the question once regarding the use of the EUPL (or
the use of the CeCILL licence).
The answer is that you can enforce confidentiality (e.g. a NDA during the
development of the project, during an initial period) through a signed
contributor agreement (e.g. based on the Harmony.org framework) assigning
the distribution rights to a leading organisation and allowing this
organisation to distribute the software under license X.
However if this distribution licence X is OSD compliant (GPL, LGPL or any
other), you cannot try to restrict redistribution (or try to practice a
kind of follow-up with "your word to say"). Once distribution will be
validly done under this licence, no NDA can be enforced.

2013/10/3 Quentin Lefebvre <quentin.lefebvre at inria.fr>

> 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,
>  - 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).
> 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 :
> "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*."
> 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#DoesTheGPLAllowNDA>,
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/**gpl-faq.en.html#**DoesTheGPLAllowModNDA<http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#DoesTheGPLAllowModNDA>,
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/**gpl-faq.en.html#**DevelopChangesUnderNDA<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 ?
> Thanks in advance for any suggestion.
> Best regards,
> Quentin Lefebvre
> Secure and Mobile Information Systems project
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Patrice-Emmanuel Schmitz
pe.schmitz at googlemail.com
tel. + 32 478 50 40 65
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