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I am wondering if (in any state of development) there exists a filesystem that can inherit files from another filesystem, but changes made on that mount point would only affect that mount point.

This would be sort of like a distributed filesystem that only synchronizes inward and never outward, and only if the lack of changes permit that action.

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UnionFS does that, it's supposed to support Linux, though I'm not sure what distros it's included in as I'm a BSD user. Apparently AuFS does some thing similar too, but I've never used it. –  Chris S Aug 1 '12 at 16:57

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Sounds like you are asking about doing something like unionfs on top of something like ro mounted NFS.

Knoppix and other LiveCD distros use unionfs to do the same thing using a disk file on a USB stick or in some setups a disk partition.

I haven't done a setup like this for about 10 years or so.

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