6 Popular Open Source Licenses Explained
If you’re a developer who’s interested in releasing your projects for the world to see, open-source licenses are something you may want to learn more about. Open-source software can be used with tons of apps and many designers implement either open-source code or software when developing sites.
This post takes you through the basics of what open source licensing is so that you can be sure to utilize it correctly.
There’s a common misconception that licensing work to others means that you’re simply giving it away. In reality, licensing work means that others have the right to use your work because you’ve permitted them. However, at the end of the day, the original patent or copyright is still yours.
Licensing is a great way to release your work to the world while also protecting yourself. If you were to release projects online on public domains, you won’t own the copyright and no one is legally obligated to credit you.
Using licensing also helps cut downtime on giving or refusing permission to individuals. Furthermore, it allows other people to work with you and collaborate on projects while ensuring that both parties get the proper credit for the work. Licensing prevents others from taking your work and claiming that it’s theirs.
You can learn more about open source licenses comparisons below to feel more confident about the one that you think is right for your needs.
GNU Public Licenses
One of the most common licenses when it comes to open source projects is the GNU Public License. This license provides a good range of rights for developers who have several open source projects in the works at the same time.
Users of GNU Public Licenses can make changes to software, while also being able to copy and distribute it.
Being able to copy the software onto computers or servers that either you or your clients own is a great benefit of this license. There’s an unlimited number of copies that can be made.
Distributing the software is also something where you can have a lot of freedom. You can give out source codes through links on websites, save it onto thumb drives to give to others, or even email the software to others. Again, this license allows you to share with no limitations.
You can also distribute the software and charge a fee for doing so. However, the person’s website that you set up the software on must have a GNU GPL copy which lets them know that the software is available for free.
Therefore, you may need to explain the added benefits that they get by you distributing it to them at a cost.
If there are any changes you want to make to the software, you can do so as long as the new project is still released with the same GPL.
The Lesser General Public License provides similar but fewer rights compared to the GNU license. This type of license is best for those who want to enable linking that comes from software that isn’t open-source or GPL.
Using a standard GPL license means that the software with parts of the licensed code needs to be licensed within the GPL. This limits developers by preventing them from using a GPL license for paid software.
Using a Lesser General Public License means you don’t need to have licensed code from GPL within your software.
Those of you who want a very open license would be interested in an MIT license. It lets you use and make changes to the software without any limitations when it comes to using it in any of your projects.
You can copy the code an unlimited number of times in whichever format suits you best, while also having the freedom to make changes wherever you see fit. This software can then be given away for free or sold as there are no limitations on distribution.
One of the only limitations on an MIT license is that it can be supplemented with the license agreement.
Using a BSD license gives you more freedom compared to GNU Public Licenses. There are different kinds of BSD licenses with the main ones being the Modified BSD License and the Free BSD License.
Both of these licenses are compatible with GPL software licenses that are free. They’re also compatible with open source licenses.
The Modified BSD License lets you distribute software an unlimited number of times, as long as license disclaimers are surrounding the warranty and notices of copyright. This license includes a clause that puts limitations on having to use the names of people who have contributed to the project without needing to include any specific permission.
The Free BSD License works in the same way, except that it doesn’t include the same clause surrounding limitations on contributor names and specific permission.
Creative Commons licenses are often used for projects by developers and designers, even though they aren’t necessarily open source licenses. There are several Creative Commons licenses available which tend to include 4 elements.
One of these elements is Share-Alike. This means that you can modify and distribute the work as long as it’s under the same Creative Commons license. The attribution element means that the author of the original work must be credited to the creator. As long as this is fulfilled, you’re able to make copies and distribute the work freely.
You can make changes and distribute the work as much as you like as long as it’s not for commercial purposes. Lastly, there cannot be any derivative work included. So, you can copy and distribute the licensed work as long as modifications aren’t made.
The Apache License 2.0 provides you with several rights that can be used for patents and copyrights. This can be a great benefit over other licenses as some of them don’t allow for the rights to be applied to the patents as well as copyrights.
Once you gain an Apache License, you can continue to use the work for as long as you like. The rights that you’ve attained apply to all countries. These rights are also not exclusive which means that you and anyone else can use the licensed work.
Furthermore, the rights are given without any royalties or fees. So, there are no upfront costs and you don’t have to continue paying for usage fees later on. In addition to this, once you’ve gained the rights, they cannot be taken away from you.
That concludes our post on open source licenses. We hope that we’ve helped to shed some light on the various types of open-source licenses that are available so that you can make the best decision on the one that’s right for you.