Pete Freitag Pete Freitag

Open Source Licenses

Published on January 19, 2006
By Pete Freitag

I've been working on a small piece of software that I plan on releasing with an open source license. There are so many licenses out there that I often forget what differentiates them. So I put together a small chart outlining some of the differences.

The recent debacle with Ray Camden's blog software is a good example of what can happen when you don't have a clear license. Some open source licenses require derivatives to be open source. Other licenses allow derivatives to be sold commercially, or sub-licensed (this is what Apple does with Darwin - which is based on BSD).

I picked out the some of the most popular licenses to compare. A full text copy of each license may be found at the Open Source Institute.

Disclaimer of liability x x x x x
Preserve Copyright Notice x x x x x
Can be used in commercial closed source software x - * x x
Can be sublicensed * - - * x
Prevents the authors name from being used to promote derived works. x x x x -

x = yes
- = no
* = under certain circumstances, yes

Are there any other points to compare?

My Disclaimer

I am not an attorney, and this article is based upon my interpretations of the licenses, which may be incorrect. This information has been posted for my own use. It in no way constitutes legal advice. You should hire an attorney and read the licenses yourself before making any decisions.

Additionally any comments posted by third parties should not be taken as legal advice.

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Open Source Licenses was first published on January 19, 2006.

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You should add a column for the proposed GPL3 currently under review and provide information for all licenses on if the source code must be included or not.

The use of GPL3 code on web application servers is going to be hotly debated in regards to making source code available.
by Christopher Wigginton on 01/19/2006 at 2:02:43 PM UTC
It should be noted that as long as the code is yours, you can also dual-license the code (e.g., GPL/LGPL and second license for commertial development). I believe that MySQL and QT use this dual licensing model. This only works if all the contributors of code agree to the dual license.
by tc on 01/19/2006 at 2:03:33 PM UTC
Nice article Pete. I rather like the Creative Commons licenses myself.
by Elliott on 01/19/2006 at 2:08:32 PM UTC
Thanx for this Pete. I blogged it, along with a note on why I like the Apache license and asked folks to comment here if they had general comparative thoughts.
by Sean Corfield on 01/19/2006 at 3:08:42 PM UTC
I used the "Academic Free License" because some other software I was using used it and it seemed reasonable.
by jim collins on 01/19/2006 at 3:41:01 PM UTC
Hi Pete,
Kudos. Very concise little table to take the place of pages and pages of licensing stuff. What I've put out in the past has been GPL (the OS autopilot choice); my creative stuff (articles and podcasts) is going out as Creative Commons as I have tapped into Creative Commons stuff as source material.
Jim: I hadn't heard about "Academic Free License" I'll have to look it up.
by Mike DeWolfe on 01/19/2006 at 4:27:27 PM UTC
Thanks for these great references!

In 99% of the cases, I think the CF Community is very open, cooperative, and sensible. That was an interesting read on R. Camden's blog... I think the incident he ran into with that person is the exception, not the norm.

It's great to be involved in a community as cooperative as the ColdFusion Community!

Mark Holton
by Mark Holton on 01/19/2006 at 4:43:45 PM UTC
geez louise, that's a shocking amount of open source licenses listed on the OSI site. maybe there should be a specific CF one ;-)

thanks for the cheat sheet, i think it will be very useful to the community.
by PaulH on 01/19/2006 at 10:10:11 PM UTC
Pete - do you know if the Apache License 2 text (the short hand of course) must be in EVERY file, or simply in a readme file?
by Raymond Camden on 01/20/2006 at 8:36:36 AM UTC
hello guys,
i got this article looking for information about open source licenses. I want to choose a license for a project and basically what i need to cover is this. You can use the code and modify it as you want, but if there is any comercial activity with my stuff you need to come to us and negotiate a commercial license. Do you think there is any license that behave like this?
by ko on 11/08/2007 at 9:24:08 PM UTC
this is a good article but this is not enough add minim 10 open source software licenses and different
by hariom on 02/24/2009 at 11:30:43 PM UTC